PDFs of roleplaying games have – in some ways – helped save the roleplaying industry. PDFs are making roleplaying games more accessible by making them more easily available through downloads. Also, when they are properly formatted (not just image scans of pages), they can be indexed, hyperlinked and searched, all of which can make referencing a particular rule much easier.
The proliferation of digital tablets has also made PDFs of RPGs easier to use. Rather than risking their new tablets getting damaged, many people take their older tablets, loaded with the RPG PDFs, out with them for gaming.
Although we have been able to view PDFs on our smartphones for some time, it has frequently been a frustrating experience. This is especially the case when viewing A4-sized PDFs on the smartphone’s small screen, as it frequently involves zooming in on each page in order to read the text. Despite this, smart phones have their own advantages, as they are far more portable than tablets.
PhonePDFs are a relatively new invention, designed to take all that was great with standard PDFs on a tablet and augmented them for the smart phone. Using a smart phone’s standard PDF reader app, PhonePDFs are just as indexed and searchable as standard PDFs, but the page and font size has been optimised for the screen of a smart phone.
This makes them ideal for quickly searching for specific rules. However, it does not fully resolve the challenges of reading text on the small screen of a smart phone. Attempting to read a PhonePDF in full becomes a frustrating experience of constantly scrolling through the document.
That said, this does not invalidate the usefulness of PhonePDFs. Of the two, reading PDFs on a tablet (on the sofa with a warm drink) remains the better way of fully reading an RPG to learn the rules. Of course, some people prefer a good old paper copy for this purpose. However, for players wanting to quickly reference their abilities of the statistics for specific item, then a PhonePDF is an ideal choice.