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   RE: [xml-dev] xml, books

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I'm an avid book buyer -- I love books; the smell, the taste (I've
fallen asleep on more than one occasion)...

...but I have two pet peeves:

1) Why aren't books spiral bound?: Theres nothing I hate more than
trying to prop open a 900 page Wrox book while hacking out an example.
Honestly, I find I do less of the sample exercises simply because of
this.  And correct me if I'm wrong -- aren't spiral bound books less
expensive to produce?  We develop consulting methodologies using this
method and our clients have been thrilled.  Sure, they don't look as
nice on the bookshelf (and I'm sure there are people who buy solely for
this) but they *work*.

2) Over-simplified Examples: My company doesn't need a black jack game
written in C#.  Sure, a beginner's book without "Hello, World" would
probably stop me in my tracks but come on -- theres got to be
_something_ with substance you can write about. I don't care if it's a
chunk of integration code for some industry vertical that I'll probably
never use; I want a challenging (and realistic) exercise to really flesh
out the strengths and weaknesses of this particular example.  Use
something cool and unique from the class library; lets put this code
through the paces.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Chris Wilper [mailto:cwilper@cs.cornell.edu] 
> Sent: Tuesday, October 14, 2003 9:35 AM
> To: Simon St.Laurent; xml-dev@lists.xml.org
> Subject: RE: [xml-dev] xml, books
> I haven't bought a tech book for about two years now.  I 
> think that's a record for me.  I would like to blame it all 
> on Wolfram's doorstop and say it jaded me on all things 
> nonfiction.  But I won't.
> The truth is, I can almost always find the reference material 
> I need online... with the added bonus of mailing list 
> archives.  The tactile experience of books is the only thing I miss.
> Oh, and the smell.
> - Chris
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Simon St.Laurent [mailto:simonstl@simonstl.com]
> Sent: Monday, October 13, 2003 10:01 PM
> To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
> Subject: [xml-dev] xml, books
> As I think many of the people on this list know, my day job 
> is working as an editor at O'Reilly & Associates.  For the 
> past two plus years, I've focused on building an XML book 
> list, with some significant attention to Web Services and 
> occasional work on Web books.
> Lately, however, I'm spending less and less time on XML and 
> Web Services books and more time on books in other computing 
> fields.  Given how much easier it is for me to edit material 
> in fields I know well, this is a serious change on my part.  
> It's necessary, though, because as Tim Bray summarized my employer:
>    "Oh, and by the way, that XML book you were thinking of writing?   
>     Forget it." [1] 
> XML book sales have dropped substantially, even relative to 
> the overall decline in technology books.  A few books 
> dominate the broad (typically though not necessarily 
> beginner) end of the market, while more focused books 
> struggle to achieve the numbers needed to justify their publication.  
> It's not merely a matter of the pie being divided into too 
> many overpublished pieces, but rather a matter of the space 
> itself shrinking. There aren't a lot of publishers still 
> enthusiastic about publishing into the XML space as a result. 
>  (A few, including O'Reilly, are continuing to publish, 
> though at a slower pace.)
> There are a lot of things going on here, but it's interesting 
> because the shrinkage is more complex than the predictable 
> collapse of a hype wave.  There's been very little sign - in 
> my hindsight anyway - that developers ever moved from 
> beginner books on XML to more detailed books focusing on more 
> advanced technologies. XSLT appears to be the furthest 
> frontier most readers reach, and many stay within a range of 
> books covering XML and their particular (Java, .NET, Perl) 
> programming environment.  A few XML Schema books have done 
> adequately, but a lot have disappeared.  Web Services books 
> have fared especially badly.  Even books on hiding XML behind 
> other technologies, like O'Reilly's _Java & XML Data 
> Binding_, haven't really caught on.
> My current guesses as to why this decline is happening include:
>  The hype wave, of course - 
>      I don't think XML was ever quite what it was promised to be 
>      to programmers, and there's a good deal of annoyance from that.
>      (Publishing folks of various kinds still seem to be 
> expanding their   
>      use of XML, however, maybe even getting happier with it.)  
>  Standards confusion -
>     I think W3C XML Schema convinced a lot of people that true    
>     understanding of XML and vocabulary creation was way 
> beyond their    
>     skills.  The  cost/benefit ratio is way out of whack at the  
>     beginning. The pile-on of additional specs and the lack 
> of a clear 
>     processing model for combining them didn't help either - too many
>     optional parts. The amount of XML most programmers need 
> is in the  
>     intro books, maybe supplemented with something 
> environment-specific  
>     like Java & XML.  (Web Services has massive general standards  
>     confusion, an even tougher problem, not to mention even more "WS" 
>     specs than there are "XML" specs.)
>  Big books for small problems - 
>     While some of us do have complex problems we need to 
> solve with XML, 
>     it seems like 80% of the XML out there is produced by people who 
>     know about elements and attributes and maybe the built-in 
> entities.  
>     XML is ubiquitous, but in forms which don't require 
> enormous study.
>     These folks don't really need multiple books - they can 
> find what    
>     they need online easily enough.
> Now that the hype wave has retreated, the world seems full of 
> people who are getting by with a remarkably smaller set of 
> pieces than the XML community - and its supporting publishers 
> - have been selling.  In some ways, I think Common XML [2] is 
> triumphing. At the same time, I worry that "XML" in the 
> broader sense may have armed itself for inter-continental 
> thermonuclear combat when a broom for cleaning things up was 
> all many people wanted, and pretty close to the proposition 
> of the original project.
> I'm not entirely sure what I'm hoping to accomplish with this 
> message in this forum.  I suspect that I'd like the standards 
> makers to know that their publications are generating less 
> excitement - sales are down, difficulty of producing books is 
> up. Perhaps more important, I'd like people who use just a 
> relatively small subset of all of these XML technologies to 
> know that they're definitely not alone.
> [1] - http://tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2003/10/11/FooNotes 
> - Tim O'Reilly and Mike Hendrickson presented on trends in 
> publishing using both Bookscan data and Amazon rank data.  
> Sadly, that information is not itself public (Bookscan 
> doesn't want its participating stores to see the data from 
> other stores, etc.), but does include multiple publishers.  
> I'm not just discussing O'Reilly results here, and as my 
> employer has discussed this much in public, I don't think I'm 
> treading on dangerous confidentiality grounds.
> [2] - http://www.simonstl.com/articles/cxmlspec.txt
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