Software Development

Is writing a programming book (or two) a good idea?

Justin James asks TechRepublic members for advice about whether he should write a programming book. Check out the topics he plans to write about, and then offer your two cents.

 

I have been amazed at how my writing career has slowly blossomed. I am not going to pretend that I am some super huge celebrity or even a great writer, but I have gone further than I ever imagined possible when it was suggested that I write for TechRepublic.

In the past few months, I have branched out and written for Spiceworks and MSDN Magazine. I would love to write more magazine articles because it presents different challenges than writing for the Web. The articles are much longer (my MSDN Magazine article is over 7,000 words), and you can't just link to another Web page that contains explanations -- you need to fully explain concepts. Writing for magazines takes me back to my college years when I would write thesis papers, which I always enjoyed.

Considering taking my writing to the next level

For about a year, I have been thinking about trying to write a programming book (or two). Programming has been my favorite part of the IT world since I was a kid, and I really enjoy writing about it.

Fear and various distractions keep holding me back. I'm fearful of investing hundreds of hours into writing a book, taking time away from my family, and selling three copies to people not related to me. I also worry about getting an advance that sales doesn't cover and then spending the advance (I know people who were in bands that did that with their first record contract). The scariest part is the prospect of having to write about the same topic for a few hundred pages.

Picking a book topic (or two)

After months of contemplation, I think I've finally decided on my topic (which stems from my writing in the Programming and Development blog): how to become a programmer. Since I'm already familiar with this topic, I wouldn't need to spend a huge amount of time collecting research; this means that I could write the book in my free time.

I am envisioning a book that can take someone with basic computer skills and teach them to become a programmer. Not just the fundamentals of programming, but how to actually become a programmer. This means the book would cover the basics of the computing model, lay a good foundation for programming, and so on. I would also detail the aspects of project management that are useful for effective programmers (especially those on smaller teams), as well as topics such as how to write a developer resume, how to interview for a position, and how to read between the lines in the help wanted ads. I probably wouldn't go into super detail for most of these topics. In fact, I am considering writing two books: how to get started in programming and a programmer's guide to being a programmer.

Granted, I generally stay away from the computer books section in bookstores because there are endless rows of boring Java, C#, and VB.NET "how to" books. But I don't remember ever seeing resources for programmers (or IT staff in general) explaining the ins-and-outs of being successful in the business. There are also far too few good books that show how to think and work like a programmer, as opposed to teaching how to program in a particular language.

What do you think I should do?

Should I pursue writing at least one programming book? Would you read books about these topics? If so, should I write two books or try to consolidate the topics into one book? Or is there a really good reason why books like this aren't already on the market? If you've written a book, did you find it to be a worthwhile endeavor? Let me know by posting to the discussion forum.

J.Ja

Disclosure of Justin's industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.

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About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

56 comments
sparky
sparky

Justin, Interesting post.. so many things came to mind.. but let's start someplace simple: Wouldn't the book that you describe be more accurately titled: "How I Became a Programmer"? I'm sure that - if you really intend to skip the lengthy research part ;-) - that this is all that you'll be able to write about with any authority. Do you agree? Cheers, sparky

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I have never seen a book that talks about how to learn code. How to look at a new code structure and identify the basic tools i.e. a loop or collection using various language snippets to explain how to find them and use them. By being able to identify the tools you can learn any language.

batl
batl

I think it's a great idea. I personally got involved into programming because of the method my instructor taught me. Had it been different, I would have hated programming. I think that the book you will be doing takes the place of this instructor, so that anyone can get interested in programming. But of course, this is a difficult job, since you have to be in a beginner's mind.

jean_guy_bureau
jean_guy_bureau

Ok i am learning to programming i can do the code but the bigest thing that i have a hard time with is the concept of programming. the state of mind the starting of it. i was told by programmer that programming is a state of mind and it is art.

jslarochelle
jslarochelle

You certainly have a style of writing that is pleasing to read (my feeling and from the feedback on your Blog). JS

bgallmeister
bgallmeister

Define "good". You will work hard and long. You won't get paid a lot. You will improve your writing skills (like you say, writing for a magazine is different than for a blog. Blog:magazine = magazine:book). You will earn the respect and admiration of those who....well, read books. I wrote a book several years ago (POSIX.4, Programming for the Real World, published by O'Reilly). I found the experience immensely rewarding. When I was recently approached to write another, my first reaction was "when do I start?" If you feel like you have something valuable to say, then yes, write it.

