O’Reilly Rough Cuts

While perusing some information about Atlas on Scott Guthrie’s blog, I ran across this: O’Reilly has started releasing "Rough Cuts," downloadable technical books released while the book is still a work in progress. You pay a lower cost to download the prerelease version of the book (for the Atlas book it’s $17.99) and they send you updates as the book is updated.

$17.99 seems a bit steep to buy a book sight unseen, but I think I’ll give it a whack just this once to see how it goes. I’m particularly excited about the opportunity to have some interaction with the author before the book is committed to dead trees. If I were calling the shots, I’d be generous with providing free/discounted print editions of the book to prerelease customers who report bugs and contribute content. When I was knee-deep in the book-writing thing I’d always thought that there was a lot that the book-writing discipline could learn from the scalability of open-source projects; hopefully this is a step in that direction.

I should say that I like the Safari subscription service (and I’d hoped to you can get a look at the Atlas book there) but it always bothered me that books on Safari are formatted in a way that makes it nearly impossible to download/print. I’d always though of this as a subtle form of DRM (which, to my way of thinking, is fine as long as you know what you’re getting into — I don’t think of myself as a purchaser of Safari books, I think of myself as renting clumps of pages).

If the Rough Cuts idea catches on, it might compel me to do another book at some point in the future.

Update: If you’re a Safari subscriber you can indeed read the book online (I wasn’t originally able to find the book in there using keyword search). Log in to your Safari account and click here to view the book.