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O'Reilly Ebooks: 130 Top Titles Now Available, Plus an iPhone App and Head First PDFs

While there will always be a demand for printed books, few of those books will have a life entirely disconnected from the wider digital Web. In that sense, all publishing is becoming digital publishing, and all writing is writing for the Web. That’s a big shift, and it will take time for the existing players to make the transition (and we’ll almost certainly lose some along the way). For now, here’s a roundup of where things stand for us at O’Reilly on the ebook front:

In the coming months we’ll be working to make more of our new book content mobile-friendly, better integrate our book content with the Web, and continue exploring how to deliver our content in ways that take advantage of all that being digital has to offer.

If you’re a publisher trying to figure out how to deal with digital, registration is open for our 2009 Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. Lexcycle’s Marc Prud’hommeaux and Neelan Choksi will both be speaking. New York area publishers should also check out StartWithXML, our one-day forum deep-diving into how and why to move to flexible formats for more nimble book content.

Questions? Comments? Drop us a line through Get Satisfaction

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  • http://lordbron.wordpress.com Tom Ortega

    It’s about time! Many fiction/biography books are good for curling up with on a couch. However, tech books are not. They typically sit on the desk, while the reader works on the computer at the same time he’s reading.

    Take into account as well, that these big fat 800 page bibles don’t even stay open so you can type the example code in the book. So you have to find an iron or dumbbell to hold the book open.

    I much rather prefer a PDF open on one half of my screen and the application on the other half.

    Bravo, O’Reilly. Keep up the good work.

  • Rajaneesh

    Very good news. It will be very convenient to have them all in pdfs.
    OReilly offering any discounts for ppl who already bought paperbacks? lol

  • http://toc.oreilly.com Andrew Savikas

    Hi Rajaneesh,

    If you purchased the print book from oreilly.com, you can call our customer service team at 800-998-9938 to get the electronic version(s) for the difference between the print price and the print+electronic price.

    HTH,
    Andrew Savikas

  • bowerbird

    andrew said:
    > Those of you familiar with our Head First titles
    > know their layout would not translate well
    > to reflowable formats like EPUB.

    whoa.

    that’s quite an admission coming from
    a huge .epub cheerleader like o’reilly…

    what changes would have to be made
    to .epub format so it’d perform better?

    ***

    also, care to comment on why you
    decided to make “missing manual”
    a standalone app, rather than the
    standard book loaded into stanza?

    was that a revenue decision?

    a d.r.m.-related decision?

    a reader-usability decision?

    a book-specific decision?

    an experimental decision?

    or just a random decision? :+)

    and would you, or lexcycle
    – or both of you together –
    care to say how much it cost
    to have the book-app made?
    because i’m very curious… :+)

    -bowerbird

  • http://medialoper.com Kirk Biglione

    This is an interesting development, but what I really look forward to is a mobile friendly Safari bookshelf. Any chance we’ll see that any time soon?

    Also, I downloaded the app only to find that my missing manual is missing images (all of them, except for the front cover). Since the book is bundled with the reader I’m guessing there may be a problem with the download.

  • Kirk Biglione

    Just to followup on the issue I mentioned above. After deleting the app and re-downloading the iPhone Missing Manual everything is working great. Apparently there was some problem with my first download.

  • Tom Potts

    Computer readable books YES!
    PDF? No No No!
    Please remember my computer is much better suited to HTML.
    PDF almost invariably has to be printed to be readable.
    Tom Rotega says he prefers to have half his screen with the PDF open for a tech book. Try free flowing html – its infinitely preferable: you can have 1/4 of your screen and still run an IDE without popping windows like a madman!

  • http://toc.oreilly.com Andrew Savikas

    @bowerbird: This title is available both as an iPhone App and direct download via Stanza. Customers who have purchased the ebook bundle from us can read it on their iPhones by visiting their account page from their iphone.

    @Kirk: Sorry about the problem, and glad to hear you were able to resolve it. We tested the App extensively without encountering any issues with the images, but will keep an eye out for any other reports of problems.

    @Tom Potts: We provide re-flowable EPUB and PDF whenever possible to give readers the choice. With our Head First titles, the specific layout is a big part of the pedagogy, and while we continue to experiment have not to date found a satisfactory reflowable option for the Head First book content.

