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   Re: [xml-dev] Re: xml, books

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igraham@ic-unix.ic.utoronto.ca (Ian Graham) writes:
>Is there any data explaining 'why' people by technical (e.g. XML)

The main theories are that people buy books:

* Because they NEED them to solve an immediate problem

* Because they FEAR they won't keep their job if they don't learn it

* Because they WANT to expand their knowledge in a particular area

* Because they want to GIVE a book to someone else

In general, I'd say those are listed from most likely to least likely.
Immediate need is a classic, and it's driven me to buy more books that I
later regretted than anything else.  Fear has become more of a motivator
lately, which troubles me. (The old Microsoft "he doesn't know what XML
is" TV ad played to this, though not at a time when I think it worked.)
Most of the books I've bought and been happy with were "want" books, as
it gave me the time to look for the book that really fit my needs.  

In the give category, I think most of these are from geeks to non-geeks.
Windows XP: The Missing Manual was a good thing to give my parents.  My
parents have also given me The Unicode Standard for Christmas once,
thanks to Amazon wish lists.

>I suspect that the current book crop doesn't provide what customers are
>looking for.

I suspect there are also fewer customers, especially for particular

>For example, I would buy a perl book to learn how perl works. 

Do you mean Perl internals?  Or something like Effective Java/C++/XML,
only for Perl?  

>I wouldn't buy a book solely about a perl API as I feel I could learn
>more from my own experiments with the API (or my own problem).

API books have definitely declined.  In the programming space, people
seem happier with books focused on particular problems than with books
covering a particular toolset.  (Some tools do better than others, of
course.)  Best practices can unfortunately also be a difficult sell.

>So, why aren't people on this list buying all those books?

While I'd certainly appreciate it if everyone here bought all the books
on XML O'Reilly published, not to mention those of my virtuous
competitors, I think there are a few good reasons:

* XML pros don't need more beginner books.

* As people go deeper into XML, their interests diverge radically.
Publishing into fragmented markets is difficult, so the books aren't
always there.  (I've tried, but not all niches are sustainable. I'll
continue to look for sustainable niches, of course.)

* A lot of XML books aren't what perhaps they should be.  I look back at
the first edition of XML: A Primer and blush a lot. Fortunately, I think
I've fixed a lot of those mistakes.  Not everyone has. [1]  Tech books
generally have a fairly grim reputation.

Even in an ideal world, I'd be impressed if 10% of all xml-dev readers
bought a copy of all the XML books I edit.  I don't expect that xml-dev
readers will be anywhere near a majority of purchasers, either.

The gold rush is well over, I guess.  Time to adjust course for a mature
technology surrounded by lots of experiments.

[1] - http://norman.walsh.name/2003/08/24/cdata


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