Dead Trees vs. Bits


"urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />Speaking
of books, people keep telling me and Peter and Raymond that we should write books
based on our blogs.

 

Well,
I probably am going to write another book this winter, but it will have pretty much
nothing to do with the stuff in this blog.   
The
natures of a blog and a book are very different.  Let me list some differences:

 

Creative
control

 

I
can blog what I want, when I want, at what length I want, and can say whatever I want. 
In particular, I like to ramble on about the scripting technologies — which, though
they are widely used, are clearly a 20th century technology.  .NET
is the future.  A book has to be on a
specific topic, finished by a specific time, at a specific length.  A
book has to be about a current technology topic and have a clear beginning-middle-end
structure. Books both allow editing and require editing.  Blogs
resist editing.

 

Business
model

 

Books
work on the ink-on-dead-trees business model.  Weblogs work on the “bits are
free” business model. If I went to a publisher and said “I want to write a short but
rambling book about random, arcane, trivial details of the history and internals of
a 1996 technology that is presently being made increasingly irrelevant and outmoded
by .NET” then the publisher would say “thanks, but no thanks”.   People
buy computer books because they have a problem
that needs solving
, not because they enjoy learning my opinions about proper Hungarian
usage. 

 

Books
MUST make money to exist.  My aim for this blog isn’t to make money, it is to
dump my vast collection of arcane into some googlable location.

 

Scope
of readership

 

"urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />My
blog is available to everyone in the world with a web browser, and given the subject
matter, that’s everyone I want to reach.  Books are available to only the very
small number of people who actually buy the book.  If you like my book and you
want your friend in

Europe to read it, you can’t just send them a link.  Again, books cost money and that
limits the potential readership.

 

Permanence

 

My
book is no longer available because of circumstances beyond my control.  Now,
Microsoft isn’t going to go out of business, but if they did, I could just move the
blog file to another machine in about five minutes and be back up and running. 
This blog will be archived and therefore part of the permanent searchable record of
knowledge on the internet. The copies of my book in the Library of Congress (and
whatever the British equivalent is) aren’t going to help a whole lot of devs.

 

And
finally, apropos of nothing in particular, this is hilarious:  http://mama.indstate.edu/users/bones/WhyIHateWebLogs.html,
mostly because it is so self-referential.  One
wonders what category the author himself falls into.  Thank
goodness my blog falls under one of his acceptable uses of blogs!  I
don’ t know how I could continue to face myself in the mirror every day without this
guy’s approval. 

 

Comments (3)

  1. Peter Torr says:

    Thankyou for making an honest person out of me. :-)

  2. RJ says:

    "Speaking of books, people keep telling me and Peter and Raymond that we should write books based on our blogs."

    It’s a conspiracy you know, we keep asking so we’ve got something decent to read, we’re fed up with the local Borders being chock full of Java books ….

  3. First of all: I really like your web log, it’s just extremely interesting (especially the stuff about programing languages and the rationales behind the details). I also don’t have anything against Microsoft or any of the Microsoft products (for example, I like the whole .NET approach quite much).

    But one thing crossed my mind when reading this entry: You give exactly the reasons why Open Source is as cool as is is (at least for the developers). For example the creative control (everyone can start an open source project), or the business model (if you abide the laws, nobody can shut down your project). Even the thing about the friend overseas that wants to have something you have fits quite nicely (we (in europe) have broadband, too, so it’s entirely practical to transfer a few hundrets of megabytes over the internet to someone, somewhere).

    Just my 2 cents …