Fri 21 Oct 2011
Dear Computer Book Publisher:
I didn’t buy your book. There are several reasons I walked out the door without shelling out for your title.
First off, fifty bucks on the sticker price subjects a book to a lot of extra scrutiny. When I think of all I can do with that sum, the bar gets set pretty high. This used to be somewhat ameliorated when Borders was still a going concern. Their frequent 30% and 40% discount coupons made me a little more cavalier in my purchasing decisions. I am now limited to shopping Barnes and Noble. They have a good selection of titles, but they are a bit more stingy with the coupons, and a 10% discount barely covers our state sales tax. I’m still willing to part with two Jacksons or more, but you’ve gotta wow me.
Why does your book have 10 authors, including 9 I’ve never heard of? Unless I’m reading a short story anthology, I’d prefer to see just one or two subject matter experts. I get a little suspicious when the author count goes above 3.
Annotated code samples and snippets are wonderful. And bonus points can be earned for legibility-enhancing color coding. But I really don’t care to pay for the trees you chopped down to provide over 200 pages of mostly boilerplate code. I work with computers for a living, so I’m not afraid to download a zip file with source code. Look into it.
Your book won’t stay open. I know a nice binding, especially a hardback binding is going to cost more. But I don’t have two sets of arms. Most of the time I’m reading a computer book while trying to work on the computer. I’d prefer not to have to pin down a page with empty coffee mugs and my left elbow while trying to type in a code sample.
Your index isn’t helping me find what I need. If I’m in the market for a programming title, it’s often because I am unfamiliar with the language or technology. And since I’m not plugged into the lingo yet, I need all the help I can get finding the relevant passages. An index that is 90% class and function names does me little good.
Before you decry how internet retailers are pushing down your margins, let me assure you that I still buy most of my software titles in a brick and mortar store. I’ve been disappointed too many times buying books online, sight unseen. I need to hold a book in my hands and flip few a couple chapters. I’ll buy that book in the store, but you’re going to have to work a little harder for my money.