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The Problem With Paper Books

Out Of Date Warning

Languages change. Perspectives are different. Ideas move on. This article was published on January 31, 2013 which is more than two years ago. It may be out of date. You should verify that technical information in this article is still current before relying upon it for your own purposes.

kindleWhen you buy a book on Amazon, the transaction ends when the book gets packaged up and shipped (or delivered wirelessly over Whispernet). There are no updates (typos are corrected over Whispernet, but content is not updated), no connection to the author, no new versions when the material changes. For most books this is just fine: novels don’t have “updated content” and cookbooks rarely change either. But for technical books this sucks: technology changes quickly, and with the release of one minor version, your technical book (which you spent so much money on) is now totally worthless.

Paper books are notoriously hard to update, and you certainly don’t receive a new copy for free when a new edition comes out. Even the technical books that do get updated still require you to purchase a whole new copy! College students will tell you about “edition hell”, where professors (who receive a free version of the book) update the edition with minor changes, and ruin the used book process. Everybody has to buy a $90 textbook, because there are no used ones in the “required edition.”

Electronic copies of books (usually) come with two benefits that paper books will never have: the ability to search, and copy and paste. Responsible publishers that don’t lock their books make it possible to copy and paste the code samples into a text editor or command line. This makes it possible to experiment with the code without having to type it in by hand from a paper book. Plus, the ability to search the book makes it far easier to find a topic you were interested in, but don’t remember the location of in the book.

When I wrote Mastering Object Oriented PHP, I decided I didn’t want to play this game. PHP is going to change, and to make the book relevant to people two or three years down the road I would have to update it. But I wasn’t going to make you buy it twice; that’s silly. Since I wasn’t publishing it on paper, there was no overhead to updating those people who had been early adopters. Asking for you to buy it again would be sheer greed.

Some publishers are starting to do this as well: LeanPub for example does this for its readers and authors. In fact, LeanPub’s entire model is based on the “Publish early, publish often” mantra. While I don’t buy into this mantra (I prefer to release nearly complete or fully complete books), it’s refreshing to see other groups recognizing that updates are critical in technical books.

When you buy Mastering Object Oriented PHP, you don’t just buy the content for now, you buy the content for as long as the book is updated. That’s because I’m committed to revising the content and making it relevant in the future.

Write better object oriented code today. Object oriented programming always leaves you with a headache. What if you could master it instead? Stop struggling with object oriented PHP. Pick up your copy of Mastering Object Oriented PHP today.

Write better object oriented PHP today.

Object oriented programming always leaves you with a headache. What if you could master it instead?

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Hikari wrote at 2/14/2013 4:07 pm:

It’s great that you think like that.

Book writers and software developers, hardware makers, etc use to think that they should charge for the work they’ve already done. The content/product comes *as is*, and when we need update we must pay again for it.

I don’t demand to have free updates forever, but at least for some reasonable time, so that what I bought doesn’t get outdated and I have to buy it again every year.