Not quite the moan it first appears

There is a fascinating post called Shaking Up tech Publishing on David Heinemeier Hansson’s blog Loud Thinking. It is from several months ago so you may have heard about it before. At first blush it might seem like just a rant against the publishing industry.

I’ve been talking to a lot of friends and acquaintances who are writing tech books for a wide variety of old-school publishers and I can’t believe the deals they’re taking.

It seems that the industry standard is something akin to 10% of the profits (which easily take 4-5-6 months to arrive), being forced to write in Word, and finally a production cycle that’s at least a good 3 months from final book to delivery. That’s horrible!

But if you persevere it’s actually quite a read offering an interesting perspective on the development process of books and perhaps a glimpse of the future of book production.

But you don’t have to abandon dead trees entirely to be profitable as a tech author. Look at the Pragmatic Programmers. They use Subversion for revision control and collaboration alongside a tech-powered writing pipeline where authors write book “source code” and are able to produce PDFs straight from that! There is not even an InDesign step at the end. And you get to write in your favourite editor (I used TextMate for my work on the Rails book).

The criticism of the industry is probably a little unfair in some ways but the value of his constructive points outweighs that. Interestingly he heavily praises a company I have mentioned previously The Pragmatic Programmers. Worth checking out the post and the publishers.