Home > General, Programming > An open letter to the authors / publishers of tech. books

An open letter to the authors / publishers of tech. books

This post is a rant, but first the thanks-giving. My thanks are due to Pearson Education for publishing Agile Principles, Patterns, and Practices in C#, Design Patterns in C#, Applying UML and patterns and other such great books. My thanks are due to Manning Publications too for printing Hibernate in Action and their other books in low-cost editions. I’ve definitely learnt a lot from these books and these are highly recommended if you wish to take your craft to the next level.

My thanks are also due to the respective authors – Robert Martin, the late Steven Metsker, Craig Larman, and Christian Bauer and Gavin King for their books’ availability in low-cost editions. Although sometimes, these books might be coming out a good 2-3 years after the first appearance of their counterparts (US editions), still the mere availability of low-cost editions ensures that Indians and guys in other countries can purchase those books.

But what is a low-cost edition book? If you are one of those who’s wondering this, then here it is -> a low-cost edition of a book is valid for sale in countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other neighboring countries, and is generally a paperback edition. So if a book costs say, 50 USD (which is roughly more than 2000 INR, considering an exchange rate of 40 INR for a USD), the low-cost edition would be available for, say, 500 – 600 INR, which obviously is quite affordable.

So now for the rant part – I am not sure which of these books are printed and who decides to print them in their low-cost avatars. I am just hoping that the author might have a say in this. If that is the case, then I am really appalled at the apathy of those Indian authors whose books are not available as low-cost editions too. None of the Martin Fowler series of books (written by many of the ThoughtWorkers) are available in low-cost editions, despite ThoughtWorks having offices in 2 or 3 locations in India – how shocking and insulting?

I am sure that none of the authors are naive enough to think that a soft copy of their books is not available as download from one or the other websites. So why don’t they make sure that their books are available as low-cost editions too? Yes, I can buy such books through my company, but I would like a personal copy too, and shelling out 500 INR is not a big decision for me (or most of us). C’mon guys, already so many people here (in US) are pissed off because of the low quality of the work from some of the Indian offshoring companies. So why don’t you give us the resources, give us the books which we can afford and then point fingers at us.

Consider this scenario – if a publisher prints 500 copies of a book, which is sold for, say, 500 INR, the expenditure is 250,000 INR, which is hardly 6250 USD. Even if you add a couple thousands of USD of other costs, I doubt 8K or 10K is a big spending for any publisher. Given the scene of IT / software in India, I am sure atleast half of these books should get sold. Does it seem like a bad bet? I don’t think so.

So here is a request to all those authors, whose books are still not available in low-cost editions, and to those authors whose books are about to hit the market – like Ayende Rahien (for his upcoming book,Β  Building Domain Specific Languages in Boo) and Jeremy Miller who’s considering writing a book on Presentation Patterns – please make sure your books are available in low-cost editions, and I make sure to you that you have a lot of audience (and possibly fans) in these far-off countries, and you’ll definitely sell a good number of copies there.

The request is also to various publishers. The low-cost editions ensure that many people outside US can (and will) buy your books, and if the low-cost edition debuts the same day as the US edition, my friends back in India get timely information.

Am I asking for too much?

Categories: General, Programming
  1. November 30, 2008 at 1:55 am

    You think those bloody hounds will bother to listen??

    Download the pdfs you need using bittorrent. It will serve your purpose and also teach them a lesson for making learning and education so expensive.

  2. mmwaikar
    December 1, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Hi Harshad,

    I don’t think the authors have much of a say in this because two different authors have given me the same answer that it depends on the publisher, so I would like to believe them now (though earlier I didn’t).

    And they might not bother to listen, but I am doing my part by at least letting them know that some audience somewhere is deprived because of this.

    And of course, that is what I’ve done till now (downloading the pdfs) πŸ˜‰ but I’ve to resort to a wrong thing because of lack of choice, and sometimes a book is definitely handy.

  3. December 4, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    It turns out Martin tried to get in touch with you, but couldn’t find an e-mail address. But to summarise what he said to me about low cost or EEE editions – ‘It’s entirely up to the publisher.’


    • mmwaikar
      December 5, 2008 at 11:35 am

      Hi Sidu,

      Thanks for getting back to me with Martin’s message. And now, I am absolutely sure that it must be depending solely on the publisher (because two other authors, including Pramod Sadalage (whom I met at one of the TW organized annual conferences in Pune), have told me the exact same thing) but I am also sure that someone with Martin’s stature, could easily negotiate with publishers that whichever books are published under “Martin Fowler signature series”, should be released in low-cost or EEE editions, sooner or later. I can definitely understand that a new author might not be able to negotiate this with the publishers, but the same couldn’t be true for Martin though.

      I am definitely going to write to the publishers anyway.


  4. December 14, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Actually, it doesn’t depend on the authors or on the publisher.

    At Pragmatic Bookshelf, we make our books available for international markets. You’ll find mahy of our books are already available in India, Pakistan, and the region as LPEs.

    But, we don’t distribute them there. We have a local partner who does that. In our case, this partner is Shroff (http://www.shroffpublishers.com/).

    So, if our local partner decides to take one of our titles and create an LPE, we’ll negotiate a contract and the book will become available a few months later.


    Dave Thomas

    • mmwaikar
      December 15, 2008 at 11:03 pm

      Thanks for the response Dave. I’ll definitely contact the guys at Shroff for releasing one of your books – “My job went to India” by Chad. Its a really good book, specially because Chad was in India for a substantial time, so he’s definitely looked at things from a very close angle, and given some meaningful suggestions / insights.

      Btw, what if your local partner doesn’t find it worthwhile (for various reasons), and so refuses to take up a book for LPE? Is there no way, that that particular book sees the light of the day as LPE?

      Thanks and regards,

  5. December 16, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    I’d hold fire on MJWTI: there’s a new edition in the works πŸ™‚

    If the local publisher doesn’t want a title, or if we don’t agree terms, then there’s no way we can get it out as an LPE: books require printers and distributors, and and LPE requires local versions of both.

    That’s how all international translations work for us: we license the rights to a local publisher, who then produces and distributes the book. It’s the only way that makes sense.


    • mmwaikar
      December 19, 2008 at 8:07 pm

      Wow, that’s really cool πŸ™‚ I am definitely anxious to have a look at the new edition, specially because, it’s very easy for a technical book to have a second edition, and it’ll be really interesting to see the evolution of such a general book into its second avatar.

      Regarding LPE, I hope that if an LPE deal doesn’t work with one partner, you might oblige another local partner, if one approaches you (provided the deal works out for you both).

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