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Discussion about Wrox

 
Ranch Hand
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Hi everyone and a big Welcome to the folks from Wrox!!!
I have several Wrox books: my begining active servaer pages book I use constantly, as well as my windows script host book, and asp databases book to.
Regarding the covers, they don't bother me one way or the other. I guess it would be more eye catching to ahve somehting else on the front to recognize each book by but other than that I dont pay attention to the covers.
About multiple authors, the biggest drawback ?I see from that is the overlap in topics. A couple of the books I've read have had essentially the same material covered in multiple chapters. Mostly its not been a lot just a few pages here and there that are the same as previous chapters. for instance one entire chapter may be dedicated to a topic but a few chapters later you have several pages of repeat information - I cna only assume this is because of the multiple authors not knowing what the others have written. This is not a huge problem as it onyl amounts to a few pages in the books (and the fewer the authors the less the overlap).
I guess my biggest concern is the continuity of style (not just coding either, although that is alarge part of it), each author has thier own way of writing and having anything over 4 or 5 authors requires several switches in style throughout the books.
As has been metnioned previously I do find quite a few mistakes in my books as well, or at least items that are in contradiction to other things I've read - so I guess editing could be tightened up a bit.
CD's in the books are both good and bad, it does make it easy to access cosde samples and other material but they are often packed with other junk too and raise the price of the book. In my opinion leaving them out is probably the best choice. Teh only thing is then to make the downloads easy to find and get to.
Over all I really do enjoy your books and more often than not, when looking for a new book, will consider a Wrox book first.
I think it especially telling in that there are several of you folks here from Wrox all participating and taking them time to get answers and feed back - I think that is great and you all deserve a hand - who's your boss, we'll all send him/her an email - well ok maybe not all of us, maybe just one from Paul, expressing our appreciation and your dedication.
Dave
PS now you just have to donate more books to give away, or be more specific in the requirements - like say everyone who replyed to this post with the initials DV
OH, was that too obvious??

keep up the good work!!
 
Leverager of our synergies
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Previous orator's critique was maybe a bit harsh, but valid. When there are too many photos on the cover, they look amateur. Compare with double-author pictures:

or

both look stylish = very
 
Greenhorn
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Originally posted by Dave Vick:
This is not a huge problem as it onyl amounts to a few pages in the books (and the fewer the authors the less the overlap).


Hi Dave,
First, thanks for all your comments. You are right about overlap between chapters and this is something that the editorial process we spoke about is concerned with solving.

I guess my biggest concern is the continuity of style (not just coding either, although that is alarge part of it), each author has thier own way of writing and having anything over 4 or 5 authors requires several switches in style throughout the books.


Again, you are completely right here. Style differences can be an issue as each author can have very different ways of writing english. I think this is a difficult area as a solution would be for the editor to rewrite the whole book. Maybe one of the team could comment more on this.
Jan
 
Jan Kolasinski
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Originally posted by Daniel Dunleavy:
you have the problem of creating a single style of portrait for the cover with multiple photos. So you have the dilemma of having a certain style for pose/lighting/etc, and the fact that you will need to change them to create the best photo for each person.


Hi Dan,
You are abssolutely right that we have to sort out the guidelines as far as the pictures themselves are concerned. I think we have made some improvements since the first "mugshots" of books some 3 to 4 years old. But there is still room for improvement.
Thanks for this.
Jan

 
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About multiple authors, the biggest drawback ?I see from that is the overlap in topics. A couple of the books I've read have had essentially the same material covered in multiple chapters. Mostly its not been a lot just a few pages here and there that are the same as previous chapters. for instance one entire chapter may be dedicated to a topic but a few chapters later you have several pages of repeat information - I can only assume this is because of the multiple authors not knowing what the others have written.


This is partially the case, yes. Our authors are provided with a specification covering the book so that they'll know what other authors will cover in their chapters, but often an author will include the material 'just in case.' There is more to this story, though.
Although we will have covered the topics earlier in the book, the material is often included as a brief 'refresher course' along with a reference back to the earlier material. The main reason behind this is that we've been led to understand that our books aren't usually read from cover to cover, but are instead dipped in and out of by our readers according to what they need to know at that point in time. It can be very frustrating to open a chapter to be told that you'll need to read two or three earlier sections in the book to be able to understand the chapter that you're working with now. The simplest way to combat this was to include the material directly relevant to the topic of the chapter again, but to keep it to the bare minimum.
Obviously, our thinking on this issue could be wrong - do you think it's better to have it in the one place, and only in that one place? Are we right in thinking that you'll dip in and out of the book to get the information that you need? Or do you all read the entire book from cover to cover?