fidlrjiffy
fidlrjiffy

Just in general tech books are dead. Just ask Charles Petzold. He's now got a day job because there are so many resources online that a tech book doesn't make sense economically. On the other hand your topics are broader and, to my mind, more interesting, more in the vein (loosely) of Jim McCarthy or Steve McConnell. I would still advise against it. As valuable as many of the best practices books out there are they don't sell a lot of copies and don't have the impact or influence they deserve. While I know many people know of Code Complete, for instance, or may even have read it I don't know a soul that makes use of it's teachings, or of any other best practice book, for that matter. While in general this may not be a great reason to not do something at least it should give one pause to consider that your work might be remembered as "remember that guy who wrote that great book whatsitsname?". As for your choice of topics I'm not so sure of that either. It depends on whether you mean becoming a programmer in general, in corporate, commercial software, a software company ie: MS or Oracle. For me as a business programmer the way to become a programmer is to get your first job as a programmer! As for how you do that all is fair in love and becoming a programmer. As far as a guide to being a programmer that would, of course, be your opinion of which, besides you, there are enough opinions on that for, oh, however many programmers there are. Not that such a guide wouldn't be a good things it's that there is nothing close to a standard for programming per se. This, I think, gets close to the argument of whether programming is a profession, art, craft, or something else. Figuring that out might make an interesting book!

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

It would have to be a step by step presentation on how software is actually written.From the idea to the exe---how to write a bin,cab or dll file.Just try it,write an entire software program from beginning to end or try to explain to somebody how it's done.

Jaqui
Jaqui

It's an idea I've played with as well. :D I've recently found an open source editor that is pretty good, for something that has been sitting at 0.91 version for 3 years. conglomerate xml editor. designed to work with docbook xml for the source files. needs some small polishing, but really a nicely done tool as is. http://www.conglomerate.org/ only runs on "open source" operating systems, they can't get it to build on windows any more and are at a loss as to why. [ I think it might be the use of the gnomevfs libs that is causing the problem, not the gtk widget set. gtk is available for windows. ]

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I'm not sure I could write how I became a programmer, never mind how anyone else should. Sort of a biographical case study of stupid mistakes and looming comprehension in my case. It's a worthy topic, and in my opinion a rare one, bacause it's damn difficult to articulate what makes anyone tick. Good programmers and designers operate on a lot of intuition, and ones in the commercial industry get their ideas 'proven' out in real life and usually to don't get to analyse why or even whether their intuition could be deemed as correct. How to get started as a programmer, I think is iffy, because to me there is only one way. Get a machine, start coding. If you don't find that interesting, become an MBA. Also a lot of it will be based on when and where. I know both how long ago I started and the fact that it was in the UK, makes how I did it very different to say your experience. Now the programmers guide... I would enjoy reading some books like this, I might not agree with the why's and the whats, but that doesn't necessarily make them wrong or inapplicable at some future point. If it's of your usual quality, you can tell your publisher, there's at least one sale. Don't send me a bill for a $100k print run though. :p I have thought about it myself, but the anecdotes book will have to wait for a few people to die, and while there should be a market for it. How to program, as opposed to how to code in X , I think would be hard sell as a first book.

Justin James
Justin James

Do you think that I should try to write a book? Which of these topics sound better to you, or do you have an idea of your own? Let me know! J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Interesting idea, but it would be a fairly boring read. ;) Unless, of course, I pull a James Frey. Did I ever tell you about the time I wrote code for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog? Or the time when my Perl skills were needed by the Pentagon to avert nuclear war? Or maybe the time when I had to learn how to hack into the alient spacecraft using my Mac laptop, in order to write a virus that shut down their invasion fleet? :) In all seriousness, I was really thinking of something that was like a collection of essays, tutorials, etc., with chapters on career building, how to work within a company, and so on. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

That's one of the ideas that I've considered, something like, "How to think like a programmer", which helps people learn thew thinking skills, understand the fundamental structures underlying programs, and so on. I am not sure how marketable such a book might be (regardless of its merit) simply because the "I want it now!" culture we live it really does not encourage people to learn "boring theory" before getting their hands dirty. Heck, I'm guilty of it too, all of the time. :) J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

