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2003-10-13 01:16:01.393423+00 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

In early 1999 I gave an ultimatum to independent bookstores. This weekend I realized that that message needs a little reiteration: What the independent bookstores used to offer me was a choicer selection, the opportunity to stumble across something I'd otherwise never find. What I find now is that the independent is easier than ordering from one of the big online bookstores, I won't ever find what I'm looking for in the big chain stores because of too much stuff on the shelf, and the treasured finds will be via alternate channels. The bookstore has become a place I order stuff from, not a place that helps me select or offers me interesting choices. What got transferred to the net, even more emphatically than the commerce, was that sense of selection, of guidance, of discovery.

Nobody yet is making money off of that, but as the rush to fill the weblog space dilutes the value of weblogs, there will be a chance to offer that service as a premium. I'm not yet sure how, but I'm sure there's value in it.

Then again, I was sure that there was value in thin computer books, and nobody seems to be selling many of them. Sigh.

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: Books made: 2003-10-13 18:58:18.421672+00 by: markd

Hey Dan - can you elaborate on your thin computer book idea?

#Comment Re: Books made: 2003-10-13 20:58:12.22471+00 by: Dan Lyke

This thread is where assorted computer book authors said "not the way the industry works", spawned by my snapping a picture of the back of a "Sybex Complete" book that said "1000 pages only $19.99".

In most cases, the books that provide me with the most value are the thin ones. This is for two reasons:

  1. They're reference books, and I want the facts, not much extraneous details. I think I've bought several copies of the O'Reilly CSS Pocket Reference because it's small enough to fit in my computer bag, and so gets beat up pretty hard, but I've always got it around, and, really, I don't need someone less technically savvy than I am to try to interpret the information that's in there.
  2. Idea books, and I want the idea without having to slog through a thousand pages of filler. Braitenberg's Vehicles[Wiki], The C Programming Language[Wiki] and similar seminal definition books for languages, the really cool little books that Morgan Kaufmann publishes on topics like wavelets and implicit surfaces.

Recently I'm buying fewer computer books because they're big and bulky, and I don't want to be carrying them around, but most importantly because the editing process seems to add a whole lot of excess verbiage around the topic and I'm much better off working from the source definitions which are on the web anyway. The O'Reilly Learning Perl/Tk book was one of those, a few things got me going, but I kept having to dig through crap to find what I really wanted.

If an author can give me new ideas, or compress a spec down so that I can understand it in less time than reading the original document, I'll buy the book. If you can't say it in 150 pages, it probably does neither of those things for me.