This is not a huge problem as it only amounts to a few pages in the books (and the fewer the authors the less the overlap).


Well, our philosophy here (as Jan has already pointed out) is that there is always room from improvement, no matter how slight this might be. If it's something that you feel needs to be adressed, even if it is only a small problem, please let us know so that we can deliver our books to you as you would like them. After all, we are trying to deliver the information to you as best as we can, and any suggestions that you have for this are greatly appreciated by us.

I guess my biggest concern is the continuity of style (not just coding either, although that is a large part of it), each author has thier own way of writing and having anything over 4 or 5 authors requires several switches in style throughout the books.


From our editorial perspective, we try to smooth the gear change as much as we possibly can. As you rightly say, our authors all have different styles, different coding standards and so on. As a Technical Editor, it's my job to try to smooth over these gear changes as best as I can while still retaining the author's individual 'voice' within the book as a whole. Often, we'll have the same author write several successive chapters in order to present a unified voice for that particular topic when it spans more than one chapter.
As Jan suggested, Wrox could have us Technical Editors re-write the entire book in one unified style. What this would mean, though, is that we could only assign one editor to each book to preserve this unified style throughout the book. Given that we normally have two or more editors on each book, this would at least double the length of time it would take us to produce our books and to deliver them to you. This would also mean that our overall book output would decrease, and we wouldn't be able to provide you with the coverage of technologies that we currently offer. This, to us, is unnaceptable.

As has been metnioned previously I do find quite a few mistakes in my books as well, or at least items that are in contradiction to other things I've read - so I guess editing could be tightened up a bit.


Point taken, and we'll do everything that we can to improve the situation. Although we do have a multiple stage edit process, and a further proofing stage, errors do creep through. We do always aim to produce a perfect book, though - with your help and feedback, we'll get there.
Thanks for all of your feedback,
Allan Jones
Technical Editor
Wrox Press
 
Greenhorn
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Hi Jonannes,

Originally posted by Johannes de Jong:
And then I'd like your comments on the following pse.
I reviewed a book of yours Professional Java Data
In the review I made the following comment:
"I also wish the team that wrote this book took the time to choose one standard set of tools ie. data base servers, for their coding examples. I personally find it extremely irritating that I have to download and install something else first before I can try the code in a new chapter.
(for the full review see : Bunkhouse Misc. Java)
What are you comments on my statement above ?.
[This message has been edited by Johannes de Jong (edited September 04, 2001).]


Thank you for your comments about the book. My name is Louay Fatoohi, and I was the Technical Architect for the book. I was off yesterday so couldn't reply to your message earlier.
I take your point that using more than one DB servers means more downloads, setup ...etc. We basically didn't want the book to be specific to one DB server. In the real world, developers are likely to work with more than one DB server. We thought that we shouldn't ignore Oracle or MS SQL Server. There is also Cloudscape which comes with J2EE SDK. MySQL, on the other hand, is free, and is the DB of choice for some. Obviously, for a chapter such as the one of ODMG we needed to use yet another DB server.
The book is comprehensive, covering quite a number of data-related topics. So we thought it is more in line with the nature of the book to opt for a variety of DB servers.
I hope this explains the reasoning behind our decision. Cheers.

Louay
 
tumbleweed
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The book is comprehensive, covering quite a number of data-related topics.
You dont here me argue with you there its a fantastic book
So we thought it is more in line with the nature of the book to opt for a variety of DB servers.
You know your market and audience better than I do. Point taken I'll add a link to this thread in the Book Review Forum for the book.
I hope this explains the reasoning behind our decision. Cheers.
Thanks for taking the time
 
mister krabs
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Originally posted by Allan Jones:
Obviously, our thinking on this issue could be wrong - do you think it's better to have it in the one place, and only in that one place? Are we right in thinking that you'll dip in and out of the book to get the information that you need? Or do you all read the entire book from cover to cover?


My thoughts on this... I do tend to dip in and out of my Worx books. I think Wrox books because of the discontinuity and lack of flow sometimes are difficult to read cover to cover. But repeating things isn't a good solution, in my humble opinion. It might be a better idea to have a note in front of each chapter listing "prerequisites" for the chapter along with which chapters covered that information. I think asking someone to have a basic understanding of somce concept or technology before they read a chapter is not out of line. So if I start reading chapter 9 and I'm not following the discussion, I can go to chapter 4 and get the basics down before I proceeed.