  • bowerbird

    > @bowerbird: This title is available both as an iPhone App
    > and direct download via Stanza.

    oh, gee, i don’t see where you said that in the post above.
    i bought it as an app. any way i can download it now too?
    or do i have to pay twice to get it both ways?

    ***

    having bought it as an app, i can say that — as an app –
    it needs some design work.

    i suggest you get someone — like mr. pogue — to review it.

    if you can’t afford him, i’m available… :+)

    -bowerbird

  • bowerbird

    the ortega/potts split in these comments is immensely typical:
    in a nutshell, some people love .pdf, and other people hate it…
    the only ripple is the odd duck who finds use for .pdf _and_ .html.

    however, the upshot of this — the message — is crystal-clear:
    your content better be able to create both outputs, and do it well.

    plus, to the extent that it makes those formats _work_together_,
    your content will find more success in the world than otherwise.

    there it is, folks, boiled down to its essence…

    -bowerbird

  • Kevin

    Hi,

    So, if we’ve bought the book from O’Relly.com, we can phone the US and ask for a discount?

    What about if we’ve bought it from, oh…say, Amazon, and live in the UK?

    I appreciate that you can’t cover everything, but the first book I’d buy from Amazon is “Using Drupal” which I’ve got on pre-order from Amazon in the UK, and the e-Book cost is around £5 more than Amazon are charging for the dead-tree version…

    Any solution?

    thanks

  • http://toc.oreilly.com Andrew Savikas

    Hi Kevin,

    Right now we don’t have an easy way to verify you actually purchased the book elsewhere. We’re looking into some options, but for now can only offer the ‘upgrade’ option to oreilly.com customers.

  • kris

    thank you for pdf, much better than anything else!

    to html lovers – sometime i like to print few pages :-)

    also thank you for trusting me!

    others which can compete with you – are apress
    (my email login) , manning (my name on every page)
    (ansi standard cpp too – i like it )

    the rest: the pdf secure is useless and annoying
    - forcing you to have extra software and limiting to certain hardware,
    i try it once and abandon.

  • Tom Potts

    @Kris
    I like to print sometimes too – I’d change your Browser/Operating system if you cant print HTML tho…

  • bowerbird

    i said this:
    > however, the upshot of this — the message — is crystal-clear:
    > your content better be able to create both outputs, and do it well.
    > plus, to the extent that it makes those formats _work_together_,
    > your content will find more success in the world than otherwise.

    that might just sound to some people like marketing claptrap.

    so i’ve created a demonstration…

    over in another thread from two or three weeks back now –
    http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/12/penguin-20-mashes-up-essays-an.html
    – i criticized “penguin 2.0″ for charging $8-$10 for books that
    are widely available on many public-domain sites _for_free_…

    one example was “the jungle” — the classic by upton sinclair.

    when i looked at all the available “jungles” online, however,
    i discovered all of them stemmed from project gutenberg,
    and my close analyses proved that version is badly flawed,
    with literally hundreds and hundreds of small errors in it…

    so i’ve created a clean copy — the cleanest in cyberspace now.

    it’s available here, in my “z.m.l.” (zen markup language) format:
    > http://z-m-l.com/tjbus/tbjus.zml

    as i argued above, we need an .html copy (to post on the web)
    and a .pdf format (for the people who love to use that format)
    – .pdf is far-and-away the heaviest download at most sites –
    and my converter creates both of them from a z.m.l. “master”.

    the .html version is here:
    > http://z-m-l.com/tjbus.html

    and the .pdf version is here:
    > http://z-m-l.com/tjbus.pdf

    you’ll find that both of these versions have superior navigation,
    with links that let you “skim” back and forward across chapters,
    and two-way links between chapters and the table of contents.
    navigation is one of _the_ most important aspects of e-books…

    and although the .pdf isn’t too pretty right now — primarily
    because i left it ragged-right — you won’t find any widows
    or orphans, which are what drive book typographers crazy…
    (but i did use a sans serif font, just to show ‘em i’m the boss.)

    another .html version — especially designed for proofing –
    goes page-by-page, with the text displayed next to its scan:
    > http://z-m-l.com/tjbusp001.html

    a form at the bottom of each page lets you report any errors…
    (so if you find any mistakes in the text, do please report them!)

