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   Re: [xml-dev] Re: xml, books

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dulino@olegdulin.com (Oleg Dulin) writes:
>I noticed an interesting trend -- many authors appear to publish their
>books onine under Creative Commons or GFDL license for free and then
>it gets published by O'Reilly. Is that because O'Reilly is hesitant to
>take on book projects ?

No, that has other origins for the most part.  With XSL-FO, Dave Pawson
had published the manuscript online before we acquired it, but the other
books you've seen go this route (Practical RDF, RELAX NG, XForms, now
Open Office XML Essentials) were all O'Reilly projects - if not books -
before they were released on the Web.

Open manuscripts often make editing much easier, as people tend to find
different kinds of mistakes, often earlier in the process.  There are
sometimes issues with the credibility of unknown reviewers or the
potential for abuse, but so far I'm pretty happy with the process.

XSL-FO, RELAX NG, XForms, and Open Office XML Essentials are all, I
believe, going to remain "open" - O'Reilly will sell them on paper, but
electronic versions will remain available on the Web.  This is not
unusual for us, though it isn't typical of publishing in general. We
suspect there are some lost sales, but also some additional sales and
benefits that wouldn't happen otherwise.

We do have a "Community Press" option for printing documentation that
already exists under free licenses.  See, for example, the MySQL
Reference Manual:


The books I've personally edited for publication under open licenses so
far have all been regular O'Reilly books, not Community Press. (XSL-FO
could have been, probably, but wasn't.)

>I have to side with some of the posters on this thread that changes
>need to be made to how books are released. I am not a big fan of
>printed computer books. I prefer to use Safari, which is great and is
>a wonderful start.
>Safari should be extended to allow publications of smaller books,
>perhaps periodicals along the lines of academic journals. Authors
>should be able to use a CMS to update sections of the book as
>technology changes and get editors' approval in a matter of days.

We've definitely talked about this inside O'Reilly.  (Safari is a joint
venture between O'Reilly and Pearson.)  For now, the mechanisms for
publishing on Safari are pretty tightly tied to the mechanisms for
releasing books, but that may change over time.  

Smaller projects definitely sound like a good idea generally - there are
many projects that need more than an XML.com or O'Reilly Network article
but not necessarily a book. We're not there yet.  

Also, figuring out an economic model that keeps authors interested in
updating their works is a challenge.  I think most authors are
interested in maintaining errata, but updating books feels like, well,
writing books.  A sense of "completion" is one of the key intangibles in
writing books, I have to admit.

>For those who want printed books, a regular subscription will allow
>them to receive journals on a monthly (or quarterly) basis similar to
>how academic journals by ACM and IEEE are released.

We've had mixed luck with things like W3J, which was a quarterly journal
based on W3C work.  I suspect doing this seriously would require a
pretty complete reorganization, tough to do when most of our cash still
comes through the sale of complete books.

>Conventional Wiki sites such as http://wiki.cocoondev.org/ are a
>cacophony of unedited articles, many of them incomplete and outdated.
>What we need is someone like O'Reilly to create a compromising solution
>that will give the readers up-to-date documentation _and_ the quality
>editting and approval process.

I like the idea, though I worry that editing is much like metadata:
everyone wants it to be there, but few are willing to pay for it.  Books
have been a convenient answer to that for a long time.

We'll see!


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