Color ebook!

By far the most consistent criticism of The Definitive Guide to ImageMagick has been that the sample images need to be in color. I would have to agree with this point, which is why I am delighted that Apress took the time to go back around the production process and produce a version of the ebook with color images. It’s cool that they were willing to put in the effort, and not only that, they’re giving anyone who has purchased the ebook to date a free upgrade. Even better, now if you buy the printed book on Amazon, you get the color ebook for free!

I have a limited number of color ebooks to give away, so if you’re interested please leave a comment and explain why you’d like one.

Trying out the Apress e-book system

Full disclosure: I am currently writing a book for Apress.

As an Apress author Apress asked me to check out the Apress e-book online catalog thingie. They threw in a free e-book as an incentive, so I thought I should give it a try. I’ve done a fair few book reviews for AUUG / Woodslane over the last couple of years, so it seemed like a good idea to look further into this e-book thing anyway. Especially as I have a garage full of books that I occasionally need as references, but don’t have the space to store in the house, especially with two small kids who like to draw in books around.

So, I picked a book in their online catalog, and said I’d like to buy it. I entered the discount code, and was good to go until they noticed that I didn’t have an online account in their system. So, I had to stop my “purchase” and make one. Which meant that my place was lost in the purchase, as I had to wait for a confirmation email to arrive, and then click on a link in that email which didn’t have the stage I was up to embedded into it.

The email by the way set off my somewhat aggressive spam filtering, by not having any of my addresses in the delivery headers. I had to go digging in the probably spam folder to find it. You can read about my mail list filtering rules over here if that kind of thing excites you.

So a couple of warts. After all of this I went and found the book again, entered the discount code, and “bought the e-book”. What this gives me is an entry in the list of books I have access to on the Apress site, which means I can download the e-book more than once (if for instance I delete it in error or something). The book is a PDF file, with the slightly annoying name of “book143.pdf”. The book in question is quite long, and is about a nine megabyte download.

Oh, all of this webby stuff was with Firefox on Debian Linux, which all worked fine. The PDF file opens fine with xpdf, with a password on the file which matches the email address I signed up with. This just means that you need to remember the email address that you used when you signed up with Apress, which seems reasonable in a world with fairly permanent email addresses now. It also means that if I put the e-book up on kazaa or something, that they can tell which account did it I suppose.

xpdf seems to think that printing works by the way, although I don’t have a printer configured to actually test with.

Overall, I think it’s quite good. The e-book was very cheap ($15 US if I’d paid), I can download it lots, I don’t have to remember a crappy password, and the PDF doesn’t seem too crippled. Cool.

Some details about the publication process

Pascal asked in the comments to a previous post about the book about how I was going about writing the book and how the publication process works. It’s a good question, and something I meant to cover here anyway, so now seems like a good time.

I’ll start from the beginning with a brief summary of how I got started with this writing thing. I started off by writing a number of articles for IBM DeveloperWorks. DeveloperWorks are actually really good to work with, all I did to start writing from them was fill in the proposal web form within a couple of hours we’d sorted out what was happening, and off we went.

The ImageMagick articles I wrote turned out to be quite popular with the ImageMagick people. I suspect that’s why the editor for Apress, a lovely guy named Matt contacted me. He pitched the book to me, and I was originally hesitant. He spent a fair bit of time (a month?) discussing the project with me, and I ended up deciding that because it’s fairly closely aligned with the imaging work I’m doing for my PhD, I ended up saying yes.

Along the way I wrote a table of contents with Matt’s guidance for the book, which is what the contract with Apress is based on, and wrote a chapter of the book to determine if the timing estimates that Matt had provided were believable. I was also a little less scared of the process given I was on the review team for a Jeremy Wright’s upcoming blog book.

So, no. The book isn’t self published. I have Apress doing that for me.

The book is written in a Microsoft Word template provided by Apress. This has to happen that way because that Word document plugs into Apress’ publication process. I am not aware of a non-Word format option for this at the moment. It’s not a big problem though, as OpenOffice‘s support for the Word format is quite good. The entire manuscript has been written in OpenOffice, with the exceptions being the insertion of images into the document, and the dealing with change tracking and comments from the editorial and technical review team. Both of those tasks I do in Microsoft Word, as the OpenOffice support for image insertion seems to be buggy (I can’t get it to work for me), and the change tracking is significantly nicer in Microsoft Word.

It would be nice to give a presentation at LCA 2006 on what it’s like to write a book in OpenOffice at the OpenOffice mini-conf (if there is one), but we’ll have to wait and see if the papers committee accepts my real talk proposal, and what happens with some personal stuff I am dealing with at the moment (nothing bad, I’ll tell you all more about that when it’s more public).

Anyway, so there’s my book publication brain dump. Any more questions?