I agree, it is a state of mind, but I think that it is less and less of an art each year for most programmers. For the majority of developers, programming is becoming about learning common tasks and cranking out the code to perform them, customized to the spec. Writing a Web service, for example, or a data driven Web site, or running a report. For these programmers, their work is becoming quite standardized (as evidenced by the increasing quality of various frameworks and code generators to take the drudgery away), and for these programmers, it isn't an "art", it's an engineering discipline. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

The more I read comments like this, the more I think that I could do a good job with this project, thank you! J.Ja

Gate keeper
Gate keeper

I did this a while back ... at the time if i knew half of what i know now .. it might have turned out better. under the cirmumstances I'm proud of it though .. this was during the reconstruction effort after a long civil war in my home country... i typed it up in wordperfect and used a manual stencil machine ( the type with the handle you turn for each page ) printed 600 copies like that. it was about general programming concepts not specific to any language but the excercises were in C. still have one barely held together.

Gate keeper
Gate keeper

I did this a while back ... at the time if i knew half of what i know now .. it might have turned out better. under the cirmumstances I'm proud of it though .. this was during the reconstruction effort after a long civil war in my home country... i typed it up in wordperfect and used a manual stencil machine ( the type with the handle you turn for each page ) printed 600 copies like that. still have one barely held together.

Vladas Saulis
Vladas Saulis

Don't you think "Programmer's Guide to Being a Programmer" is an oxymoron by itself? Justin, I think that the very idea of writing book is good. At least it puts your energy onto right direction. On the other hand there is a such sensitive thing as choosing the right topic. I don't think you wish to right a book only for money, though it could make a trick. Writing IMHO should go deep from the heart (intuition). If you feel you have something there - this is a good starting point. And I strongly beleve that it's impossible to *become* a good programmer - you can only be it. Otherwise, even if you write such a book (like mentioned above), it could only add some more to the zillions of $500 web-page makers. Please excuse me for exchanging very straight thoughts with you. This anyway comes from the very heart of me!

Justin James
Justin James

... is put together a proper "treatment", (including a full outline), and the first chapter. If I have the wherewithal to do that, I can finish it, too. :) I'll be sure to stick a few pallets of them headed to you, not a full $100k print run, but maybe $10k worth. ;) J.Ja

ktalley
ktalley

I have recently made my break-though and the 2nd topic would still be quit useful.

RLCornish
RLCornish

Go for it. I've co-authored two books. The royalties don't allow me to quite my day job, but they pay for toner cartridges and my DSL bill. My thoughts: * for a first go, consider co-author (not going it alone), but retain control of the finished product. * skip the "advance" and take some of the pressure off. Being an author is a differentiator on a resume. It's also fun to be able to search for your own name on amazon.com. One thought on the "programmer" book. I've always wondered if it was possible to take down-trodden or homeless people, give them some free PCs, and teach them just enough to be dangerous "on shore" programmers. With VPNs and the Internet, people need not move (or even shower) to earn income programming - assuming a reasonable IQ and desire. I vote "thumbs up", Randy Cornish

AhmedAba
AhmedAba

I think if you changed the title of the 2nd book to be : How to be a Super Programmer would be better, 'cos all programmers - beginers and experienced - are looking for it. How to distinguish yourself from others? Why some programmers after years of programming still "normal programmers" while others are "super stars". What they did differently? Is it how they think? Is it because they faced challenges bravelly? Is it because of the environment? Assume one from v. simple env. how he can be a Super Star without any help from others. i.e if you are in an isolated island w/ only a PC and internet connection. I hope you get my point. Wish you every success in your project. Ahmed.

