The Office 365 for IT Pros eBook team published the third edition of the book on June 1, 2016. Since then, we have updated the content multiple times to track updates and new developments in Office 365, to expand the breadth and depth of coverage in many areas, and even to correct some bugs.
Microsoft makes hundreds of changes to Office 365 annually and the maintenance of the book requires considerable effort. Since June, the size of the book has grown by 100 pages. This is a net growth as we prune obsolete or unneeded content over time.
Our vision for this project has always been to keep the book alive by updating it on an ongoing basis. For the last six months, we have issued weekly updates in the form of refreshed book files where the new content is integrated with the old. We believe that our commitment to providing readers with updated material is unique for technical books. Quite honestly, we think that regular and consistent updates is the only practical method to deal with a topic like Office 365. It is hard work, which might be why other titles do not use this approach, including the promised Microsoft Press Office 365 Inside Out (with “current book service”) title that has not yet appeared.
How to get Updated Content
If you bought the third edition of Office 365 for IT Pros through ExchangeServerPro.com (now Practical365.com), you can download updated content as we make it available. The same is true for those who received copies of the book from our sponsor, QUADROtech. We also make updates available for the Kindle format of the book and have persuaded Amazon to inform readers about those updates so that readers can refresh their Kindle library. We do not provide updates for books bought in bulk and distributed at conferences and other events.
The Fourth Edition
Because Office 365 for IT Pros is now so large (946 pages and 440,000 words) and we have made so many changes since its original release, we think it is time to begin work on a new edition. The fourth edition of Office 365 for IT Pros will restructure some chapters (for example, split the 80-page chapter on Office 365 Groups), remove material that we now consider obsolete, and provide additional coverage in areas that we consider weak today.
We also need to deal with changes that Microsoft is pushing through, such as the introduction of V2 of the Azure Active Directory PowerShell module. Although an updated PowerShell module does not sound like a big deal, we have 192 references to cmdlets from the module in the current book, each of which we must check to ensure that the examples work after the code is upgraded to the new module. Finally, we need to conduct an end-to-end technical review to ensure that everything that we should cover is in the book and that the coverage makes sense.
The plan is to have the work done by May 1, 2017, which is the second anniversary of the publication of the first edition (then called “Office 365 for Exchange Professionals”). Our ability to meet that date depends on the availability of several new features on the Office 365 roadmap. We cannot write about features and functionality until we have had the chance to use the code in action. We will slip the date if necessary to ensure that we cover material at the right level.
Fewer Updates for the Third Edition
With plans for the fourth edition in place, beginning March 1, 2017 we will generate updates less often for the third edition and will stop adding significant new content to that edition. We will fix errors and clarify information where needed, but we will not provide updates to cover new applications released by Microsoft as when Teams appeared in November 2016 or StaffHub in January 2017. After all, there are only so many hours available in a day.
After the Fourth Edition Appears
When we release the fourth edition, we will retire the third edition. We will also follow our usual practice and make the new edition available to those who bought the third edition at a large discount to the regular price. Purchasers of the fourth edition will receive updates from the release date for at least nine months.
To be explicit, we use a form of subscriber model to fund the ongoing development of content. Without our ability to sell upgrades to each edition and the sponsorship of QUADROtech, there is no way we could afford to dedicate the number of hours that we give to tracking, understanding, and documenting change within Office 365.
When we started to write the first edition of the book, we had no real idea of how things might work out. We knew that the traditional publishing model could not cope with the number and variety of changes that occur within a cloud service. That realization led us to opt for electronic formats and avoid paper copies.
Since May 2015, we have learned an enormous amount about ePublishing and the workload and workflow necessary to maintain a book that is updated weekly. We think that we have created an interesting and useful resource for those responsible for managing Office 365 tenants and hope that you agree.
If you have ideas for what we should cover in the fourth edition, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony, Paul, and Michael