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The book publishing world should go on a diet

Traditionally booksellers had one metric by which they measured a book's value. "The thud factor". I remember well when I first opened the 'M' volume of the encyclopedia and when I bought my first edition Petzold book. Unlike the encyclopedia, however, book authors are just like high school and college students who fudge with the margins, type font, line spacing and images in order to get the right amount of pages for the printer's template.
I want the cliff notes version of every book in my analog and digital archives.

Right now, however, I'm reading 4 different books on Agile Process Management and they follow the same basic outline. Preface, Foreword, 2-3 obligatory chapters of background or justification, 4 chapters of good information that could be distilled into 2 or 3 pages of real info, and then several chapters of case studies and a postscript.

Then there is every rubiest's favorite, "the pick axe book". It's 700+ pages of all things Ruby. That used to include gobs and gobs of standard library references, 3rd party library references, preface, foreword, a "section" justifying the language and the book, with stories about what was cut in the current edition. Don't get me wrong; I have 2 or 3 editions here too. And I still have not been able to complete it.

But here is what I want.

I want the cliff notes version of every book in my analog and digital archives. I no longer have the time or the inclination to read all the useless cruft that authors and publishers throw at us because they think we need it. There is a reason why there is a "data structures" class in college. It's because they are teaching the base concepts and not how a specific language implements the base concepts. It's the students job to learn how to learn. To know or try to apply those concepts to any and all languages. When I was in college the course was called "data structures in Pascal" but when I took the class I wrote my assignments in C. A few years later Sedgwick rewrote the book in C.

So the real question I'm asking myself is who are these books written for? Are most book buyers novice or journeymen? At the end of the day I look at the amount of documentation that Rob Pike and the rest of the Go-Lang team produced and I'm in awe. They have effectively produced:

  • table of contents

  • language reference

  • tools reference


and Separate:

  • standard library reference

  • 3rd party package links/repository


All concise and nicely linked to online. I have a mind to reformat the docs into a one or two pager... just to prove that it can and should be done.

Comments

  1. I fully agree, I've been asking the same thing about many things not just books but even the news could be more concise. I don't care for the opinions of why they love python or why ruby is the best I just want to know the facts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Exactly. And in the spirit of the internet I have just registered http://onepagedocs.com and http://onepagebugs.com. I have not decided exactly how I'm going to use them but I'm thinking I'm going to start publishing my notes from the many technical books I've read over the years. Thank you for your comment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. [...] I just started this site. It was inspired by a number of recent events. The best place to read about that is the about page and a recent blog post. [...]

    ReplyDelete

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