    i’ve also coupled the .pdf with the page-by-page .html version,
    by placing a _link_ on each page of the .pdf which opens up the
    equivalent page on the website right in the end-user’s browser.

    so people reading the .pdf can jump to the “canonical” version
    of each page — i.e., the one that exists on the public website –
    where public annotations can be made, for communal dialog.

    right now, the form is geared more toward _error-reporting_,
    but as you can see, you can leave general comments if you like.

    this tight coupling between dispersed individual .pdfs and the
    public “canonical” version is another important e-book aspect.

    also of note here is the _simplicity_ of “zen markup language”.
    this means it is “markup” which authors can apply themselves
    that — since it’s “invisible” — doesn’t interfere with the writing.

    along with this simplicity, one gets serviceable .html output,
    and a .pdf that can be used for print-on-demand purposes…

    (plus the converter program will let each individual end-user
    customize both the .html and .pdf to their own preferences.)

    this kind of simplicity blows x.m.l. confusion out of the water.

    ***

    anyway, there’s a christmas present for you — a clean “jungle”,
    and a demonstration of how .pdf and .html can work together.

    -bowerbird

  • Reuti

    I also like the plain PDF, simply because I can read it on any platform I like without installing any special additonal software, besides a PDF reader. I also tried the Digital Editions once and gave up. The interface was much to slow (seems to be PDF inside a Flash document).

    And to extend Kris’ selection of competitors:

    NoStarchPress (plain PDF)
    informit (subset from various publishers, some are still with DRM, some without)

    Overall, more and more are selling their stuff without DRM. This is, how it should ever have been done.

  • bowerbird

    hey guys, i made a post here christmas day.

    because it had a fairly large number of links,
    your nifty spam filter probably quarantined it.

    could you set it free please? thank you.

    -bowerbird

  • bowerbird

    thanks for posting that…

    whether people will go back and read it now?

    well, i dunno. but i’ll refer back to it often…
    as it’s proof of what i’ve been talking about…

    ***

    i said:
    > because i left it ragged-right —
    > you won’t find any widows
    > or orphans, which are what
    > drive book typographers crazy…

    sorry, i misspoke… (i have too many demo
    files floating around; i’ve confused myself.)

    with a document that is “born-digital”, or one
    that’s being reflowed by a user, my converters
    do ensure that there are no widows or orphans.

    but my intention with “the jungle” was to clone
    the pagination of the original p-book, meaning
    there are some widows and orphans in this .pdf,
    exactly like they were in the original p-book…

    and as my mission was to reproduce the p-book,
    i shoulda done justification and page-balancing,
    since that is what the original typographer did…

    so i regenerated the .pdf with those parameters;
    i’ve uploaded it and saved it over the old copy…

    > http://z-m-l.com/go/tjbus/tjbus.pdf

    ***

    in addition, i’ve generated another .pdf demo…

    this one displays my digital text on the left side
    of each page, and the page-scan on the right side.

    note that you are downloading the entire scan-set
    for the book, so it’s a hefty download, at 61 megs.
    but it makes it easy for you to tell how well i did…

    > http://z-m-l.com/go/tjbus/tjbus-hybrid.pdf

    it makes it easy to check for errors too, so please
    do inform me if you find any! thanks so much! :+)

    -bowerbird

  • David

    bowerbird asked:

    what changes would have to be made
    to .epub format so it’d perform better?

    This was in reference to O’Reilly admitting that its Head First titles don’t work well in ePub format.

    I think it is not a fault of ePub or any other format that certain content is not suitable. To even suggest that a format needs to change to make itself more suitable for that content is misguided. Some content will never be suitable for a reflowable format, no matter what changes are made. Some books are simply more “visual” and need to be seen on something other than a small screen. Whether the content is screen-shots of running software with explanatory tags pointed at the screen elements in a programming book, or a photograhy book with impressive photos of the Grand Canyon, a small screen will not do justice to either in any format.

    To not recognize that fact is extremely short-sighted.

