While working the upcoming book on Web development, I keep stopping myself from writing too much. And this is what I want to talk to you about. In the past, technical books were a lot fatter than today. A typical book on computer programming was a thousand pages long. If the author(s) wanted to cover a set of related technologies (like J2EE or .Net) the book could span 1500 pages or more. People were used to read books because Google, Stack Overflow, Youtube and Vimeo were not invented yet. Today, majority of software developers are googgling trying to find a code snippet to copy-paste, and the smaller part of the programmers watches video recordings from conferences.
I’m not sure if O’Reilly started this “Get Slim” movement, but recently I ran into their book, which was only 60 pages long. Want to be a published author? Easy. Write sixty pages and update your resume. This is yet another example of devaluation in action. The next step is to increase the font and add some comics-style illustration like in books for children.
I’ve just have submitted a 38-page chapter on selected HTML5 APIs, where I reviewed History API, Web Messaging, Web Workers, Offline Web applications, Web Storage, and IndexedDB. Can these materials get a decent coverage in 38 pages? Yes, if the reader has some background in Web development and know how to self-study. Yes, because the code example are focused on the covered API as opposed to offering a 200-line code samples of which 180 lines is the author’s favorite set of utility functions, which he uses daily.
When you submit a proposal for the book, the publisher asks for the estimated number of pages. A year ago we estimated that the book would have 600 pages. Most likely it’ll have a little more than 650 pages, which is a really thick book by today’s standards. I also know that we’ll get several reviews stating that the book doesn’t cover some of the topics in depth, which is perfectly fine. The main goal of a good technical book is to ignite the reader’s interest to a covered topic and give some kick in the right direction so googling will become more educated and fruitful.
Do you read technical books or it’s too old-fashioned? If you do, what’s your preferred book size?