Rant: Paper vs. PDF patterns

I went online to hunt for the Fiber Trends felted clog pattern that seems to be super-popular here, and I discovered that I could pay $5.95 for a paper pattern, or I could download a PDF of the exact same pattern for $7.95. This seemed odd to me, so I e-mailed the company to ask why.

Here's the response I got:

We keep our print patterns lower than the pdf versions for several reasons, but the most important one is to support stores who stock them. We want you to always find the best value when you visit your local yarn store. There are a number of stores in Seattle that carry this pattern.

Other than that, there are many costs involved in having a company host and process sales for pdf downloads.

I should say first off that I'm happy to have gotten a response from the company at all. I've tried e-mailing my local neighborhood yarn store a few times, and have never actually gotten a response from them. (That's another rant, though.)

However, in this age of recession and green-happy consumerism, it STILL doesn't make sense to me that a digital version would cost me more. The goal of supporting neighborhood yarn stores is worthwhile, but surely there's a market for environmentally conscious crafters on a budget. And whatever the costs of "having a company host and process sales for pdf downloads," is it really worth an extra $2 of overhead? I don't have an MBA, but seems to me that since Fiber Trends essentially gets to keep all the profits on that pattern (no middlemen), and since they aren't paying to have the patterns printed or shipped across the country, that any costs associated with the online transaction would still allow for a healthy profit margin.


All this math is befuddlin' after today but...oy....I think in many ways you are right...ESPECIALLY if they charge you $2 S&H for mailing. Why not get a PDF and have them take all the profits....I mean that is faster than mail.

GrammarCop's picture

Apparently my neighborhood yarn store sells it for $5 on their site, making the pricing scheme even MORE confusing.

I do think it is good to support local small business but I think Fiber Trends answer is corp-speak.

It is the same type of canned response you see about CEO's pay, or for the reason to keep year end increases at a minimal level at work..."so that they can be competitive in the market place." Can you tell I needed to take the next two days off? :)

GrammarCop's picture

Ugh, I feel for you. They made state employees here take mandatory unpaid furlough days as a belt-tightening measure. I'm not a government employee myself, but I do have a fair idea how much that has to suck.

teejtc's picture

I, for one, am willing to pay a couple of extra dollars for a .pdf pattern - Not only can I get it more quickly via download, but I can also print out multiple copies. I regularly print out a "new" copy each time I knit the pattern up (then I can write on it each time).

Grace and Peace,

GrammarCop's picture

That's certainly a valid argument. I guess I'm just a little annoyed by this particular convenience tax. Maybe I'm spoiled by the iTunes-Kindle business model, where digital content is both more convenient AND less expensive for the consumer.

Crafty Andy's picture

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Whenever you print something is more expensive, but they were not really honest with you, if they store one file, thousands of people can buy and download it, the cost is bandwidth, not storage.

GrammarCop's picture

Well, yeah. Still, there's no way the bandwidth cost to FiberTrends is $2 for me to download a 6-page PDF. I bet there's some gouge they hide in the S&H for mail orders that they can't charge for digital deliveries, and the higher price is their method for getting it anyway.

HuskerChub's picture

For all of those who think that Fiber Trends is a huge corporate giant trying to screw everyone...news flash. Fiber Trends is owned and operated by Bev Galaskis and her family. It started as pattern company specializing in knitted/felted projects. That was all she did, wrote, knitted, tested and produced patterns from her home. A few years ago she became the distributor for a couple of lines of yarn as the US distributor for those particular yarns "lost" the rights for whatever reason and she wanted to keep the brands available to the US consumer. As for the PDF's, think about it. An unethical person can buy one copy and print it 20x's and share the prints with anyone. She looses BIG TIME because of theft. If you buy a paper pattern it cannot be easily copied because of the dark teal paper she uses to discourage photocopying. Is it more convenient to buy electronic media than paper? Sure, it is also a way to screw a designer out of their rightful livelihood. I've known Bev for many years and you will be hard pressed to find a more ethical, modest and gracious business woman.

Bill's picture

I can understand all the reasons...but for us older folks...patterns on "dark teal paper she uses to discourage photocopying"...means we can't easily read them...I'll happily pay a higher fee so I can read the pattern.

GrammarCop's picture

I think your scenario is a bit extreme, unless there's a huge demand for bootleg knitting patterns I don't know about. I think it far more likely that someone with a purchased paper copy would loan it out to a friend or two, and in turn those friends might loan it out to their friends. I know my partner and I share our knitting books and patterns between us, and I'd bet hard money that every single user of this site has either borrowed or lent a copyrighted pattern at some point in his knitting career.

I don't have any complaints with Bev personally, nor do I want to deny her a livelihood. But I will point out that a policy can be both ethical and disagreeable. My complaint is that she would take more money out of MY pocket for something that costs her virtually nothing: the pattern is years old so she doesn't have to pay anyone else to develop it, and digital distribution costs are negligible. Fiber Trends is a recognized brand with national exposure, so while it might not be a huge corporate conglomerate, it's still a for-profit company with thousands of customers worldwide. And it's worth pointing out that giants like Wal-Mart, Ford, Motorola, Levi Strauss, and Comcast are all family businesses, too.

MMario's picture

from experiece I can tell you - there is a huge bootleg "market.

- for various technical reasons a limited pattern was recently posted for download on a website, for the 100 or so people who had rights to it. Notification of the site went ONLY to those people. there were 300 plus downloads in the first 24 hours. Which means that **at least** 200 downloads were people not entitled to a copy. Needless to say, the file was yanked and distribution went back to a more cumbersome but secure method.

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

QueerJoe's picture

I think HuskerChub was just trying to say that Bev has a valid reason for doing what she does and she's doesn't have evil ulterior motives. I have loved FiberTrends patterns for years, and I have probably made about 2 dozen pairs of the felted clogs.

I think it's really irrelevant why she charges more for an electronic copy...the fact is she does and I have to think that if I was a yarn store owner carrying her patterns, I'd be a bit peeved if the wholesaler was selling them via download for the same price I was selling them for in the stores.

I also think the cry of "corporate speak" is unfair...there are LOTS of wholesalers in the knitting industry who won't sell their products retail for the very reason that Bev writes. I'd take her at her word...especially since she took the time to personally respond.

YugiDean's picture

I love all the patterns I've ever gotten from Fiber Trends (especially their toys...!), and I've never minded a $2 "convenience fee," as I call it. Frankly, some of the patterns I like are hard to find around here. By the time I factor in gas, sales tax, and energy, an extra bit for a download is more than worth it. Half the time I don't even bother printing the download at all. I will pop it on a memory stick and take it to work with me to view on my computer if/when I need a reminder of what the hell I'm doing (all the time).

That and you're not taking into consideration that when stores purchase patterns they rarely just buy one or two, so they are likely to get a discounted rate not only on the price of the patterns, but also on the shipping, which isn't the case for your regular single-sale customer.

I guess I don't see what the big deal is, but that's just me and my humble opinion.

"Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread." --Richard Wright