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More often than not, my boys are working from PDF instructions downloaded at the LEGO site. The quality of those PDFs is poor. I'm sure you've experienced the jagged, pixelated lines and the bricks so dark you have to figure out the size through a process of deduction.

I'm familiar with the sites that offer user submitted scans, and occasionally we find what we need at one of them, but why is it even necessary? Is it a case of LEGO wanting to leave some motivation to pick up the actual sets with the actual instruction booklet? Is it something far less calculated than that, maybe just a legacy process for generating the PDFs that needs to be updated?

I'd be grateful for any insight!

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I'm going to guess a combination of poor-quality inputs (a common complaint about printed booklets is black/dark grey/light grey confusion), and a poor process for turning print artwork into PDFs (I suspect they use the default settings instead of forcing PNG/GIF instead of JPEG). Really they should use cbr format direct from CAD instead since that's actually designed for pages of line art. –  Mσᶎ Jun 3 at 0:49
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Indeed, but more people probably have a PDF reader installed than a CBR reader - and typically a .CBR file is significantly larger than the equivalent comic in PDF form ;) –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Jun 5 at 10:18

1 Answer 1

Mσᶎ' comment has dealt with the technical reasons quite eloquently, and I'd guess Mσᶎ' analysis is likely correct.

However, I suggest that we can dig a little deeper to guess why the process hasn't been fixed.

Disclaimer: the following is pure speculation. I don't work for TLG (I wish!) and have no special knowledge or insight into the company or its policies.

A Revealing Question

In my mind, the important question is why the instructions are published as PDFs at all? Whilst LEGO is a passion for the fans, it is also a business. The PDF instructions are provided as a free service to TLG customers: they receive no direct financial benefit from the publication of their instruction books.

So, why do they bother? Presumably for indirect business benefits. Things like:

  • The hope that customers will buy bricks / sets to make up sets they don't own
  • Easier to deal with customer enquiries regarding lost instructions
  • Customer good will

Costs and Benefits

Assuming this is the case, we can speculate that TLG have not invested in better PDF instructions because they don't consider the additional benefits will be covered by the cost of improving the quality.

  • Do many people really purchase bricks based on these instructions? I doubt it.
  • The poor quality PDF instructions are probably good enough for customer enquiry purposes, or at least TLG may perceive that it is.
  • TLG may perceive that customers in general don't care about the instructions quality - the few of us who do may not provide sufficient incentive to improve things.

The bottom line is that these instructions are provided on a goodwill basis. Unless TLG receive incentive to improve them, they probably won't.

A Call to Action

So, if you really care about the instructions, what can you do?

I suggest that it might be worth contacting TLG's customer services. If they get enough complaints, they may consider making improvements. Alternatively, they may consider it worthwhile providing a paid service for obtaining better quality copies of instructions.

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Another cost consideration: Better quality PDFs (or other formats) would require more storage and bandwidth - which would also impact customer download times, etc. –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Jun 5 at 10:20

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