I think we are dealing with two types of people:
- People that look for ways to find answers
- People that will ask questions before looking at any resource
The KB allows us to answer common questions with a simple link. Type 1 people soon learn that they can find other things there that they can use on their own. Type 2 people are always going to ask the question regardless of the resources available to them.
The PDFs are needed as a starting point, but are cumbersome to update and time-consuming to download to see if the issue is covered. I point back to the WA resources whenever possible, but it's hard to keep track of what's there. The new format that groups all resources for a product is a huge improvement over the past but it's still hard to scan through PDFs.
I found several instances of people that were not even aware of the extra stuff in their download area. I would think that people would want everything they paid for, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
I think the solution is to just accept the fact that there will always be type1 and type 2 people and cater to both. Searching the forum works for those that are familiar with it, but I don't think you are going to covert the user that just wants their issue resolved as quickly as possible.
In the end it all comes down to customer experience. If their problem is resolved quickly, I don't think they care were it comes from.