Under the Surface of Beta Publishing

The Pragmatic Programmer’s blog, PragDave, has a post up about what they do under the surface to be successful at publishing their books. They have gotten a lot of attention about their success in selling beta versions of their books and involving the community of buyers in improving the final product.

Behind the stuff that you see us doing, there’s an underlying philosophy and set of practices. They all reinforce each other. For example, the fact we have continuous builds and author-typesetting means we can create beta books that are living documents. The fact we have an errata system hyperlinked from these beta book pages means we can put feedback in the hands of our authors, and hence we can get updated revisions out faster. Each of these aspects of what we do is a small thing in isolation, but we have hundreds of them, and they all add up to a cohesive, and we feel revolutionary, whole. Copying just the visible aspects misses this depth.

I think the post is a bit unfair, or unrealistic, to expect no one else to be successful in using the model they have developed. However, the point that you have to have a compatible business philosophy and practices in order to do it, is a critical one. Louis Rosenfeld may be someone who can successfully replicate their success, with his new publishing venture, Rosenfeld Media.

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2 thoughts on “Under the Surface of Beta Publishing

  1. TO be honest, it’s not tha I don’t want people to copy. I just wish people would innovate too: the industry is slowly dying, and unless more people innovate, I worry that we’ll evaporate. By all means copy what works, but come up with new ways of working too.

  2. Thanks for the comment Dave. I buy a ton of your books, so I’m doing my part to prevent evaporation.

    It will be interesting to see what variations O’Reilly and others come up with. I like how Louis Rosenfeld is thinking about how the books themselves may need to change as well, not just the processes that are used to produce them.

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