Originally posted by Allan Jones:

From our editorial perspective, we try to smooth the gear change as much as we possibly can. As you rightly say, our authors all have different styles, different coding standards and so on. As a Technical Editor, it's my job to try to smooth over these gear changes as best as I can while still retaining the author's individual 'voice' within the book as a whole. Often, we'll have the same author write several successive chapters in order to present a unified voice for that particular topic when it spans more than one chapter.


How about submitting to each author a "coding standards" document? All programmers are used to being required to follow an arbitrary standard so there's no reason that an author can't write their code the Wrox way. A big problem with multiple styles is that so much of your code gets "stolen" and put into production applications. A single "Wrox style" could help quite a bit.

Originally posted by Allan Jones:

As Jan suggested, Wrox could have us Technical Editors re-write the entire book in one unified style. What this would mean, though, is that we could only assign one editor to each book to preserve this unified style throughout the book. Given that we normally have two or more editors on each book, this would at least double the length of time it would take us to produce our books and to deliver them to you. This would also mean that our overall book output would decrease, and we wouldn't be able to provide you with the coverage of technologies that we currently offer. This, to us, is unnaceptable.


I don't think that you need to have one technical editor to give a book a unified feel. Rather if each editor has ben trained to know what the "Wrox style" is they can help the authors see where they are veering off. But even more than individual style differences is the overall flow of a book. Sometimes when reading a Wrox book it is jarring when going from chapter to chapter. Sometimes I get the impression that the authors are told "you write a chapter on this topic and you write a chapter on that topic and then we'll stick them together and hope it fits." Maybe this is the price we have to pay for having a book with so many authors. Have you tried sharing chapters as they are being written among the various authors so they can get a feel for what topics are being covered and how they are being covered?
 
Jan Kolasinski
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

Thomas. There are a lot of good information in what you say. Solutions to certain issues are sometimes difficult to get to. having said that understanding what gets in the way of reading and learning or the communication of information is important to us.
The coding standard idea is one that happens. But maybe not across each project as each editor has a different style of project management. I think though this is one that needs more careful consideration and application.
Thanks
Jan

 
Jan Kolasinski
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To everyone,
This thread seems to have cooled down a bit in the last couple of days. I am still around and will still be receiving mails from the list, so if you want to contact us, please feel free to use this.
I would to thank all of you for the time you have taken to talk to us and tell us what was on your mind.
Believe that all you have said has been taken on board and I'll make sure discussions and actions are taken here to get out there a better product in your eyes.
Jan
 
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yes we do allow authors to read each others materials to try and help the flow. Funnily enough (this is not an excuse it just is) its very hard to get authors to agree to edits that make their chapter more inline with the overall style of the book.
Because of the various styles of working and thinking between authors the material all comes in quite diverse in style and part of the editing process is agreeing a middle ground with the author because they worry about seeming unfriendly, or unprofessional. Now this tension is a good thing, because it gets us thinking about our style and reevaluating it on a regular basis, but it does lead to some of the jumps in style.
With regards to the code styles, we try and use the recommended coding conventions on sun.com. Apologies if the combined total of the cut and paste code looks a bit messy on your production server though
------------------
Chanoch Wiggers
Architect for Professional Java Mobile Programming
 
Johannes de Jong
tumbleweed
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an, maybe stupid , idea.
A lot of people here mentioned that they get the feeling that Wrox books are a set of articles on a given subject. Why dont you guys start a "subscription" type book. I buy the only chapters (articles) I want and as such build up my "library" of knowladge. You can do this besides publishing the whole book.
 
Jan Kolasinski
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Originally posted by Johannes de Jong:
an, maybe stupid , idea.
A lot of people here mentioned that they get the feeling that Wrox books are a set of articles on a given subject. Why dont you guys start a "subscription" type book. I buy the only chapters (articles) I want and as such build up my "library" of knowladge. You can do this besides publishing the whole book.


