It's been interesting to watch the market lag to satisfy the huge demand for more Rails documentation. Once the publishers recognize there's a market, it easily takes 6 months (or longer!) before the final book is ready in the stores. That's a terribly long wait and an abrupt switch from "no books" to "plenty of books". It's bad for users that want better documentation today and its bad for publishers that wants to sell that documentation.
But of course that doesn't mean that the book is done. There's editing, second readings, typesetting, printing, and more. All of this post production work makes a release around August feasible. AUGUST?!? That was what I was thinking. When you're used to the web, the book publishing business can appear utterly arcane.
So. Instead of letting a ton of high quality, really important documentation sit on the shelf for two and a half months while the machinery of publishing is ready to deliver, we'll be trying to get the book out in digital form for those that really want it. Basically, we'll be playing release early, release often with the book while it undergoes the last mile.
And I think a lot of people are interested in making that trade. Getting content early, recognizing it's a beta release that may have spelling mistakes or even a few bugs. Especially so when the choice is between no book and a 90% done book. Then getting the final tome when that's done too.
Dave has all the common reservations to that as a publisher, naturally. Will people look down upon the unfinished work? Will they pirate it like mad? Will the final product be uninteresting when it finally arrives? I don't think so. Rails is still enough of "labour of love" kind of thing for the people into it that I think they're smart enough to recognize that this model only works if those fears are brought to shame.
Let's blaze the trail with this one. Show publishers that we want the quality writers that they all have lured in to start delivering according to the open source model. There are so many interesting topics that could use a flow of high quality, commercially-backed documentation production today. Not 6 months from now.
I would gladly buy this book today, if asked, to see the advance (unedited) copy. I would gladly help edit it, too. I think this is wonderful idea! I've bought *many* books after reading the whole thing online, this year alone! Yeaaaa!
I would buy it now to get access to the unfinished version. Just let me know where to send the credit card info :)
Challenge by Dave V on May 19, 20:42
I would definately buy the ebook version as I need to get projects up and running quickly. Good-enough documentation from the pros will help immensely!
When the actual thing comes out, I'd probably buy that too. I already bought PickAxe II and it's great.
I would happily deal with (and pay for) for a pre-release book simply to get access to a quality book on Rails sooner that otherwise possible with the understanding that I would get a copy of the final product when it became available.
I'd buy this for sure. I think most people working with Rails realize what a boon it would be before Rails 1.0 is out, and how it might help them become even MORE productive having that special attention paid to them by a book they can print out and read while in the sauna.
I am all for this concept. I think this would work out very well in the face of a new technology like Rails, and would probably do pretty well for fields with work already published. I hope you choose to go this route. The data you collect on the feasibility of this idea will be worth it.
Money has already been set aside to pick up the hardcopy form of this book. Since I'm going to be paying for it, I'd love to help "debug" it prior to release. Great idea!
Challenge by Anthony Baker on May 19, 20:53
I think the idea of releasing the book early in electronic form is brilliant. And, hell, I'd pay for the print version to get the early electronic doc first.
For reference materials, I think having an electronic copy is nice (you can search it, ideally), but I also like having a handy print version (book). It's easier to scan and browse than an electronic file.
Frankly, this was the reason I ditched my Safari Bookshelf account. While having a ton of books online was great, it just wasn't the kind of experience I was looking for as a reader.
You might also want to check with Cory Doctorow on this subject -- he generally releases all his books for free in multiple electronic forms as well as in print and has had great things to say about the practice.
I'd love to have it now and would definitely pony up. I have a project in progress that has to be live by July and any pointers I can get would be Huge! :)
It sounds like the thinking is that we pay full book price and get an electronic copy now, then a paper version when it comes out, correct? I'd certainly be up for that. You could probably get a lot more net revenue on these as those of us who would normally buy from Amazon would buy direct from Pragmatic.
Challenge by jan on May 19, 21:03
Dave has all the common reservations to that as a publisher, naturally. Will people look down upon the unfinished work? Will they pirate it like mad? Will the final product be uninteresting when it finally arrives?
So you mean that if you buy the pre-release book, you don't get regular updates up to the final product?
Seems kind of strange to me that people would need to pay the full price of the book again to have a full quality version, when only 10% is changed.
At the very least give people an errata for the prerelease version. It sucks really hard if you search for a bug in your software, only to discover that the bug is in the book. Without an errata it is even worse. That kind of thing can leave a really bad aftertaste.
Buying the beta book would also include getting the final version for free, of course.
This sounds almost too good to be true. I would definately buy it!
Challenge by JimFreeze on May 19, 21:46
I just saw DH's posting and was pulling out my CC to buy the book. Guess I read too fast.
Yes I would buy the book. And then probably buy the paper
book. The only reason I wouldn't buy the paper book is if
Dave decided to release another rails beta book 3 months on the heels of the original paper book.
Depending on the final details, I expect i'd probably pony up the money as soon as this became available.
