We have seen the future, and it sucks.

A Fan of Short Books

31st August 2008

Read it.

This is a great idea, and I hope it comes sooner rather than later.

Everyone involved in software development is familiar with having six or eight (very expensive) 400-page tomes on a particular subject that have to cover the whole of a particular tool (e.g. Integration Services) and so cannot do so in sufficient depth to really help out a developer who is stuck in some petty little quirk of the system. The problem is that there isn’t sufficient market to have a 100-page book devoted to, say, the Lookup Component (and if you don’t understand what that means, then you’ve never worked with Integration Services — not that there’s anything wrong with that….) to justify doing the whole write-and-publish-dead-tree-version process.

But e-books take us completely out of that high-friction world. To expand on the example that Joe used: Imagine a 25-page summary of Integration Services. For somebody seeking a broad overview, that will probably be sufficient — and, being a commercial product, it will be far more readable than the Defense-Department IBM-wannabe corporate tech-writer style of the Books On Line that come with the product.

However … say you wanted to know more about the Data Flow Task. Fine. For a few dollars more, you can buy an expansion of that section, and it will deal with that Task in depth.

And, if you’re really stuck in a problem, for a few dollars more you can get an even deeper treatment that tells you EVERYTHING THERE IS TO BE KNOWN about the Lookup task, including things that Microsoft would rather hide under the rug, preferably written by somebody who’s been bitten by that bug and had to work around it — somebody like Ken Henderson (and I’m not talking about the ball player).

I’d buy it. I don’t know anybody I’ve ever worked with who wouldn’t be delighted to have such a tool available.

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