  • bowerbird

    andrew said:
    > To not recognize that fact is extremely short-sighted.

    andrew, i’ve been doing e-books for over 25 years now,
    so you might want to think twice before you “accuse” me
    of being “extremely short-sighted”. because the odds are
    that i thought about what you’re thinking about long ago…

    i mean, heck, i think it would be a bad mistake on my part
    to dismiss anything you say just because you haven’t been
    thinking about all of these things for quite as long as i have.

    so i can say for sure it’s a bad mistake on your part to do it.

    that said, let’s get to the substance of what you wrote here…

    > I think it is not a fault of ePub or any other format
    > that certain content is not suitable. To even suggest
    > that a format needs to change to make itself
    > more suitable for that content is misguided.

    it’s _certainly_ proper to suggest a format needs to be able
    to handle the use-cases that format is _intended_ to cover.
    that’s absolutely the _only_ way you should even build it…

    if an e-book format can’t handle p-books we already printed,
    we need to send it back to the drawing board. i’m not saying
    the e-book needs to look exactly like the p-book (although it
    is an admirable goal), but it surely *must* _serve_the_purpose_.

    > Some content will never be suitable for a reflowable format,
    > no matter what changes are made.

    i disagree. some _typography_ is too inflexible to reflow, but
    the _content_ is almost always malleable enough to manage it.

    sometimes you will need to rework something; but it’s doable.
    (the best example is probably the tables that need rethinking,
    so that they will fit on a smaller-width screen, for instance.)

    but that’s not something that’s insurmountable, by any means…

    > Some books are simply more “visual” and need to be seen on
    > something other than a small screen. Whether the content
    > is screen-shots of running software with explanatory tags
    > pointed at the screen elements in a programming book, or
    > a photograhy book with impressive photos of the Grand Canyon,
    > a small screen will not do justice to either in any format.

    but now you’re not talking about reflow. or a particular format.

    -bowerbird

  • bowerbird

    i’m sorry, andrew, it looks like you didn’t say that at all,
    but rather “david” did. (which “david” is this, i wonder?)

    my full apologies to you, andrew, for my misattribution…

    -bowerbird

  • Norman

    I am hoping that more titles will be available in epub format soon. Using stanza to read PDF formats of your books is not very friendly on the iPhone. I just bought 3 books electronically and would like to have all available as reference docs on my iPhone but realistically only the one which is available in epub format works well.

  • bowerbird

    you should know there are better ways
    than stanza to read a .pdf on the iphone…

    _much_ better ways…

    -bowerbird

  • http://my.safaribooksonline.com/whatsnew John Chodacki

    Kirk Biglione wrote: “This is an interesting development, but what I really look forward to is a mobile friendly Safari bookshelf.”

    Its here. We went live with a mobile-friendly version of Safari Books Online on Monday. Find out more info at my.safaribooksonline.com/whatsnew

    Take a look and tell me what you think: safarimobile@safaribooksonline.com

  • Matthew Marlowe

    Thank you for making books available in mobi format!

    I used to be a big believer in PDF — and still am to a certain extent, but I think there is some truth to the fact that when people want to read large PDF’s, they inevitably end up printing them. Yes, reading a large pdf onscreen is doable, but you can’t take it with you like a book and if you have a mobile device, you then have to make do with a small screen.

    So, I have a kindle now. And, until amazon lets me buy O’reilly books in Kindle format — I’m stuck buying direct from here, downloading mobi files, and manually uploading them to the kindle. I can live with that — but, the current total of 130 titles in mobi format is too few!

  • http://toc.oreilly.com Andrew Savikas

    Hi Matthew,

    There are now more than 400 titles available in Mobi format. And you can download them directly to your Kindle by visiting your account page from the Kindle browser. Just go to oreilly.com/e from the Kindle browser.

  • JoBlack

    Great offer – as a German citizen I tried to get some German E-Books from O’Reilly but the German O’Reilly department doesn’t seem to care about that market that much.

    They meant ‘we don’t want to offer Head First, we don’t want to offer ‘kurz & gut’ (the small reference books) titles as E-Books.

    Well, so I have to spend my money at the main original O’Reilly website.

    Kudos to O’Reilly USA – you’re not that ‘close-minded’ as the German O’Reilly department.

    Greetings
    Jo

  • garye

    But once you download the .mobi files to the Kindle, can they be read when you are offline? (on a bus or on a plane with no internet connection)