I note the Pragmatic Programmers are already selling PDFs of their books, so I guess this is a good way to gauge the level of interest in the first print run, and have it paid for upfront. Good for them and good for us too. Win/win situations are always nice.
If there was a beta version of the Rails book out now I'd be all over it and still buy the final printed version. I just bought the "PickAxe II" book and already plan on buying the Rails one when it ships, which seems so far away.
You'd think they were offering to pre-release the next Harry Potter book with the excitement here. If any book is going to work on a beta-release test it's this Rails book. We're all slobbering just for a taste!
Challenge by eljay on May 19, 22:18
Tell me where to enter the credit card number and I buy it right now.
Challenge by Archaic on May 19, 22:25
I would buy it if I received the printed version also (when it
As a general thing, I don't buy ebooks - the truth is, I despise
them. I pull ebooks off of emule to check them out. If like
them, I buy a paper version from Amazon or AbeBooks.
Yes, I would absolutely buy one right now. I've purchased every other Pragmatic Programmer book in both PDfF and priinted format, so I can have it to read right away while I wait for the printed version to arrive.
Challenge by Chris on May 19, 22:27
Me, too. Rails book please. Stat.
Challenge by Devlin on May 19, 22:28
Where do I sign up?
Challenge by Dustin on May 19, 22:31
I need it today! How much $$?
Challenge by Fletch on May 19, 22:34
I'd be interested. In fact I'd like a sort of inverse of the PickAxe 2 deal: buy the PDF, get a discount on the dead tree when it comes out (along with a new copy of the PDF which reflects the dead tree version).
Challenge by airmalik on May 19, 22:44
We're starving for good rails info! Throw us a bone. Will buy the dead tree version when it's available. Bought the pickaxe II after reading version 1 online.
No! I demand paper-only! In fact, I demand gold-leaf, hand-written copies! Two of them! One written by DHH and one by Dave! Nothing less!
:-) Of course I am kidding. Naturally I'd subscribe to the early /often releases and still buy the paper book. Might be nice to offer a discount on paper copies to early/often adopters.
Challenge by Jay Oliver on May 19, 23:02
I'll buy the book either way, but I'd really like to be able to see the beta form now.
I already know the quality of the Pragmatic line of books - so I'd be comfortable making partial or full payment now in exchange for the final product, as well as beta versions along the way.
This isn't completely unprecedented either. The publisher Baen comes to mind. They have a lot of their backlist available for free in a lot of user friendly formats. They claim this has actually increased their sales. See http://www.baen.com/library/ for details.
Additionally, Baen also has what's called a "WebScription", which you pay monthly to subscribe to. Every month, they release portions of unpublished books, starting 3 months before the book hits shelves. First month is half the book, second month is the third quarter and third month is final quarter. It works very well.
Granted, it's a different genre, but I thought it was worth mentioning at least.
Rails people vote yes. You publish, we pay. I suspect we might even be prepared to pay more the earlier you publish...
Challenge by Patrick Hurley on May 20, 1:52
I normally would not "me too" a blog, but in case Dave is counting -- me too. I followed the linked reaching for my wallet before I finished reading. I have bought other PP books (I buy both hard copy and pdf).
It would of course be best if we could get on demand updates, but I understand that with the "branding" of the pdf this could put a pretty serious load on your servers with regular updates. Even without updates (until the final release), I would be more than willing to purchase the title in "beta."
I'd buy it today in almost any format. And I'll buy the final printed version. I have a project starting now that we'd love to use Rails for but the team is skittish because we don't have docs for ourselves, or to persuade our managers that Rails is a real thing.
If Dave Thomas is reading this, consider the following idea: On the theory that it's much quicker to QA 1 chapter of a book than a whole book, allow us to subscribe to a serial: each month we'd get a new chapter of the book to read. Spend a bit of time polishing each chapter as it gets done, so that you have very little to do at the end.
The chapters don't even have to be in order, either. The content is valuable, and we need it as soon as possible. We can figure out the rest of it if we have to.
Challenge by Scott Hill on May 20, 3:17
Add my name to the list of people who would buy it today, and be happy to look past any rough edges that might be present in a pre-production version. I pre-ordered the PDF and print versions of Programming Ruby, and you'll have an order for this book as well.
Challenge by Meng Kuan on May 20, 3:44
I'll buy it. Will be a great companion to the pickaxe 2 I just bought.
Manning already has a program in place to do this. I purchased a pre-release copy of _Java Development with Ant_ published in a plain old PDF file (no copy protection or limitations). The pre-release version cost almost as much as the hard copy book would, when published but it came with a big discount on the print edition. In total I think it cost me $10 more to buy both the pre-release and the print copy, but it was definitely worth it to have the book early. As an aside the book went on to win awards for technical writing that it well deserves.
Exposing the book early would also be a great way to collect feedback. I keep wondering to myself as I am writing a Rails application: "I wonder if Dave is covering this and so in his book."