pwarrenz3
pwarrenz3

...for your own personal satisfaction if nothing more. My two cents worth I've had thoughts of writing a book (and more recently professional articles) or two over the years, which always ends up getting shelved when I start a new contract. So I decided instead of pursuing book or magazine article writing to create a online, 100% open-source, content management system (CMS) to satisfy my love and desire to write and teach others. Who knows, it may eventually lead to a book but that is no longer the primary or even secondary goal as I have discovered over the last decade that those that need to read some of these books, often will not and they often manage to come up with every excuse (in the book) not to. Management professionals are a perfect example of this reoccurrence, at least on my contracts. The adage "You can lead a horse to water..." my parents drilled into me always comes to mind in these instances. As a life-long learner by deciding to create and use a CMS to become 'published' (I took over as web master for my local technical writing chapter) I'm able to continue to expand on my technology knowledge, self-publish via blogs, forums, articles, book reviews (and whatever other content types I dream up) and at the same time teach my fellow members what I often take for granted. At the same time it provides the chapter members with the same opportunities. We also have the option to monetize our site to provide revenue for the chapter, and at the same time individual members can learn to create personal sites and do the same for themselves, and so much more. This I feel is one of the current and future business models when it comes to writing, or at least a part of it, and my take on "Teach a man to fish..." Old school book and article writing, from my review of and involvement in the process is largely inefficient and time-intensive, especially when there is only one author or writer. I don't feel or think dead-tree versions of books will ever totally go away; I still buy numerous hard copy technology and my favorite science fiction 1st edition books each year. But this may be a preference of my generation, as those that followed now prefer online reading. I currently use both. Cheers

mikeg3
mikeg3

I've authored or contributed to a total of 22 different computer books since 1994. It's very, very difficult to come out ahead on a book project. These days very few books earn back the advance given to the author simply because books don't sell in the volumes they used to. You're on the right track -- your concerns about spending a lot of time on the project, loss of family & personal time, etc. are all valid and absolutely true. No matter how much time you think you have at the start of a project, you'll have to cram a lot of work into the last few weeks. Publishers mean well, but their interest is always on the bottom line. Most imprints do a few dozen new books each year, and they're very selective about the titles they accept. (I used to work as a book editor for Macmillan Computer Publishing). A good royalty is around 12% of wholesale (which is about 50% of the cover price). This means each copy of a $50 book yields about $3 in royalty. You might get a $10,000 advance, but the publisher witholds 20% as a "returns reserve" and charges you about $2,000 for indexing and proofreading. That means that the advance you actually receive is about $6,000, paid out in thirds during the project. You have to sell at least 4,000 copies to earn back the advance. Good luck with that! Your book idea is a good one, with one issue. Where will it be shelved in a bookstore? What category will Amazon use to list it? You'll have to convince a publisher that a buyer will be able to find it in a store or online. However, having said all that, some authors have made fabulous sums of money. Consider a bookd like "C: The Complete Reference" by Herbert Shildt. That book, and its derivatives, have been in print since the 80s -- I bet Shildt has made a million bucks on it over the 20 years it's been in print. I personally know several authors who've made hundreds of thousands from single titles (one guy I know bought a Carribean island with his royalties). So, it can be done, but -- as AC/DC put it -- it's a long way to the top.

darshanarney_98
darshanarney_98

Justin, If you have the heart for it, go for it. I just self-published a book about Microsoft Dynamics CRM ROI, and it was a lot of fun. Just as I get a kick out of developing software, the book thing is similar. Break down your project into small manageable units and work until completed. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. I for one never want to say, I wish I had written that book. I do like the 'how to be a programmer book'. If you don't write it, I will ;) -Shawn Arney Www.ArneyConsulting.Com

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Books take a ton of time and planning and usually turn your life upside down for the final months before your deadline. Plan on not spending much time with your family during those final months. There's also the money issue. Authors don't make squat. Authors are the last ones paid. It goes like this: Retailer-Publisher-Agent-Author. At the end, you're lucky to make a dollar or two on a $40 or $50 book. And unless your book breaks out and sells more than most trade books, then you'll probably only make about 3K-5K (after taxes) for whole thing. Of course, there is the pride of seeing your name on a book and it is an excellent thing to put on your resume, but there is a lot of work and very little reward to make it happen. I've done it and I wouldn't recommend it, but it depends on your goals. If you want more advice, check with Scott Lowe and Steven Warren - both of them are TechRepublic authors who have also written tech books. If I did it again, I'd probably self-publish and sell it online as an e-book, and connect up with a print-on-demand publisher for those who want a hard copy.

normhaga
normhaga

In "Magick in Theory and Practice" that if you are in love with knowledge, you are in danger of becoming a teacher.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

I?ve done it and you?re a better writer than I am, so do it. Just remember that the advance money isn?t really yours until the publisher accepts the book. Contact me if you have any questions. I like the Programmer?s Guide to being a Programmer.

