Note: Sean over at Power Score did a post that touched on this topic from the publisher side. This post isn't a response to it but it did kinda inspire me. My post is customer-oriented, unlike his. And I'm pretty sure his PWYW stuff is good if his blog is any indication of his typical creativity and writing skills.
"Pay What You Want" RPG products are a trend that has exploded pretty recently. I don't like them.
Or rather, I don't like the execution of the model. Usually I have to decide before I buy whether I'm paying or not. It feels like going to a restaurant and having to tip the waiter and the start of the meal. What if I pay and the product turns out to be shit? What if I don't and the product turns out to be something great that I want to pay for? I'd feel bad if I gave the waiter a lousy tip at the beginning of the meal then offered me exemplary service. As far as I know, the onebookshelf juggernaut doesn't allow you to re-purchase the same product so I can't correct my quality product-induced guilt. "But Buzzclaw," the gentle readers says, "Surely you can buy another product from the same publisher?"
Sure, in theory, I could. But what if the PWYW product I got was worth $5 in my estimation and the only other products they sell are all $10+? What if I absolutely hate the concepts of all their other products? Screw that. And if I pay for a turd there's not going to be much of remedy since it tends to be a while between my purchase time and actual reading time.
tl;dr: Like Free, like Paid, HATE PWYW.