DiggingIntoWordPress

by Chris Coyier & Jeff Starr

What? No Printed Copies?

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What’s up with no more printed copies? We completely sold out of printed books a few weeks ago. We’re currently looking into print-on-demand solutions to make more of the printed copies available to those who want them. The problem is that the book is over 400 pages and full color. And POD is pretty much pay-per-use type of thing, so the book would be even more expensive to print than before. So again, we’re currently looking into solutions for this, and want to ask if anyone knows of a decent, reasonably priced POD service. “Reasonably priced” because quality is important.

Not going to mention who we’ve already looked at for this because we want to keep things open at this point and hear what you have to say. Of course, there are also other ways to cut costs:

  • Print content in black & white
  • Eliminate pages by rewriting or removing stuff
  • Print many copies up front and go for bulk discount

But we also have the PDF, so do we keep that the same or create two different versions of the book? What’s the best path forward? We continue to update the book and have plans to do so again this Summer for WP 3.0, so that may rule out bulk printing. We were planning on going through and updating some of the core content, so maybe consolidating pages is a (partial) solution? What would the book look like printed in b&w/grayscale?

Any ideas while we continue to look into this, please shout ‘em out. Thanks :)

34 Responses

  1. lulu.com is a decent print on demand, I’ve not ordered from there personally tho, price is decent, and you can order in bulk for a discount I think. I am not sure of actual cost of a 400+ page book tho. They have a coil bound option as well.

  2. I used blurb.com a couple of times and the quality is pretty good (no ring-binding as far as I can tell).

    Another idea: you could sell only the bindings and let people print their own pages. You wouldn’t have complete quality control, but it would permit us readers to “upgrade” the pages and I’m guessing it would be much easier to manage.

    I would buy it in a half-second.

  3. I second Alicia’s Lulu.com recommendation. Please drop me a line if you decide to look into this further. My husband used to work for them and may be of some assistance.

  4. I have recently become a huge fan of reading on my iPod touch. It’s lighter than a book, remembers my place, self-lit for reading in the dark, remembers my place, and is always with me so I can read whenever I have a spare moment. I use good reader, stanza, and kindle (if I have to) apps and they work great. The fact that you offer the book in PDF form was one of the main reasons I bought it. Plus a book about something as rapidly changing as WordPress needs to be updated regularly and that is much easier electronically. So definitely don’t print on my account.

    Love the book, by the way.

  5. This might be a dumb question, but have you ever considered an HTML version? Letting people choose how they capture and print seems appealing to me.

    I have really been enjoying the format, flexibility, and approach of O’Reilly’s new book on HTML5: http://diveintohtml5.org

    The book is published and updated incrementally as it is finished. Maybe a scaled down version of the same technique for small WP fixes would work for your needs?

    I’m indecisive about my reading habits, because I, like many, spend 9+ hours a day on a computer. I have read quite a bit of this book online, and I’ve also printed out chapters on a color laser printer to read on the plane. Ideally, I would never print, because I can’t view the embedded links for reference and example, but I can always go back to the bookmark :)

  6. What if you set it up so that you shipped at the end of each month, and people pre-orded up until a week before the end of the month, so you’d only print as many as you’d need.

    Don’t know if that would be any cheaper (may cost more). But it’s a though that came across my mind as I read the article…

  7. Tin had a good idea but I think it would be cool if you did like a big binder and then we could take out the old pages and print out own with corrections. I don’t like the idea of printing the entire book myself. Ink is expensive.

    Once I buy my iPad, I will probably use the pdf a lot. I am still debating with myself on buying the iPad though.

  8. I used blurb.com for several occasions, and I love their quality, service and ease-of-use.

    But I think you can deliver the book to both platforms (blurb & lulu) and let the customers choose…

    Grtz,
    Tom.

  9. I was bummed to hear this was sold out. My parents went to order it for me for one of my birthday gifts, but no more printed copies. I really really hope more will be printed. PDF’s just don’t cut it for me. I like to have the book right in front of me when working. And I would definitely love for you guys to continue to print in full color. I’m going to continue to check back in hope that you guys decide to print more real soon.

  10. Looking forward to the WordPress version 3 printed version. I find it sooo much easier to refer to a printed book than digging around the PDF. I am holding out for the next version. I hope you get those bulk printed. As far as experience with short run, I’ve gotten Blurb photo books and the paper quality has far surpassed that of all its contenders. I’ve gotten books from Lulu and was not impressed with its print on demand quality.