aardvark92
aardvark92

This is the sort of book I keep looking for in the bookstores. I'd definitely buy this book if I saw it on the shelf. So there's one sale already to someone not related to you! Still, it's a legitimate fear about not selling enough to cover royalties. I've heard that most programming books don't. On the other hand, this topic might be unique enough that there's a pent-up demand for something like this.

mikeg3
mikeg3

You might set up a blog where you invite people who've been working in the field for a while to submit their stories -- how they got educated, how they got their first job, disasterous projects, highly successful projects, etc. It'd be hard to make an entire book of just snippets from dozens of people, but you could select typical stories, use each as the introduction to a chapter, then embellish on the contributor's story. Or, you could gather similar stories, and craft chapters around common themes, like finding your first 'real' programming job, things NOT to do, dead-end trips (like PowerBuilder) that seemed like a good idea at the time, etc. I bet you could come up with something farily entertaining and informative. People love talking about themselves, of course, and you'd be giving them a chance to let it all hang out (anonymously, if necessary).

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

all the numpties who get the macro concept bass ackwards will rush out and buy it. Seconds thoughts, don't do this. I have enough problems.

Vladas Saulis
Vladas Saulis

Yes, the "How to think like a programmer" is a good topic. And I'd better title it "How do real programmers think?". Learning hard sometimes (in many cases) doesn't really helping. Consider an example: One person learning hard to use as many programming techniques as he can, but what he finally comes up after all - is to setting up a lot of get'ters and set'ters in every language he uses no matter wheater those are really needed... (just for example). Another person is known as a programming genius, and he knows nothing about common programming techniques or just ignores them. His projects often comes just out of the blue, nobody knows how and when he makes them. He tells something about "experience", but people had never seen him at gathering any experiences... Would be so nice if you could explain this phenomenon to the masses, because, as I've said, some persons become programmers through the hard path, and some - just by being. The first ones never understand anothers, and often are anxious about that. If someone could resolve this "crisis" ones and forever? :)

jean_guy_bureau
jean_guy_bureau

Ok but i teacher may be wrong be he told that learning the syntax of a program was easy. The hard part was to make it work and work well. That may be so that programming may be less then a art that is were we get bugs in program

fidlrjiffy
fidlrjiffy

Touche! It does look good but there's nothing on a resume about how long the book is ;-)

Justin James
Justin James

I appreciate the encouragement, thank you! J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Ahmed - That is definitely an interesting idea! It would take a ton of research and talking to people that I don't currently have access to. I do like it, though, and I think it would definitely be a good challenge to write a book like that! J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

You raise some interesting points about online publishing. Personally, anything more than a few pages, I read on paper, due to my eyes. I have two awesome monitors, but I will always prefer print, and I think a lot of other people do too. On the other hand, I agree that the market for printed books is quickly drying up. I like the idea of putting some, or all of a book online, and offering the full version for sale as a download and as a printed book. The beauty of books is that like music and movies, it is easy to transfer the whole contents from PC to PC with no loss of quality, but at the same time, producing a version that is fully usable (ie: a printed version) is expensive and takes effort. In other words, it is a cinch to pirate a movie or CD, but even if someone gives you a PDF of a 300 page book, you'll probably prefer to buy it if you are going to read more than a few pages. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Michael - Thanks for the feedback! From nealry everyone that I've talked to, it does *not* seem like a good way to make money, unless I self-publish, which in turn leaves me with issues of production and distribution. To also quote AC/DC... "ain't no fun when you'd rather be a millionaire". :) J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Any tips on self-publishing? I'd like to explore that route, based on the feedback I've gotten here. Thanks! J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Jason - That seems spot on about the money angle. I figured out while first looking into this that writing a book is not a good way to make big money. It seems to me like writing a book can be good for one's sense of accomplishment, pride, and career building (as you've mentioned), and the prospects of a run-away smash are remote at best. The numbers you mention are inline with what I've heard other people who have been published mention. Indeed, it seems like authors make even less than recording artists on a per-unit basis. I've heard the same about the time issue as well. My fiance is the one who has brought up the book idea most recently, but I am not sure if she truly understands what the time is like, and since we have a young child, that makes it a team effort, since she would need to pick up the slack. I will definitely consider the self-publishing route; I know and work with a lot of people with experience in the printing industry, that could be useful too. I wonder if CBS has a publishing division... :) Thanks again for the information! J.Ja

Bizzo
Bizzo

A friend of mine has done that and uses these people: http://www.lulu.com and has had no problems with them whatsoever.

