Thursday, August 9, 2007

Come Get Up In Our Grill

Though we've been calling this effort "The Most Open Publishing Project Ever", we've clearly been missing a key part of that, a blog. Now we've decided to change that and join the mass of mixed signals and noise that is the blogosphere.

We'll be using this blog to announce new content whenever it is available, as well as give people progress reports on the administrative side of things, such as starting up the company that we'll be printing the book through Lulu with.

We hope this serves a few purposes, the first of which is of course giving the book more exposure and inviting our users to participate or at least stay in the loop. The other thing we hope to do, which is perhaps more generally useful, is document our experience of writing and producing a work basically on our own, without a publisher to handle all the details for us. With any luck, we'll be able to do this successfully and share our experiences for the benefit of other folks who want to write free documentation.

For now, here's an update on where we stand, on various fronts:

  • We're in talks with BTree to get some initial funding to start up an LLC or other kind of company with. This company will likely consist of only two partners, Michael and myself, with a very reasonable profit sharing model worked out with BTree.

  • We're looking for some incentives for folks to buy the printed book or typeset PDF when it becomes available. Because we intend to make the HTML version of the book available free of charge forever, we won't be using traditional product-centric profit models. Instead, we plan to donate a sizeable amount of our proceeds to charity. We have a couple of organizations in mind, and will announce our final selection and the amount of profits we plan to share with them soon.

  • We are also considering doing pre-orders of the printed book at a much lower cost than the final retail price. Please let us know if you're interested in this, as a decent amount of interest will help make sure we do this. We'd likely begin taking pre-orders in mid-September for an early November release date.

  • We are about two weeks *behind* on writing, but have worked enough wiggle room into the schedule where this should not effect our goal of having the book in print before RubyConf. We'll let you know if things change.

  • An alpha release of PayR, the application which the Ruport Book will be based on will be out soon, within the next couple weeks.

  • The editorial support, review commentary, and feedback for the book have been less than what we hoped for. We notice that our users are learning a lot from the materials based on the kinds of questions that are being asked on the mailing list, but we are really counting on honest opinions from our users on whether or not the work we've done so far is helpful to them. Feel free to chime in any time. :)

  • What has been lacking in discussion has not been lacking in financial support. Donations have covered our hosting costs for 1 year for the various project resources. All further donations will be used to help offset business costs, allow us to borrow less money, and generally make things go more smoothly. To those who have contributed so far, thank you!
That wraps up where we are for now, expect to see new updates soon. Please feel free to actively comment on any content you see here, we can use your advice!

4 comments:

just some guy said...

Personally, I'd look to buy a PDF of the book, and potentially also a paper copy.

What would influence my decision about whether to buy a paper copy would be whether I'd been able to read/review a significant chunk of the book beforehand, and had been able to gain a degree of confidence that you guys knew what you were talking about, that the book was pitched at an appropriate level for me, and that I had a current or likely future need for the content in the book itself.

If you were to release an early chapter of the book, or a section that's likely to be of broad interest, I'd use that to give me a good indication of whether I'll want to buy the book itself.

Speaking purely for myself, I find that deciding whether to buy a book online is a one-off decision; if I've already decided to buy a PDF copy, and done so, I'm pretty unlikely to then later come back and buy a 2nd (paper) copy of the book. On that basis, I'd need to be convinced to buy both the PDF+paper copies of the book in one transaction.

Finally, while I appreciate that others may think differently, I find it somewhat painful to work from a HTML-formatted copy of any sizeable document. I don't want to be clicking back and forth between links when I'm having to flick between multiple sections of a book while a key concept tries to make its way into my head; I strongly prefer either scrolling through a PDF where I can use the page numbers as a reference for quick scrolling, or actually having a book in hand. The way HTML reformats if/when you resize a browser window is pretty distracting as well. The key point here is that, while I'd possibly read a book in HTML format, if I find the content useful I'd very much be inclined to get a PDF or paper copy rather than keep relying on a HTML copy.

Gregory Brown said...

Hi, thanks for the feedback!

One quick note:


What would influence my decision about whether to buy a paper copy would be whether I'd been able to read/review a significant chunk of the book beforehand, and had been able to gain a degree of confidence that you guys knew what you were talking about, that the book was pitched at an appropriate level for me, and that I had a current or likely future need for the content in the book itself.


You can get a large chunk of the in-progress content already at:

http://ruportbook.com

I agree with your points about HTML, the primary reason we're going to make it free-as-in-beer is to allow it to make it easier for folks to do translations, quoting, etc, more for community re-use and remix friendliness than comfortable reading.

The PDF books will not be distributed by us for free, just because we'd like to make some money to support the project as well as pay for the time we put into the book. Of course, because the book will be under CC/SA, you can legally trade the PDFs with friends and whatnot.

We hope our users won't go and torrent the PDFs or anything like that, but it won't be a big deal if they do.

We will try to make it possible for you to easily purchase the PDF and Printed Book (or one or the other) as a single transaction.

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