Why aren’t there more MV books?

This article is in response to an inquiry in the U2 forum. I think a lot of people are curious about this, though it’s been discussed many times in various forums – and over many meals by some of us…

The basic problem is volume – there isn’t enough of it to justify the effort of writing a book. I’ve worked on a couple books with major publishers like SAMS and Manning. These companies produce massive quantities of books for large audiences, and the end-user price is relatively low. The MV market is a niche. Major publishing houses can’t justify the expense of printing large quantities, and major outlets won’t stock this sort of low-demand material.

Related, people who are willing to be authors need to survive while and after they spend the hundreds of hours required to produce this sort of material. People who write books for the bookstores do so with the understanding that the book is more of a calling card – author commissions are very low. People who write books for the MV market don’t need a calling card, we need cash.

As many people know, I’m in the process of finishing a book on DesignBais, the GUI development tool for MV apps. I believe this is the first book being published in the MV industry in many years and I’m taking a chance and testing the waters to see how this sort of thing will be received. It’s not a "reference guide", citing syntax – that sort of material is already available in any reference for people who are already familiar with the subject matter. This is a detailed guide for developers who want to take the product to the next level using techniques that are not documented anywhere else. The point here is that there is unique value-add, and I (or any author) must be compensated for providing such value. This is especially true since producing a book in some ways sabotages one’s ability to sell specialty services, especially training, for a lot more money.

My model, for better or worse, is that I plan to sell some small number of books at a cost which is high compared to bookstore books, but the net income should justify some part of my time investment. If I can just achieve some minimal amount of equity I might be inclined to write more books on other MV-related topics. So far the response to this specific offering has been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone I’ve spoken with agrees without question that what they are paying for the book (about two hours of consulting time) will save them weeks of research and development time.

I will not distribute my material in electronic format. One copy published as a PDF will turn into 100 or more copies that are not being purchased – and that is only a disincentive for people like me to publish more material, and for that we all suffer. This is the downside to electronic media. Ebooks are not standard, there are many proprietary protocols for licensing the material, most of which are simply unacceptable. My books will be self-published with proper binding on quality stock, like any other book suitable for a bookshelf. The cost is rolled into the purchase price.

I will also not publish my material for free ;with the idea that it will earn me recognition as a professional and thus more consulting engagements for my company. That model for the most part is a myth perpetuated by people who want free information and expect other people to support the authors. This also relates to why a lot (of course not all) of free and/or open source software is unsophisticated or unsupported – the authors have no motivation to write useful software for free. But that’s another discussion. On this very blog I’ve published many free articles on many topics. But this doesn’t generate new sales, at least not commensurate with the time I spend writing here. This blog is provided as a community service and as a sort of catharsis to release thoughts and information I have rolling around in my little head. (New business isn’t bad either – feel free to inquire…)

I am hoping that other potential authors will consider this model for themselves as they think about publishing material for the MV community – and of course those on the outside who are curious about all Pick-related products. Until we have enough volume for low-cost books in the bookstores, we can be content with higher-cost material by mail. This doesn’t help to get MV on the book shelves as a marketing vehicle for MV. There may be no solution to that larger problem. But individuals can take steps to answer the other question "why aren’t there any books for this market?" – and some companies might want to consider funding some of that effort as well.

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