Johannes,
Would print on demand be something that you would be interested in or are we talking about a pdf download or a browsable online resource ?
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject.
At the core of this discussion is how and what do you use a programming book for. There are in my mind always 2 dimensions to a book. The Just in Case approach where you reqad to advance your knowledge, book structure and organisation is important, the book becomes a journey and; Just in Time approach where you have to solve a very particular problem and therefore use the book as a reference when you are stuck. I feel that in the latter case a web based service (subscription type) would probably be a workable solution. What do you think ?
Jan

 
Ranch Hand
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Hi Jan,
Personally I enjoy having the photos of all the authors on the cover. It gives you a idea of who wrote the book and lets you put a face to the names. Its kinda Fun Even if it is 15 different people. Do you think having to many authors might lead to inconsistences in the flow of the book. Each of them I am sure have their own person style of writing and getting their message across.
Thanks
Faisal
 
Johannes de Jong
tumbleweed
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Sorry for the delay Jan, I didn't spend much time on the comp this weekend.
I had a physical document in mind. You keep your articles in special binders, supplied by Wrox , and when you decide you want to read about a specific subject or case study , you simply take it out , slip it into your brief case and read it on the train or where ever.
I slug "Professional Java Data" with me every day and I tell you its a heavy haul . It would have been so nice to take the actual chapters about Servlets & JSP's out and only carry them with me. Because that's what I'm busy playing with at the moment.
Having a person decide which sections of a book he/she wants also avoids the overlap that previous poster's have mentioned.
If you (Wrox) also indicate which author writes which part of the book. One can also choose sections based on one's favorite author.
Off course the book can still be published as one complete book.
Having said the above.
There also is a "need" for your books/information virtually. Here at work we are currently creating , unluckily not my job , a Java library on our Intranet. The information you guys have in "Professional Java Data" would be a great addition to that "library" if there was a searchable database behind it FANTASTIC.
I think there could be a market for publishers out there to provide databases with information that large enterprises can use. You guys provide the data-base engine and the customer gets regular "virtual" articles via a zip file which he uses to update his local databases.
O'Reilly with their Safari initiative is a good example. They however keep the books on their site (as far as I can see).
These are off course Jan only ideas.

[This message has been edited by Johannes de Jong (edited September 10, 2001).]
 
Jan Kolasinski
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Originally posted by Faisal Dosani:
Hi Jan,
Personally I enjoy having the photos of all the authors on the cover. It gives you a idea of who wrote the book and lets you put a face to the names. Its kinda Fun Even if it is 15 different people. Do you think having to many authors might lead to inconsistences in the flow of the book. Each of them I am sure have their own person style of writing and getting their message across.
Thanks
Faisal


Hi Faisal,
I wish I could tell you that it does not. But I would be lying. As I mentioned earlier, there are 2 issues. The first bears on written english style and is very hard to correct without the editors having to re-write a large part of the book. The second is coding standards consistency, that I feel is something that we should have a lot more control over.
Jan
 
Jan Kolasinski
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Originally posted by Johannes de Jong:

These are off course Jan only ideas.

[This message has been edited by Johannes de Jong (edited September 10, 2001).]


Johannes, ideas are what make the world go round. I must admiot that what you are proposing are things which we are considering.
What is interesting to me is the way books are used. This subject is as vast and involves as many different answers as the subject of whether you like author photos on the cover.
What you are suggesting is 1) the ability to download and print part of a book and 2) an online browsable database.
As you probably expect there are issues of piracy and copyright which we are at the moment evaluating. But I think that these things are desirable as product.
IMHO, Wrox is not a book publisher, but a service provider. The service in question being information. Part of this means developing a certain flexibility with regards to forms of distyribution to the customer. Both electronmic and "on demand" (or custom) avenues fit within this framework.
I will keep you in touch of developments in this area.
Thanks for your ideas.
Jan

 
Johannes de Jong
tumbleweed
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And I'll make sure that the bank I work for will be aware of the new way of accessing your information when you introduce it
 
Johannes de Jong
tumbleweed
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I forgot to add, I really think that a searchable "knowledge-base" that gets updated regularly that is kept locally will sell better here.
If its a database somewhere they have to access on/via internet they feel that the don't own it, put it locally and hey its "mine".
Only a hunch I have.
 
Jan Kolasinski
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Originally posted by Johannes de Jong:
I forgot to add, I really think that a searchable "knowledge-base" that gets updated regularly that is kept [b]locally will sell better here.
If its a database somewhere they have to access on/via internet they feel that the don't own it, put it locally and hey its "mine".
Only a hunch I have.[/B]


A very good hunch. That's exactly the kind of discussion we had had here. The truth is that we are leaning towards the browsable web based one at the moment. But I am sure there is scope for a licensing agreement somewhere along the line.
You are right to consider the ownership issue.
Jan
 
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