I’ve been meaning to write about SourceBeat for awhile. My friend Michael told me about this company a couple weeks ago. SourceBeat has a very interesting business model for publishing technical books. The basic idea is that you pay about $30 a year to subscribe to a book. That may seem like a lot for books that are delivered only as PDF files. However, their plan is to deliver a lot more than just a single PDF file for your $30.
The crazy thing about books on software technologies is that they can become almost useless in just a couple years. If the technology that a book describes changes dramatically in that time, the information in the book can lead you far astray. I bought a book on MySQL today, though I almost passed on it because it was two years old! The horror of it all! But then I slapped myself back into reason and purchased it. If it had been three years old, though, I would have run away as if it smelled like rancid pickles.
SourceBeat’s main twist on the publishing model is that their authors will regularly update the books you subscribe to. In addition, you can get access to books before they are finished. The timer doesn’t start on your 12-month subscription until a book is officially released. Also, they plan to set up forums for subscribers to interact more closely with the book authors and with other subscribers.
Not to focus too much on the negative (since there’s a whole lot to like about what SourceBeat is trying to do), but here’s some of what could go wrong.
- Books get officially released before they are ready, so as to start the subscription timers (not that they would be the first publisher to release a book before its time)
- Author of a book gets too busy with a new job, other technologies, zen buddhism, etc. and the promised book updates slow to a trickle
- Forum for interacting with author and other subscribers is either dead or no better than what you can find by means that don’t require a subscription
So far, SourceBeat has lined up a great set of authors. All the books cover open source projects — Eclipse, Struts, Jakarta Commons, Axis, Tomcat, Spring, PostgreSQL, Castor, and Eclipse. I hope this idea works out really well for the authors and for SourceBeat.