Attention Wiley Authors

If you’re a Wiley technical author, send me a copy of your book, and I’ll post a review. I know, big deal, — but I’m a full-time student, and part time technical editor, and frankly can’t afford to buy the books I need for school. But I’m an experienced reviewer, and it’s one way I thought I might help off set Apple’s book spurning. Mind, I’m not promising a positive review—but it will be honest. I’ll start by posting reviews of a few books I already own. I’m not going to review books I tech edited—that seems, well, incestuous. If you’re interested in a review, e-mail me using lisa and my domain name digitalmedievalist.com. Oh yeah, and that includes you Mr. Young.

On Apple, Wiley, and the Spurning of Books

In retaliation for John Wiley and Sons’ forthcoming publication of an unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs, Apple has instructed that all Wiley books be removed from the shelves of all Apple retail stores. The story first broke publicly Tuesday in Mercury News’ Silicon Valley Report. Later the story was picked up by Associated Press. Bloggers are picking it up as well, one by one.

The bare bones of the story are that Wiley provided Apple with a pre-release copy of a forthcoming unauthorized biography by Jeffrey S. Young with William L. Simon iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business. The book is a successor to Young’s 1987 unauthorized Jobs biography, The Journey Is the Reward. Discussions ensued. Apple, presumably after failing to convince Wiley to withdraw the book from publication, has ordered that all Wiley’s books be removed from Apple’s stores.

The Silicon Valley Report quotes Kitt Allan (Wiley Vice President and Publisher, Professional/Trade Division):

It became increasingly clear that Apple was not happy with the publication of the book.

Recently, the meaning of that became clear when Apple told us that our technology books were immediately being pulled from their Apple retail stores. But, of course, Wiley stands behind our authors.

Wiley, of course, did the right thing, what any publisher would do, when it believes in the quality of its books. While I understand Jobs’ dismay, and possibly outrage, at being biographied against his will, I note that he is a public figure, and that the biography, at least according to Young, is favorable. According to the Silicon Valley Report, which quotes Young:

“the original book was quite negative. It leaves you the impression of this young guy who was quite a jerk, has no social graces, has a lot of skill but may not be worthy of acclaim” said Young. The new book reflects a matured Jobs.

I really wish Jobs hadn’t chosen to punish Wiley by removing Wiley’s books from Apple’s stores; he’s not hurting Wiley, but he is hurting me, and my spouse. Why? Because my spouse, Michael E. Cohen, is a Wiley author, as is his brother and sometimes co-author Dennis R. Cohen.

Michael and Dennis Cohen have just finished The Mac Xcode 2 Book, one of the volumes in the new Andy Ihnatko series, scheduled for release May 23. Now, while you may think me biased, I assure you I’m not when I say The Mac Xcode 2 Book is a really good book. It’s written for people who already know how to program, but want to learn about OS X 10.4 / Tiger’s development environment, Xcode 2, part of the developer tools included in every copy of Tiger. Xcode is sweet, but Xcode 2 is even sweeter. Just the support for all the built in goodness of Cocoa alone is amazing, never mind the ease of UI creation. Really. And this book is a clear, witty, thorough, and fun, overview of what you need to know to use Xcode 2, including stuff like how to take advantage of Xcode’s support for Subversion, and using Xcode’s debugging tools. The Mac Xcode 2 Book is the perfect introduction for the developer new to Xcode 2, and it really belongs in Apple’s stores. But you won’t find it there.

By withdrawing Wiley books from Apple retail stores, Apple isn’t hurting Wiley at all. Apple’s hurting Wiley’s Mac authors, people like Michael and Dennis Cohen, Bob LeVitus, a beloved and respected Mac authority, and Wiley author, Mac Hack guru and Wiley author Scott Knaster— people who have been spending their advance money on Apple hardware and software for years. Apple’s also hurting the Mac users, especially the new users, who won’t find really excellent books like those by Michael and Dennis and other Wiley published authors on Apple’s shelves. And Wiley? The pre-orders for Young’s iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business are booming. Even though the book won’t be available until May 27, in the three days since the story broke, it’s moved rapidly up to slot 144 in Amazon’s book rankings. Wiley won’t care; they’ll actually probably make a nice profit from extra sales of Young’s book because of the publicity; I’m certainly curious now, and I wouldn’t have been interested in the book before Apple’s decision to punish Wiley.

UPDATE:As of 8:30 AM Pacific, 04/28/2004, Young’s book’s current Amazon sales rank is #33.

PublishAmerica: Expensive POD

I have been watching the growth of Print on Demand (POD) technology for a very long time. I first heard about it while working as a consultant for Xerox, and I was intrigued by the potential for high quality but affordable books. I thought POD had enormous potential for not just consumers wanting a small print run, but for educational and scholarly publishing as well. Unfortunately, there are a few corrupt “book publishers” out there, notably PublishAmerica. I’ll link to a long piece I’ve been working on, and add a post that shows just how incompetent, and greedy, PublishAmerica is.

Teach Yourself Visually iLife '04

Michael E. Cohen’s new book Teach Yourself Visually iLife 04 is out. You can even order it from Amazon. If you’re not familiar with the Teach Yourself series, you should take a look at the link for a sample. The principle is that people using software often prefer to have very clear specific step by step instructions needed to complete a specific task, like make an iPhoto slide show. Teach Yourself Visually books combine specific instructions with clearly labeled screen shots of the step, including call outs, presented in crystal clear prose and color. This particular book is especially good, not only because Michael Cohen wrote it, but because the graphic artists were unusually good. It’s actually fun to read and to use.

It’s also a bit of a family project. My brother in law, Dennis Cohen, was originally contracted to write the book, but ran out of time, so he invited Michael to pitch in. Then, unbeknownst to either of the Cohen brothers, I was hired separately to tech edit the book. This is the fifth iLife book I’ve worked on, and it’s the best for novice users or visual learners. If you’re a more advanced user, you can’t beat Dennis Cohen’s iLife Bible. Yes it’s a little outdated if you’re using iLife ’04, but most of the information is still accurate, and there are techniques and useful information in it that isn’t anywhere else.

Instant Hardware Lust: AirPort Express

Apple’s just announced Airport Express. It’s a tiny portable wireless base station designed specifically for music sharing; it has an audio out port so you can connect your stereo, and it (along with AirTunes and iTunes) lets you play music from your hard drive (or iPod) wirelessly transmitting to the AirPort Express, when then via the audio cable to your stereo, uses your stereo’s high quality speakers. As Apple says:

Whether your stereo or powered speakers are located in your living room, bedroom or basement, just plug it or them into the audio port on the AirPort Express Base Station using an audio cable. iTunes automatically detects the connection. When you open iTunes on your AirPort-equipped Mac or Wi-Fi-compliant PC, you’ll see a popup list at the bottom right of the iTunes window showing your remote speakers. Select it, click play and your stereo becomes the world’s greatest digital jukebox.

And, oh yeah, it’s cross platform with Windows. And it’s pocket-sized—which means all you need is a stereo or powered speakers, a Mac with iTunes and music files, and an AirPort Express to have your music where ever you want it..

I often connect my iPod to the stereo, but this way, we can use our extant AirPort network and connect to a central iTunes collection from anywhere in our apartment, since AirPort Express uses Rendezvous to detect the network. And you can daisy chain them, wirelessly, to an extant base station, extending the network without buying additional base stations. This would work really well for my parents, who are moving to a smaller home, and are going to be short of space for “stuff.” A couple of AirPort Exress units, powered speakers or a stereo, and they’re good to go—and they can share their music, and their printer, a real plus for them. And this is a really simple Apple solution, one that I can help them with over the phone.