Do Not Buy This Book

A few friends and I just wrote a book together: The ASP.NET 2.0 Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

I’m surprised that there’s been no mention of Safari Bookshelf yet.

It strikes an interesting balance between the 2 options discussed, and brings its own limitations, but worth a mention here.

Despite all your praise of whatever resources are available online for free and the efficiency of Google, I’ve yet to read a Code Complete or Pragmatic Programmer written by anyone on a web site/blog, and have yet to read a webpage with quality information for free that isn’t either 1) paid for by a commercially interested party so that you use their stuff more (e.g. MS) or 2) full of mind-poisoning crap adverts everywhere that obscure the information to some extent and provide distractions.

If you want to focus specifically on something I think books are still a very strong option, especially the timeless ones. Again, surprised that despite singing the virtues of such books you go and contribute to something of the opposite nature!

Considering the points you mentioned in your article, as long as your publisher isn’t the rightsholder, why not just release the book electronically using a Creative Commons license or the GNU FDL, assuming the book’s co-authors are okay with it? Then, set up a Paypal (or similar) address for accepting donations for the book. See also Mark Pilgrim (although I don’t think he accepts donations).

As someone who learned .NET mostly from reading books, I’ve found that I’ve developed a far more comprehensive understanding of the breadth and depth of the .NET framework than the vast majority of developers I’ve met. There’s simply no easier way to get a comprehensive look at all facets of a platform that by reading a series of books that were written to cover the technology end-to-end. Blog entries tend to focus on scenarios that developers commonly encounter in their daily lives as developers, but you won’t get a well-rounded perspective without reading books.


How did you come to the decision of selecting a publisher? Or did the publisher select you? Anyway, I don’t know much about SitePoint (seems fairly new), but did you consider OReilly? There’s hardly a bad book published by OReilly.


As someone who learned .NET mostly from reading books

This is a valid point; there are certainly different learning styles. Mine isn’t the “correct” one.

I’ve yet to read a Code Complete or Pragmatic Programmer written by anyone on a web site/blog

I completely agree, but sometimes the expansiveness of a book gets in the way-- most people have something they need to do right now, and they want a specific answer to the specific problem or situation at hand. What they don’t want is chapters of background, however well written and useful. Websites are extraordinarily good at providing those kinds of “just in time” answers. It’s a very effective system with a strong positive feedback loop.

Plus, who wants to dig through a book index to find something? How archaic. It’s almost like technical books only work if you’re willing to sit down and read entire chapters (or more) at once.

“Anyone can write a book.” or as perhaps it should read, "Anyone can get a book published"
We were discussing this at a reading group me and my friends started recently. There are several projects for online books, and with the internet truly anyone can publish their own book, which I think is a bad thing. Not anyone can get a book physically published, a large amount of crap does get published but that doesn’t mean anyone can get published. If, as with the internet, anyone can get published there is going to be so much more crap to wade through before you hit gold.

Congrats on the book btw :wink:

Hi Jeff,

I would be very appreciative of the publisher adding a ‘Search Inside’ function to the book page on Amazon, or does this cost a lot of money?

best of luck with it, anyways


if … anyone can get published there is going to be so much more crap to wade through before you hit gold

But that’s the big lie of book publishing, particularly technical book publishing. Publishers don’t screen for quality, they just throw as much out there as they can, and pray that the 1% blockbusters will generate enough revenue to cover the other 99%. That’s how their system works. They won’t say that of course, but that’s the economic reality driving the industry.

The online model, where there is no pretension of screening for quality, is ultimately a better system. There’s a (nearly) infinite amount of content to choose from, and we have an ace in the hole that doesn’t exist for dead-tree books – Google automatically sorts the best stuff to the top for us through the miracle of PageRank/TrustRank.

Sure, 99.99% of the web is crap compared to 90% of books, but through the miracle of modern web search engines, you’ll never need to see that 99.9% online or even know it exists. The odds of picking up a mediocre book off the shelf are much greater than the odds of getting a mediocre link in the top 3 search results.

Yeah, books are increasingly irrelevant. So are most forms of print media for that matter.

Even the portability factor of physical media is becoming less of an advantage with the advanced handhelds that we have access to now.

It’s a technical book tied to a specific technology, and I’m not sure those kinds of books have a future.

I for one hope they do have a future. I taught myself how to program (in the good old days of Access 2.0 VBA) using technical books. I grant you that times have changed and the amount of good technical content available on the Internet has increased dramatically, but there is just something about reading an actual book. Have you ever tried curling up on the sofa with a good web page to read? Doesn’t really have the same effect.

Obviously Phil loves his readers more, he’s shipping me a copy to the UK :wink:

Indeed, IMHO, this is a very funny way to marketing the book :wink:

Hmmm, I’d agree with you up to a point. I also use the web as my first stop for information about how to solve whatever problem I’m working on. However, I do feel much happier with a big fat reference book to hand, as this lets me instantly get all the details on a particular approach that I may have identified online. There’s so many times a webpage has said “use $BLAH”, which is fine, and then the book has provided the information I need to get $BLAH working in my code. Guess it’s very much a matter of what works for each individual, but I hope they don’t stop printing books anytime soon!

I like the online content. It has indeed unbeatable advantages.
But I also like a good book a lot, be it geeky technical or just plain technical.
The way you’re holding a book, and the page by page interface, results in a different manner of information absorbtion. It’s hard to find the correct words for it, but some of the keywords could be : relaxed and tangible.
A book also give you an extra monitor immediately, albeit a very specialised one.
And it’s still way better than a monitor for quality of image. Supercrisp with only ambient lighting needed.

  • Kyoto factor : it doesn’t consume any power while reading it.

I enjoy reading books. I usually buy at least one technical book per month.

I like both technical books and online resources.

Online resources are faster, and usually better for finding code snippets. Books are better for explaining things and taking you all the way from never-coded-PHP-before to being able to write applications. I think only the Java Trails do an equivalent job online, and even they aren’t that good.

Whenever I need to learn a new subject, I buy a book. When I already know something, but need to look something up, I go online.

I agree, books are great if you need to learn how to {fill in new technology here}. This is because they give you context to build on.

Online pages are good when you need to solve a problem or advance your knowledge in an area you are already proficient. This is because you already have the context and something is just not working right or needs an upgrade.

The “curling up with a good book on the sofa” argument that gets cited a lot of times this discussion comes up is imo void - the place to read programming or technical books just isn’t the sofa. It’s just unreasonable to assume anything other than the users desktop (physical) is the place where technical documentations are read in the vast vast majority of cases.

Other advantages of digital media over books: Cutpaste, Ctrl-F, takes roughly 5 seconds to get (and usually for free, too!) and you can instantly link your friends without having to wait for a week for them to go out and buy the same book you are holding.