The Unique Challenges of Tech Publishing
August 27th, 2020
Guest post by Apress editor Joan Murray
Books for developers are all about the concepts and code. And more code. And did I mention even more code? As you might expect, rapid-release schedules put forth by the big tech companies are an ongoing challenge for technical authors and publishers.
One of the ways we at Apress address this is to work with authors to keep the code updated on GitHub. Adam Freeman’s recent Pro Angular book is a good example of this. Angular 9 released in February and four months later, boom, Angular 10 appears on the scene with little notice.
What is an author and his nagging editor to do? I think Adam sums up how he addresses "keeping current" quite nicely in this note to his readers:
“Google has adopted an aggressive release schedule for Angular. This means there is an ongoing stream of minor releases and a major release every six months. Minor releases should not break any existing features and should largely contain bug fixes. The major releases can contain substantial changes and may not offer backward compatibility. It doesn’t seem fair or reasonable to ask readers to buy a new edition of this book every six months, especially since the majority of Angular features are unlikely to change even in a major release. Instead, I am going to post updates following the major releases to the GitHub repository for this book. This is an ongoing experiment for me (and for Apress), but the goal is to extend the life of this book by supplementing the examples it contains. I am not making any promises about what the updates will be like, what form they will take, or how long I will produce them before folding them into a new edition of this book. Please keep an open mind and check the repository for this book when new Angular versions are released. If you have ideas about how the updates could be improved, let me know.”
Professional tech publishing is so driven by release cycles. No question, it is major accomplishment to write, review, edit, and publish an 800+ page work at all, let alone in 4-6 months. But books aren't going away any time soon.
I appreciate it when authors understand the unique challenges of tech publishing—there are so many variables and considerations—but the bottom line is that learning must happen. And how we learn best is so personal and unique, be it books, classes, talking with colleagues, mentoring, hands-on labs, videos, online course, or a fusion of the aforementioned.
So until books have gone the way of stone tablets (slight exaggeration) as a tool for learning, we will continue to seek better ways to provide useful, vetted, and timely content for these progressive and exciting technical communities. To that, if you have any novel ideas (excuse the pun), let us know!