A few ways folks could look at this. The dark side (cue Vader breathing) would tell you that they are 'hurting' in sales and it is a gimmick to get folks to be interested in the game. There may be some validity to that, but I don't think it is the primary motivation from Privateer Press.
My view is that putting the rules out there, complete, but not in the most optimal viewing format, gives people the a great chance to look at the rules and get excited. My guess is that they will only loose about 1-5% of sales from folks that are too cheap to buy the books as many of the loyal players will still want a nice, full color, bounded, heavy graphics version for themselves. I think this moves give Privateer a great way to connect with their fan base.
On the flip side, they have thrown out the lawyers on the stat cards. I see the fear here on their part, but to be honest, if nobody is selling them, then it shouldn't impact sales too badly. I don't think the lawyers need to get involved honestly as long as the IP is not being sold.
Love these IP discussions? I would recommend reading techdirt. They have a great writer that covers modern media issues as they relate to privacy and intellectual property. Good reading that is usually on my list every day.
More gaming news after my trip!
Magnus with Snipe is Cool!