Justin James
Justin James

Ed - Thanks for the encouragement and offer of help! That's a good reminder on the advance money... I knew some guys in college who got a recording contract, spent their advance money and then ended up in hock to the record company. :( J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

It's good to know tha tI'm not the only one who ahs noticed a lack of books in that category. I do wonder why that is though. Maybe most publishers see it as being a much more narrow market than, say, ".Net in 21 Days" or "How to admin a Cisco router". If that's the case, that would definitely indicate that self-publishing may be the way to go. J.Ja

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I've picked up the wrong end of the stick a few times myself..

Vladas Saulis
Vladas Saulis

that I took your previous comment (De-mystifying...) too straightforward.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I do think there is art in programming, in that there are aspects of it that we can't quantify. There is engineering too, which is why tools, auto-generated code for cookie cutting are so popular. All I was saying the art part of the job is called that because it's hard to articulate. So get off your horse and drink your milk...

Vladas Saulis
Vladas Saulis

In this case you shell always secure it by ever increasing hardware capabilities. But there still are many other ways...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

How do you explain intuition, if you do it isn't intuition anymore.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Does the ability to read and write, a reasonable vocabulary, etc mean you can be an author. Same with syntax, semantics, language, (a lot simpler than a natural language) and programming. As for most modern day programming, think say star trek, mills and boone romances or buffy books, vs say Solzenitsyn, Joyce, Tolstoy or Tolkien.... They are all books, they all require some skill, all stories, all popular, but some are formulaic pulp, and others are masterpieces. I'd say at least half my career has been spent doing exactly the same thing in a different colour and font, and may be a caption change or two. It's a welcome relief when there isn't some ready made piece of code or known algorithm , I can jut paste in. Then I'm programming. To be fair though while you are learning, becasue you haven't seen the problem before it's all new, now those were the days... So both your teacher and JJ are correct, different contexts though.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

If nothing else, being verbose is the mark of a good COBOL programmer. ;)

pwarrenz3
pwarrenz3

...Packt Publishing (http://www.packtpub.com/) is a current example. I am currently using their 'free copy for writing and posting a review' program, to obtain useful tech books and still prefer the dead tree versions for this, my eyes are going too, lol. The electronic versions are great to have to add to my ever growing library, which I have now turned into a personal CMS, indexing information for later research and reading as needed, or to find answers to problems I am working on solving. If I were to work with a publisher in the future I would definitely want both versions made available, and even on-demand printing for the hard copy version to keep costs down. Cheers,

mikeg3
mikeg3

One of the things you mention in your initial post is that you (like me and many others) enjoy writing. People who don't write don't understand the satisfaction or crafting a nice bit of writing. It's a good mental discipline, and forces the writer to organize their thoughts and knowledge of a topic. As long as you keep the writing process a recreational activity, rather than a how-I-make-a-living thing, I think you'll succeed. I agree with those who suggest self-publishing. In fact, I believe the book publishing model has changed from massive print runs to print-on-demand -- much as the CD music market has changed to downloadable MP3s. O'Reilly Publishing got into the e-book market fairly early on with Safari, and it's grown significantly since then. My wife just bought a wonderful Safari book ("Slide:ology" by Nancy Duarte) on building presentations with PowerPoint. It looks as though it was one of those "labor of love" projects that are such a hard sell to publishers. The art, layout, etc. in this book is very, very untraditional, but has resulted in a terrific product. Once publishers really embrace print-on-demand, they'll come to realize they can dramatically increase their catalogs at very little cost and risk. They could provide minimal support to authors, provide distribution channels and promotion, but avoid making the enormous investment in large book runs, shipping, returns, etc. IMO, it's crazy for a publisher to invest the $100k or so it takes to acquire, edit, and publish a book these days without some indication of what the market demand will be. IMO, it'd make much more sense to share the risk with the author, provide that person with the support necessary to prepare a manuscript, and handle the business end (distribution, fulfillment, etc.) I think it's also possilble for individuals to create a complete work and self-publish through Lulu or another self-publishing site, but the problem will always be "access to market". It's very difficult for an individual to get placement in bookstores or Amazon, and -- quite frankly -- that's what it takes to succeed in book publishing.

Justin James
Justin James

I read about them a few months ago, they definitely seem reasonable. Thanks for the recommendation! J.Ja