Books, Books, Books…

I've been thinking about books and the MSDN developer centers for some time... I've been wondering what we should do in terms of highlighting books on the MSDN site.

  • Do you want reviews?
  • Top x Books by topic area (Beginning VB.NET, Data Access, Windows Forms, Language Focused...)? How would "Top" be determined though? Top could be sales #s, votes on some sort of dynamic site (which one, who should host this... INETA, ?
  • My favorite books? (which means Chris's favorites on Longhorn, Kent's on ASP.NET, Brian's on C++, etc...)
  • MVP Reviews?
  • No books at all? (You'll just use other sites to find .NET books?)
  • Sample Chapters?
  • Or, should we just feature them all (by topic) and rotate them through for highlighting?

I could set up a poll for this, but I think the discussion will be more useful so please use the comments section to voice your thoughts!!

Comments (14)

  1. I think all books should be listed with some reviews and sample chapters (at least top X books should have sample chapters).

  2. Sonu Kapoor says:

    Yes, books would be intersting. I think that reviews, favorite books and sample chapters are a good idea.

  3. I’ll just speak for all writers (who will mostly be too chicken to admit that they feel this way) by saying that you should put my books at the top of the page and leave them there. With Amazon links to credit my account, of course 🙂

  4. Jeff Parker says:

    Whoo Hoo, I have been wanting someone to do this at Microsoft forever.

    My 2 cents as I do read a lot of books.

    First off Reviews, they are somewhat helpful. But really not as much as you would think. Some time a book comes along that people really love and others really hate. An example of this are the 2 big MSPress books. The Step by Step and the Core Reference. Both have varied comments. Typically I never read the canned reviews from some expert source source. The canned review are always fluffed and always out to sell the book. The user reviews are interesting though and usually tell it how it is. Now I read both of these books cover to cover. I came to the conclusion after reading the reviews and reading both books it seems the developers really loved the Step by Step and were confused or maybe overwhelmed by the core reference, while the C# Developers devoured the Core Reference and absolutely hated the Step by Step. Anyway those are my conclusions after reading the reviews at Amazon. So if you were to allow user reviews maybe another option would be to base it on the language the reviewer uses for general books, or books in the other non language specific categories. So that way the person searching can see which book they may enjoy more.

    Now the My Favorite books is an excellent idea. It is just getting those guys to update them regularly. Maybe a blurb about what they thought and also further reading. My local Microsoft contact I know gets tired of me and other asking him for book recommendations. But he always recommends good books. I have never had a bad book recommendation from him. I have told him this before and well now you can find these in his blogs here. and there are others of course that occasionally blog their books they are reading or just finished. But that is a hard place to search in the blogs for a book you seen mentioned a month ago.

    MVP review, maybe, they would be a lot better and more realistic than a canned expert review trying to sell the book.

    No books at all, not an option as far as I am concerned. I do use other sites now. Blogs, Message Boards, user group recommendations and so on. But it would be nice to have a really good central source.

    I don’t know about sample chapters, those are always iffy and usually start with chapter 1 “How to install or get around in Visual Studio” But Table of contents is always great. Especially the books that have detailed table of contents Code Complete 2nd revision for example has a huge and nice table of contents.

    Features, Maybe new realeases cycle through, no real opinion on this. Usually when I am looking for a book I am on a quest for something.

    And please categorize them. I actually wrote a .net app that got to the list all books on mspress and checks for new books and so on and books removed. MS press does a very poor job at selling their books on the site there is no organization or ones that are organized are wrong. Best just to list them all and sometimes you just have to judge a book by it’s title on the mspress site.

  5. Dave says:

    Sample chapters and top book recommendations by experts are useful.

    Part of the issue (alluded to by Jeff Parker) is what are people looking for in a book. Personally, I hate books written by frustrated novalist who are paid by the pound. I prefer terse books that cut to the chase (the ideal technology book for me is the original Kernnigan (sp?) and Richie book "The C Programming Language" — small and to the point).

  6. Jeff Julian says:

    If you wouldn’t mind :D, supporting a community effort like the .NET Book Club ( for your means of book reviews, etc instead of starting your own.

  7. One option might be to add a "For Further Reading" section to some of the MSDN articles to highlight books the author would recommend to learn more about that particular topic. Wouldn’t be applicable in all cases, but might be helpful for some.

  8. Johan Waaldijk says:

    Whatever you decide; please distinguish entry-level, intermediate and advanced level.

  9. Brian Broom says:

    Sample chapters would be cool, but I’m not sure about having sugessted book purchases on an official microsoft site. If I was a book author I’m not sure I’d be too happy about someone elses book being "featured" on a site with as much traffic as MS. Too much conflict of interest (I wonder how well the MS Press reviews would be?)

  10. noorulislam says:

    some topics would be intersting & nothing very special

  11. Jeff Parker says:

    Not to argue with Brian and not to flame but I guess the reason I would like this is, there are a ton of books on topics Microsoft does not have or does not cover. My Classic example is programming active directory via .net. Microsoft which invented active directory as it is, I know they didn’t do LDAP, and they did invented the DirectoryServices namespace has absolutely no books, and very poor mdsn articles on the subject. They have books on Active Directory and they have books on .net but I have yet to see a book from MSpress that covers the DirectoryServices namespace. So instead you absolutely must go to other venders Apress has a very good book on it, they are the only ones that have a book specifically on it. Oreilly has 2 chapters on it in their active directory in a nutshell book and that is it. That is all the information out there on it.

    Now I did go back and look again and somewhere in the MSDN Library updates this year they did provide more samples on Directory services. If you go look at them they are all stamped at the bottom updated June 2004, before that every class had maybe one sentence description of the class and no examples. But this is now 2 – 3 years out now from .net release.

    Point is if you focus only on MSPress books you’re going to lack in several areas. There are several other areas in .net just like that, where Microsoft may have created the CLR for it but there is little or no documentation on it. Now however where is the first place I go to find out something on programming, well that’s easy MSDN, if MSDN and other Microsoft employees can recommend another good source of information on a topic even if that source is not theirs, well then it makes MSDN even more my main site I know I am going to either find what I am looking for there or reference to a better source. Right now if I want to know something I hit MSDN, if they do not have it, then I am hitting Google and running all over the web looking for answers which may or may not come from credible sources or sites.

  12. Manoj Agarwal says:

    An unbiased portal on .NET books is surely needed. Right now, Amazon serves this purpose to a good extent. They provide the listing of books (on any topic) based on top-selling or reader ratings, and their system of reviews seems great.

  13. Jeff Paulson says:

    A book section is a good idea, no matter what for it takes. However, please require the reviewers to disclose if the book is written by them, their co-workers or friends. I promise not to discount their review automatically, but would like to be able to factor that in.

  14. Joe Mayo says:

    The book thing has already been done quite extensively by Amazon and other places on the Web. I vote for you guys devoting precious resources to things like chats, informative blogs, FAQs, and Q&A.

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