When I first saw that these were available, I had a lot of questions about quality that I wished someone would answer, and each time I see someone share that they have bout these on Twitter, I see those same questions. Namely, how is the reproduction quality? Are they accurate reproductions?
So I thought I would put in my two cents on the books I have as physical objects. Then I might discuss the content separately.
I know some people were wondering if the obnoxious cover warnings that appear on the PDFs are there in the print versions. They are not.
The hard covers are solid. at least for the printer (in Etobicoke, ON) that my POD copies were made gave me a thick, durable cover. My son dropped my PHB on its corners and they did not blunt or crinkle. I dropped the DMG on my foot and the corners punctured my skin. They have not managed to accrue any nicks or scratches of not in a week of heavy reading and riding around in a backpack.
The soft cover on my Monstrous Manual is another story. it uses the same laminated cardboard you probably remember from Palladium books or early White Wolf softcovers: the laminate peels away at the edge a little bit after some wear, creating tiny ripples where the color is a bit cloudy. Despite some abuse, however, they have not creased.
The cover art of all of the reprints has been stripped down. A re-creation of the central idea of each image is placed in a lozenge at the centre of the cover: the thieves climbing the idol in the case of the PHB, or the snarling face of the Efreeti in the case of the DMG, the three monsters in the case of the 2eMM. Otherwise they use arabesque lettering in black and gold on the covers with Eastern European or Victorian patterning that makes them look more like fancy diaries than role-playing manuals. AD&D1e's covers are brown. AD&D2e's are forest green. Both have matte gold accents. None of the original back cover content has been preserved.
The lettering on the AD&D1e manuals, being black, is very hard to read. There is not much contrast between cover and lettering.
As I bought a full-colour version of the Monstrous Manual, a colour reprint of the original cover is on the inside. There is no reproduction of the rest of the original cover art for my B&W AD&D1e manuals. Which is a bit of a disappointment. Even in B&W I love those pieces.
Stephen smith was kind enough to temporarily furnish me with an older electronic reproduction of the AD&D manuals so that I could double-check for edits and bowlderization. i found nothing on a semi-casual investigation.
This is one where your mileage may vary. My POD copy of these manuals was done on a very thick, high-durability paper. In fact, the manuals are much thicker and heavier than I remember. All three together weigh over 720cn.
The paper has proven resilient against rough handling by a 6 year of, and accidental jabs from thumb-tips that might have crinkled my original AD&D books or created pooches along the paper's edge.
Extreme heat and humidity has resulted in a small amount of rippling in my Monstrous Manual page shape, but less than I might have seen in a soft-over RIFTS manual in the 90s. Given the weight of the two AD&D hardcovers sitting on top of it , I expect that this will be swiftly corrected.
I ordered a full-colour copy of the Monstrous Manual, because it is a beautiful book and I would have been a fool to get it in black and white. It features, in my opinion, some of the best art of any D&D manual I have owned outside of the Red Box.
While I do not have my original to compare side by side, the colours are vibrant and definitely how I remember them.
All complaints I have about the text are ones that applied to my original books: they preserve the tiny sans-serif print of the original AD&D books, and my eyes are no longer nine years old. I had to take breaks from reading.
That said, with the brighter paper and high-quality of the print, i found that the text was actually crisper and easier on the eyes than my original Player's Handbook was. My original PHB had a muddy print quality, especially in the equipment section, and ink that appeared red when the light hit it at certain angles. Not the case with my new reprint.