Subject: RE: Differing IP laws
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 23:11:39 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Eduardo" == Eduardo Basterrechea <ebaste@eitig.com> writes:

    Eduardo> Editors must improve their technical books; they have to
    Eduardo> change their idea about the books. A technical book is
    Eduardo> obsolete in a few months, or a year(not completely but in
    Eduardo> part).

Surely you jest.  My trusty copy of the Xlib Programmer's Guide (from
O'Reilly, who else?) says "for Version 11, Release 4" on the cover.
It was printed in late 1991.

Like a beloved vinyl record album, I will eventually have to replace
it because the ink has rubbed off most of the pages; or perhaps
because it's time to start teaching my daughter, and we can share a
fresh copy until she's ready to hack on her own.

The kind of technical books O'Reilly publishes need not become
obsolete for a decade or more.

    Eduardo> They should develop a new product and a part of the
    Eduardo> product is the book. They should develop web pages about
    Eduardo> the book, answer reader's questions, enhance the contents
    Eduardo> with the help of the readers...and of course publish the
    Eduardo> book.  They should charge the use of the resources.

I think this is hopeless.  That is, this is definitely a business
opportunity; what I think is hopeless is for publishers to apply their
experience and connections to it.  Educators and authors have the
comparative advantage in the kind of activity you point out;
publishers do not.  And those web pages, FAQs, enhanced contents, etc
are all unlikely to generate revenue; they don't make up for a bad book.

It may be that educators and authors are sufficiently inept at running
businesses that ex-publishers will end up dominating that niche, but I
wouldn't bet on it.  Publishers will have to do, somehow, what they've
always done: make the decisions about which authors get financing, and
which not; supply the chosen authors with editorial and other
assistance; and market the product.  But publishers who spend too
much on enhancing ancillary materials for bad books will be throwing
money down an e-hole.

I'll hazard a guess that what will happen is not that publishers will
become training/educational consultants, but that those that flourish
over the next decades will be those that have an eye for the classics
that people will be willing to pay extra for for a polished, hardware
version.

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