Short eBooks or online books are the future of technical publishing
When I began making books over ten years ago we had a completely different outlook to publishing. At the risk of sounding nostalgic, it was more about making the best 500 page tome possible and hang the expense.
This led to us creating titles that were, quite literally, difficult to pick up, let alone read from cover to cover. Still, they sold well - people needed the information and paid $60 a copy for it.
Those days are long gone. The problem is not that people don't want that information. The problem is that in the time it takes to create anything over a few hundred pages, the technology itself has moved on.
The writers have to go back to the start and update their book before its even published. That notwithstanding, for a popular technology, the book has a very limited shelf life before the next edition needs to come out.
Another factor limiting the size and amount of resources that can go into a contemporary technology book, is the amount people are prepared to spend. It's been steadily dropping since the first major recession hit after 9/11.
There's a much bigger market for books around $20 than there ever was for the big, $50 dollar books. There's an even bigger market for the $10 booklets, or eBooks.
It's far more valuable for a consumer to purchase a niche title that contains precisely the information they need. Almost without fail, larger, more general books are going to cover material that the reader is already familiar with.
This means that readers are effectively wasting a percentage of their buying dollars on content they don't need. Smaller niche titles can target very specific niches and don't suffer from this problem.
Additionally, Smaller titles are easier for the author and publisher to update, meaning that it is easier to maintain a high quality product. If a piece of content becomes redundant, it can be isolated, edited and updated almost immediately. eBooks or online books are physically much easier to update than a print book too - further lowering costs.
To summarize; short eBooks or online books are:
- easier to make
- easier to maintain
- more focused
- higher quality
- better value for money
- better for the environment
Really, the only major hurdle for a complete swing to eBooks or online documents (at least in the technical world) is the preference of the consumer to read from hard copy and not a computer screen. I must confess, I still prefer to read a book I can hold in my hand - although, Amazon's Kindle is pretty nifty, and is doing a lot to change things.
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