    My 2 cents, put it up for grabs on Blurb or Lulu for the time being in grayscale only. And bulk print version 3 in the same spiral bound format … and have tons ready because no doubt people will want it! I know several people besides myself holding out for the new stuff. PDF should suffice for the time being ;-)

  11. Laneth Sffarlenn June 17, 2010

    I’d contact Matt Vossler at Dreamz-Work Productions, LLC to see who he uses for his POD publishing business – Not sure if they would cater to this particular job, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

  12. Jamie Kelley June 18, 2010

    Puhleeese make a POD available in full color and coil bound. Pdfs are just too awkward and require reading from the computer screen, something we all spend far too much time doing. Besides being easier on the eyes, a printed version is just more accessible and flexible for every day usage.

    And the POD would also allow for international purchase. DIWP is an awesome resource and I’d gladly ditch my pdf for an opportunity to buy a printed version.

  13. Andy Jones June 18, 2010

    I don’t have a solution for you, as I’m in the UK, so pretty useless to you! But I just wanted to make the point that I bought the pdf version (due to being in the UK!) and although it’s a great resource, I kind of wish i had bought the printed version, as you can’t beat flicking through a book for a quick solution instead of searching a pdf – don’t know why – but it just seems easier…

  14. Similar to Andy, I live on the other side of the pond and bought the PDF version. I wanted the order the print version but the shipping costs were hard to justify :( – this is out of Jeff and Chris’ hands.

    I love the idea of a spiral bound full colo(u)r print version but the cost needs to be reasonable, especially given the content changes frequently.

    I love the PDF version of the book and love that it gets updated regularly so while a hard copy version would be excellent, I’m quite happy to stick with the PDF version due to cost.

    Shay

  15. Matthew June 18, 2010

    Sorry Chris, but if Digging into WP is not printed in full color again, I will not be buying it. Looking at a pdf on your screen just doesn’t do it for me. I want something I can pick up and read!

  16. This is a fascinating commentary on book publishing today!

    I agree with pretty much everything that’s said above:
    -PDFs are a good way to distribute this content
    -PDFs aren’t as good as having an actual book on the desk next to you
    -Print On Demand is a great way to go for short runs or if you’re not sure how many you’ll sell.
    -POD sucks on a per-item cost. (I’ve done Lulu and Blurb and been reasonably satisfied with the quality but the cost is terrible unless you can do serious quantity.)

    Book publishing as an industry is in the same boat you are: terrified of committing funds to a book with about a six-month lifespan.

    There are some great printing deals in Asia, if you want to commit thousands of dollars upfront. And if you’re morally OK with outsourcing your labor and pollution and a chunk of your profits.

    kickstarter.com looks like it could be a good way to pull together the bread for something like that. I also like the idea of pre-orders, as clearly you’ve built up a loyal following.

  17. Another thought:

    How about splitting the book in two:

    Digging Into WordPress 1: Trowel to Spade
    For beginners and content creators
    All the stuff they’ll need to get up and running with a pre-built theme and installing plugins. No real PHP, nothing to make their head hurt. Maybe some CSS and how to do basic theme modification. Basic SEO

    DIW 2: Backhoe to Caterpiller
    For designers and programmers
    Building themes and plugins and functions

    I don’t really need DIW 1 but might recommend it to less-experienced friends (like clients I design WP sites for). And fewer of us need DIW 2, I suspect, but it’s the kind of thing I’d love to have as a reference.

    I know the division of these isn’t real clear. Just a thought.

    • This seems like a good idea… but if you don’t want to go that route, you can at least remove the first 2 Chapters (about 50 pages)… I assume anyone that’s somewhat familiar with WordPress skipped right over these, and most of the info can be found at the WP.org site itself…

  18. In my opinion eliminating content isn’t an option. Every bit has been quite valuable.

    I personally prefer the PDF version because I work on several machines (Mac & PC) in several locations. It’s handy to have this in my dropbox library.

    I understand that people want a printed version. If folks insist on a printed version, why not just pass the costs on? I notice some people saying they won’t buy version 3 if they can’t get a printed version… Let them put their money where their mouth is.