I'd buy it right now, just to have a front to back read and find those magic tidbits that help you get from A to Z in a better way than you kludged there on your own. I'm thinking there's no better way to get the full power of this framework than getting it right from the source. The idea of living, breathing documentation really seems like its day has come. Rails is a perfect example of a very usable technology that the Publishing Model really cannot support in its abovementioned time consuming process for the ancillary details. A subscription service such as O'Reilly's but with references that are constantly kept up to date would be one I'd purchase not just for myself but for all of the employees on my team.
Dave, David: Why not apply Agile practices for this book? release early..you known.
Challenge by Dave Thomas on May 20, 6:25
"If Dave Thomas is reading this, consider the following idea: On the theory that it's much quicker to QA 1 chapter of a book than a whole book, allow us to subscribe to a serial: each month we'd get a new chapter of the book to read. Spend a bit of time polishing each chapter as it gets done, so that you have very little to do at the end."
This is also something we're considering. My only concern is that I personally don't write very linearly. I'll start on a tear, then a week later move half of what I wrote into a new chapter, then perhaps move a couple of pages from that chapter back into an earlier one; iterate until done...
However, we do have a series of books coming up that would work well in this chapter-by-chapter format, so if I can work out the logistics, and if this Rails experiment goes OK, we'll try to experiment.
And folks: THANK YOU for all this support. I have to say I was nervous this afternoon, but I'm feeling a whole lot happier now.
Challenge by Peter Johansson on May 20, 8:44
I would definitely buy both the pre-release digital edition as well as the final printed edition.
I want to buy copies for my entire office. No better way to get them all hooked into Rails than good documentation. I would be willing to buy both the PDF now and the printed version later. Although, if I got both for the price of one, I can buy twice as many. :)
I hope there will be lots of emphisis on UI- ajax, XUL ?
Looking forward to the release!
Challenge by H Roberts on May 20, 10:51
Had the pre-release book been offered today, I would have whipped out the credit card faster than it took to sit here and read everyone's feedback. Count me in!
It has never been a question of will I pay for the book, but how soon can I do it? The answer-- not soon enough!
Count me in! I've been impatiently waiting for the first Rails book, and I'm more than happy to purchase a beta version now, and then the printed release in August. I think this will help Rails immensly, because documentation is so scattered at the moment and reading the API doesn't really help you understand the Rails concepts - the "big picture" stuff.
David, this is now a matter of real significance. You have 106 commited people willing to buy the content itself, in it's current form, as is, today. We will accept and expect typos/bugs/problems of any kind and we expect interative releases.
This is niche publishing, or the long tail, in its truest form.
Please David, do what you can to make this happen. There are many of us who need this material now for all of the above reasons. August is too long to wait!
with spotlight i can't wait to have a numerical version of that book....spotlight is making a great job with my pickaxe numerical version.
Challenge by Dave Teare on May 20, 17:31
I personally only want the ebook version, the paper back is a waste of space. I would like to see the same process used that Hibernate followed: I purchased the ebook before it was available and in return I got access to beta copies of each chapter and then got a final PDF once it was complete.
If the I could, I would happily pay full paper-back price for a draft PDF today, as long as I got the final PDF down the road.
Given the rapid pace in the grow of Rails, it vey important to get professional documenting being able to track this. Noth only is 6 months to publications too slow. 12 months after that for the 2nd ed. is going to be a long wait as well.
Maybe they should be some sort of community effort, like with Perl and Conway, to fund someone writing professional documentation for Rails as quickly as new features are coming out?
Official fanboy number 489 chiming in. I think the general sentiment seems to be: "give it to us, we need it bad"... I feel so dirty.
Challenge by Justin Forder on May 25, 19:28
I've bought a couple of books as PDFs from Manning (Hibernate in Action, Spring in Action), because it's immediate and there is a significant difference in price.
I've noticed the "Live" series of books from SourceBeat, but haven't tried them. These are kept up to date, and sold on a subscription basis.
I'd certainly buy an early electronic copy. Why not publish beta as PDF, at half price (organising discounts on published version sounds a big hassle), and take a little more time on the final version so that it can line up with version 1.0 of Rails? More value to us, more proofreading for you, and more income!
You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Challenge by Paul Boudreau on May 26, 6:10
Well, it's been 7 days since the first posting of this idea without any substantial response as to the possibility of this becoming REAL.
I have been checking this posting every day for the last 7 days (highly ususual for me) and continue to see, with a few exceptions, posters comitted to buying any content available today.
Is it now time for a new writing effort to begin? Is this a neW opportunity for another potential writer (or wanna be writer) with Rails chops to out manuveur the publishing industry in open source-like fashion?
I believe so! Any one reading these posts who has great Rails chops and believes himself capable of writing such material WILL have my financial support. I believe this could extend to the other posters here who also need this material TODAY and not in 6 months.
Please, TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE! This could be a significant career opportunity!
I'll join the herd and say this is a great idea. I'm anxious to spend the money.
Challenge by Mark Imbriaco on May 26, 19:08
The beta book is now available, I just ordered my PDF + paper book combo. Time for the rest of you guys who said you'd jump if he released it early to put your money where you mouth is. Let's make sure that Dave doesn't regret his decision.