Publishing is Broken For Open Source Books. Help Us Try and Fix It.

| OSTraining News
Publishing is Broken For Open Source Books. Let's Try and Fix It.

The TV industry was stuck in a declining business model until subscription services like Netflix arrived.

The music industry was stuck in a declining business model until subscription services like Spotify arrived.

The publishing industry is still stuck today. This is particularly true for books about major open source platforms, where there are several key problems:

  • Problem #1: Cost. Take a look at the books published on Amazon, and you'll see that prices are going up-and-up. There were four Magento books published in 2016, with an average price of over $40. There were six Drupal books published in 2016 with an average price of over $50. It looks like prices are moving higher still, with plans for books in the $70 range.
  • Problem #2: Lack of competition. With a small handful of exceptions, every Joomla, Magento, and Drupal book is published by a single company: Packt. There is some strong competition in the WordPress space, but outside of that, every other publisher has left the market. Congrats to Packt, who have swallowed the whole CMS market. They do good work, but the future is grim if no-one else is able to serve this market.
  • Problem #3. Traditional books are rarely updated. From experience, we know this well. Our Joomla 3 book hasn't been updated since 2014. Our Drupal 7 book hasn't been updated since 2013! These books are actually being used in classrooms around the world. I'm embarrassed to even think about what the students must think. I don't blame the publishers: it's just not in their financial interests to update a book. With their publication model, they wouldn't make the money back.
  • Problem #4. Authors rarely make money. This is true for most publishing niches, but it bears repeating. Most authors only ever write one book, because they realize it's not worth the time and effort. The author gets a small advance and never sees any more money. 

The Solution? The OSTraining Book Club

So, how can we bring new life to CMS books? 

Today, we're launching the OSTraining Book club. For one price, you get access to all OSTraining books.

The OSTraining Book club is a subscription model for books, supported by you, and by sponsors. We'd like it to be Netflix, or Spotify, for books on open source software.

  • Subscriptions: Many other industries are moving to the subscription model because it provides a sustainable business model. So, why not books? With your support, we can produce the useful, practical guides that so many of you love. Sign up today, and if you use the coupon code "bookclublaunch" you can join for less than $20.
  • Sponsorships: The books will have sponsors. We're very grateful to Pantheon for kicking things off by sponsoring "Drupal 8 Explained". Are you interested in sponsoring a future book? Get in touch.

Here's a rundown of how this model can fix the current, broken publishing situation:

  • Solution #1: Cost. The first step to bringing down costs was to self-publish. Our earlier books were published by Pearson. They've been great to work with, but last year they agreed to let us buy back the rights to our books. Because we have much lower overheads, we can keep our prices low. 
  • Solution #2: Competition. The old business models have failed. The only publishing model that still works is pricing your books at $50 or more. We hope this new subscription and sponsorship model enables us to provide some diversity in the market.
  • Solution #3: Updates: Self-publishing allows us to update much more quickly. We promise that our books will be updated for all major versions. "Drupal 8 Explained" will be updated for 8.4 and 8.5. "Joomla 3 Explained" will be updated for 3.7 and 3.8. Join the OSTraining book club, and you'll always be able to download up-to-date books.
  • Solution #4. Authors. Andrew Comeau was brave enough to write the first book published by OSTraining. His "MySQL Explained" has been out for one year now. Sales have already covered his advance, and we're starting to share the revenues. Andrew's book is an asset that will hopefully keep paying him for years. Are you interested in writing? Get in touch.

What's in the OSTraining Book Club?

Drupal 8 ExplainedThe club launches with two books:

In the next few weeks, we're going to release updates to two older books:

Then, we have two new books planned for launch in the middle of 2017:

After that, we're actively researching topics for more books later in the year.

If you want a paperback copy of these books, they will be available on Amazon, some weeks after OSTraining Book Club members have access. But, if you want early access and regular updates, we'd love your support here at OSTraining.

Conclusion

Yes, launching this way is a bit of a risk. But, the alternatives are worse: either stop publishing, or put prices sky-high.

Let's see if we can fix the broken publishing model for CMS books. With help, I'm sure we can.

Join the OSTraining Book Club


About the author

Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.