Low book prices don’t reflect the work involved


I wonder whether I should feel offended that Amazon.com has priced Paul Robichaux’s book, “Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Connectivity, Clients, and UM” at $30.21 whereas my book “Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox and High Availability” is cheaper at $27.26. I pointed out to Paul that his book is shorter (600 pages), so people are paying roughly 5 cents/page (what a bargain) while my 800-pager is priced at a miserly 3.4 cents/page (clearly an even better bargain). The list price for both books is $49.99 so clearly Amazon is being pretty aggressive at its pricing. Perhaps things will change before the books are actually released in October but right now the prices are very keen.

A real bargain!

A real bargain!

I don’t pretend to understand how the publishing business works or how these prices are derived, but when you think about it, 3.4 cents/page is cheap. A fairer comparison might be to strip out the “overhead” from the page count by removing the index, table of contents, preface, and so on to arrive at the content-rich pages. In my case, I reckon this to be about 760 pages, or 3.6 cents/page. No much change there!

Given the amount of effort required to research, write, edit, review, index, and lay out a technical book and the relatively short selling window that exists due to the pace of change in technology, you’d wonder how the publishing business exists at all. What I can say is that writing technical books is not a fast course to riches, or even a slow course. It’s not a labour of love either, especially when yet another demand arrives from a copy editor to clarify text, write a better caption, finish a thought or any of the other ways that editors keep writers on the straight and narrow. In fact, writing might be considered masochistic at times.

In any case, things are going pretty well in terms of completing the books. We’re deep into the review and refinement process at present where text is verified for accuracy and tested to make sure that it’s complete and adds value. The editors want the authors to keep to agreed page counts while the authors want to stuff more content into the books, so an entertaining debate ensues. This is a serious business because costs expand in line with page counts and as discussed above selling prices are not high, so extra pages trim whatever profit is to be extracted from the exercise.

For the remainder of the summer we shall continue to drive towards completion while keeping a wary eye on what the Exchange developers are doing as they push out cumulative update 2 (CU2), expected in early July if they make their goal to release an update every three months. Updates include many bug fixes and functionality changes. Bug fixes don’t usually cause too many issues for writers but functionality updates definitely do. An example is the change made in CU1 where EAC and EMS now advise that the Information Store service has to be restarted on a mailbox server if a database is added (no warning is given when you remove a database). Clearly this is an issue that needs to be covered in any discussion about the new Managed Store, so that’s a change that affects book content.

There’s no way that we will catch every change that occurs in a huge product like Exchange as CU2 and maybe even CU3 evolve. Paul has the extra complication of having to track updates to clients and interfaces like Outlook 2013, ActiveSync, EWS, and Outlook Web App. OWA has already changed quite a lot since RTM so that’s a challenge for content.

None of this should be construed as real cause for complaint. After all, we took on the project in the full knowledge of the work involved to put books together. But a little groan from time to time relieves the pressure and lightens the load, so that’s my groan dune for now. I’m sure that something else will occur to cause me to grumble, but that’s in the future…

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

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About Tony Redmond

Exchange MVP, author, and rugby referee
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7 Responses to Low book prices don’t reflect the work involved

  1. Rich says:

    Really looking forward to the release of both books. Think its a great idea that you and Paul Robichaux collaborated together to write two books rather than trying to cram everything into one. The timing of publish is good too – expect Exchange 2013 to be more stable and seasoned by October.

  2. zumarek says:

    Tony

    Any word on ActiveSync improvements ?
    public folders support dead ?
    as I boycott Paul, price of you book looks even more attractive.

  3. Just purchased and downloaded the Early Release of your book that got posted this morning. Great start with these chapters. I know you and Paul are trying to get out the info that is still limited in print for 2013 besides Technet and the EX blog as quick as possible but with the constant changes it can make it difficult. Kudos to you both and can’t wait for the finished product.

    • Thanks Julian… I suspect that you’ll be happier with the later chapters because they are more content-rich (and took longer therefore to develop). I am especially happy with the coverage of the Store (8), DAG (9), and Compliance (11). Public folders and site mailboxes (12) are coming on too… And Mailbox migration (10) isn’t too bad either.

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