I wish technical books were ..

Posted on 4/27/2007 @ 10:48 PM in #Non Techie by | Feedback | 7242 views

My good friend Scott Allen posted some thoughts about what a tech book should be like. This was in response to Jeff Attwood's comments on what tech books should be like.

As an Author X 3, and Reviewer X N, I have some strong feelings about the current state of the book authoring world myself, so here goes:

  1. I completely agree with both Scott and Jeff - Please add color to code.
  2. This is frickin' 2007 for god's sake. Why don't we have DRM protected ebooks, and good & practical & cheap ebook readers? Paper books need to go into history, it's about time.
    1. eBooks let you do CTRL_F - Find.
    2. eBooks let you scribble notes without messing up the book.
    3. eBooks save trees.
    4. eBooks are a lot easier to carry.
    5. eBooks save energy (printing and transportation costs).
    6. Color eBooks wouldn't be too much more expensive than paper.
    7. Possibility of richer media in books, screen casts, animations etc.
    8. It is possible to update eBooks after they have been published.
    9. eBooks are cheaper to produce, a.k.a. higher royalities = see my next point.
  3. The royality situation on tech books is simply abhorable. Consider this, a tech book is written by a smart guy - almost always making 6 figures. How can you justify sparing time from a 6 figure salary, to write a book that will suck up your life, and give you a $5000 return? The book authoring world today is devoid of competition, which means, the best authors are not motivated enough to write, and publishers find it hard to convince people to write. The royality situation in book authoring needs to improve. I know some of you will argue that some authors do this for community reasons, or educational reasons - seriously, you guys need to go live in communist russia.
  4. I wish it was illegal to have more than 3 authors on a book. I can't remember reading a good book, written by more than 3 authors. It just never happens.
  5. Wish tech books didn't have to be so "serious", and "proper". I have been reading the WF book by David Mann lately, a longer review will be posted shortly, but, the book is EXCELLENT. It makes me laugh, and laughing makes it easier to learn a complex topic. Why isn't every tech book funny? Why does it have to be be suit and tie stuffy? Screw that!

Sound off but keep it civil:

Older comments..

On 4/30/2007 5:28:58 PM PaperBooksROCK!!!! said ..
Unfortunately not everyone has the $$$ to buy an e-book reader. Also, paper books are much more convenient to hold and read than an e-book reader and I don't have to worry about running out of battery power. So, while your argument works wonders for authors to get paid more, it does no good for the poor readers!

ps: Do you get 1/x (x-# of chapters) royalty for writing one chapter in the book - Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2005?

On 4/30/2007 9:32:48 PM Sahil Malik said ..
PaperBooksRock - note I said "eBooks need to be made practical". Which means, cheaper, convenient to hold, and long enough battery power.

Regarding royality? Why do you care?

On 5/7/2007 3:15:16 AM Rich Newman said ..
On point 3, surely capitalism (rather than communism) is the answer to your gripe? The law of supply and demand says that if book publishers can't find anyone to write their $50 books for $10 a copy (or whatever it is) then they'll have to pay more. I suspect the problem is that there are lots of technical authors out there desperate to get noticed prepared to write books for very little.

On point 5, there's nothing more annoying when you're trying to learn from a book than your author trying to be funny and failing. Very few geeks are funny :-)

On 5/7/2007 12:33:11 PM Sahil Malik said ..
Rich - you nailed it. Capitalism is the answer. However, you are right, there are many folks trying hard to "get their name out". Some of them do a good job, and some don't. But the end product quality still suffers. I just feel that there are plenty of really smart folks out there, who don't wish to author anymore, and that picture needs to change.

Regards point #5 - well yeah :), it ain't funny if it ain't.