Flutterby™! : Thin books are in!

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Thin books are in!

2001-12-26 21:11:17+00 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

Via More Like This, Shane McChesney praises the thin tech book. It's interesting that he specifically mentions the Wrox books, I got dropped from their reviewer list when I kept complaining that the chapters they sent me weren't written for me, and I'd much rather have several slim volumes that targeted what I was interested in written by someone extremely competent in the field than some huge bit of shovel-ware, written by a professional author who had no clue about actual development practices and was just regurgitating documentation in an only slightly better organized form than the originals.

I don't mean to slight the professional authors who read Flutterby, Mike Gunderloy's book on the Windows Installer clarified a few things for me (Sorry it didn't do well, Mike, but I think the clue is that Windows Installer is a steaming pile, and everyone does the minimum they can get away with and forks all the real work off to other executables), and my glance through Dori and Tom's JavaScript book says that it's something I'll be glad to have on my shelf if I ever decide that JavaScript isn't the work of the devil and better done with Flash, but we need to rein in publishers and remind them that, especially with the ubiquity of the 'net, we pay them for filtering[Wiki], not for volume.

[ related topics: Books Microsoft Work, productivity and environment ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:58+00 by: Mike Gunderloy

Well, I hope this trend picks up steam, 'cause I sure prefer *writing* short books to long ones. But from talking to publishers the readers feel otherwise. Other things being equal, a 1000-page book generally outsells a 300-page one by a large margin, even if it's 2.5 times as expensive. Part of this may be that the larger books are easier to spot by spine when they're on the shelf at the bookstore, part of it may be the "wow, they must know something to be able to write that much about the topic" factor.

Of course, some publishers are better than others at avoiding gratuitously-padded books. O'Reilly, of course. New Riders has done some good short books. Apress appears willing to let books find their own natural length. Sams and Wrox are among the worst offenders. Sybex (my own main publisher) has experimented with shorter books but pushes authors for long ones.

As for the Windows Installer book -- it's a fact of life that MOST computer books do not pay any royalties beyond the advance. That one continues to sell a few copies, and I get a stream of requests for an update from companies using it as a courseware book. I might even consider taking it into a reprint edition myself if Sybex takes it out of print next year, as looks likely.

But the best thing I can say about writing computer books for a living is that it beats the hell out of most other things I can do out here in the sticks without ever traveling.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:01+00 by: Dori

I'm happy writing short books, and I'm not sure that I actually have the attention span to write one of the behemoths. Tom's in the middle of writing one of the latter now, and watching the suffering he's going through isn't making me eager to take on the challenge.

Dan, if you ever get over your irrational fear of JavaScript :-), let me know. The book'll be in the mail the next day.