It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice the recent serious decline in the publishing of computer
books, to say nothing of computer magazines. I enjoy reading books about software and visit the
nearby Barnes and Noble at least twice a month. During the last three years the number of bookcases
dedicated to computer books has shrunk substantially.
Today newly baked programmers prefer Google to books. They don’t realize that Google is OK
when you know what you are looking for, while books can give you a new perspective on how other
people develop software.
During a recent visit to a major bookstore I noticed a series of books on digital photography. I’m
one of the legions of people who are thinking of replacing a point-and-shoot camera with a digital
SLR such as a Nikon D90. There were about 10 different thin books on that shelf, and I picked the
one on the D90. It was about 65 pages long. I quickly skimmed the pages, learning that compared to
a pocket camera one of the main advantages of D-SLR is the ability it gives you to change lenses. On
top of that, these cameras use a small mirror that enables you to see exactly what you’re shooting,
plus you can take more shots per second. Not much information for a $25 book.
The secret was that the book came with a DVD, which contained 80 minutes of instructional
videos! The printed part of the book and the DVD complemented each other. The wannabe
photographers don’t want to read books.
The new generation of computer programmers doesn’t want to read either. They want to watch
videos. They can be YouTube videos on how to do something, or screencasts. The material has
to be prepared for easy consumption.
But because not everything in the world of software can be videotaped, future computer books will
still include several hundred pages — some code samples and short instructions will go there.
Remember those 1,500-page Bibles on software? It seems that their days are over. These days a
500-page computer book can be considered thick. Five years from now a 200-page software book
will become the standard. But books will come with DVDs on which the authors walk you through
all the examples mentioned on paper.
I like this new 24-Hour Trainer series from Wiley Publishing. This is not to say that you can learn
the software covered in these books within 24 hours. It’s about having a trainer that’s with you
24 hours a day. Each book in this series is a set of short chapters containing a minimum of theory
but accompanied by an instructional DVD with screencasts recorded by the author.