Over the last couple of months I have had a number of interesting conversations with a couple of publishers around publishing books. So to be fully transparent, I am working with a fellow Oracle Ace Associate to get a book of the ground. But what appears to be an interesting challenge has become distilled in my insight.
For book publishers they want to develop a title that will have a reasonable period of validity – lets say a couple of years as this is the kind of time frame required for a book to make an acceptable level of profit in the technical market. Whilst supporting an IT industry where software is deployed and installed by customers – this timeframe is reasonable. A large part of any business’ customer base don’t keep upgrading unless there is a distinct need. To keep the number of versions down that need to be supported, the release cycle is kept relatively slow other than to issue patches (i.e. fix bugs but not change the essential product and what it does and how it does it). A slow release cycle means books don’t date too quickly.
But we’re quickly moving into the world of XaaS. when all your customers are running on your cloud, then it becomes a lot easier to push out upgrades and keep everyone on as few as 2 product versions (new and previous) and only a few product versions needing to be supported as a result. That means a vendor can release updates far faster, with updates including new features. That acceleration increasingly becomes an arms war where to compete you also need to release updates as fast to match or differentiate from another vendor.
For example Mulesoft release updates of their cloud solution every quarter. Oracle will release in the PaaS space every 8-12 weeks, if not quicker than that.
This all adds upto the possibility that a print book can date (or atleast be perceived to date) more quickly. So how does the publisher who needs a longer cycle to make an acceptable return cope with this?
You either sell books covering just areas where you know you’re going to see significant sales and therefore have a shorter acceptable book life cycle – and this holds true for things like AWS and CloudShift. But those middleware platforms like Boomi, Mulesoft & Oracle ICS which will have a smaller readership there is a real challenge.
O Reilly offer free updates (details here) for the edition of the ebook you have (note no mention of the print edition). There is the further challenge of how the relationship with the author works and the on going cost of proofing the authors work. Maybe the answer is that rather than selling whole books, the purchasing is on a chapter model. So if a book needs to be extended to reflect new capabilities as we will see in the XaaS world, they have to buy the new chapters.