  19. Lightning source is by far the cheapest solution that I have ever used. The quality is pretty good and black and whit books are dirt cheap. I’ve created about 10 books using this company and can vouch for their awesomeness:
    http://lightningsource.com/

  20. Hey Guys

    I recommend keeping some sort of printed version. I’m in Australia and I bought your book, cost me about AU$100.00 once postage is factored in which is a lot, but I thought it would be really worthwhile. Plus, I wouldn’t have bought it if it was only in PDF format – even if it was $20 in PDF format. I just can’t read all that on screen, I need the book in my hot little hands.

    I also would have been open to a print on demand system, but I don’t thik I could afford to spend more than AU$100 on it, including postage. You gotta draw the line somewhere.

  21. With Lulu.com, you could offer both a black & white and full color version. I found the price to print full color to be prohibitive but you could offer that version with a longer lead time and have it drop-shipped directly to the person that ordered it. That way, you wouldn’t have to carry any sort of inventory on the color version. I honestly don’t think many people would be willing to pay the cost of it. The spiral bound format would be perfect for your manual.

  22. Muhammad June 21, 2010

    I bought the pdf version and printed it out on my color ink jet printer. Not the best solution but it looks pretty nice. Color laser would be a better solution if available. I used ink refills so the price was very low. Then I had it spiral bound at office depot for $15.00. It was kind of a hassle but the end product is a great resource and pretty nice to look at. Just my 2 cents.

  23. Jeff Starr

    Thank you to everyone for the ideas and info – it is extremely helpful! We’ll post again on future plans for printed books as version 3 rolls out this Summer.

    A couple of notes:

    – We have looked into Lulu.com. A spiral-bound, 400-page color book is around $70 – $80, depending on volume. I am not sure how their shipping works/costs.

    – Lots of recs for Blurb, but it looks like it would be more expensive than Lulu.com. Still looking into it for more precise numbers.

    – Printing in b&w at either location is significantly less expensive, like around $15 per book!

    – Also trying to get the book on Amazon, but so far the process has been slow. If anyone knows a shortcut or has any tricks/info on getting into Amazon plz let us know.

    Thanks again for all of the ideas and info – this thread is turning out to be an incredible resource for POD and alternate printing strategies.

  24. @Jeff Starr – Have you looked into Lightning Source? I know that the documentation regarding pricing is hard to find for visitors, but I just checked it out and It looks like $45.00 (approximately) for 400 page full color book. As far as Amazon is concerned, I think all you really need is an ISBN number. My friend uses LS for their publishing company and I recall that it was pretty easy. I know that they are somehow linked to Ingram which makes it simple to get your books distributed to the larger chains. I will usually talk my clients out of this because the publishing industry is kinda jacked – If a book store orders 50 copies of your book and sells none, they reserve the right to return all of them for a full refund – IN ANY CONDITION + you pay shipping. It’s a jaw dropping practice that not many outside of the publishing world are aware of.

    Depending on the amount of images I would go B&W.

    Good luck with the project. I’ve always wanted to buy a WordPress book, but as stated above, $100.00 is far too much for ANY book IMO :)

  25. Jamie Kelley June 21, 2010

    With respect to Michael Fields, please let the consumer be the judge of what is far too much for ANY book.

    I have no problem paying $100 for DIWP color coil bound book. It’s no different than paying for a piece of software and I know that with the knowledge learned from your text, I’ll make the $100 back in no time.

    So I do support your move toward POD but please, if possible, make options available. I will pay a premium price for a premium product.

    Thanks for reaching out and listening to us.

  26. My suggestion is wait until you are ready with the 3.o changes and then print again only more. It’s a good problem to have running out but never the less a problem. POD makes no sense for this type of book. If you find the right printer you should be okay.
    Did anyone suggest going to a software publisher and selling them the rights? If you have the history of sales already behind you then you have a great talking point. You would get a royalty fee per book printed/sold.
    The other way to get the information out would be to break the book into sections and then sell those as pdf’s. Is there a reason all the info has to be in one book?

    Cheers

  27. Jon Padilla June 23, 2010

    Hey there, I stumbled across this site, while trying to teach myself how to use javascript in WordPress. In a past life, I was a print buyer. Little things affect the price, like the page size, cover stock, etc. The online PoD solutions always seemed more expensive to me, than knowing a good local vendor, by the way.

    I’d be happy to look over your specs, maybe even get you some extra quotes.

    Good luck, and thanks for a great, informative site,
    -Jon Padilla

  28. We recently bought the PDF version of the Digging into WordPress book, and I’m enjoying reading it through through Apple iBooks app on my iPad.

    You can put in notes and the interface handles the PDF very well. Plus searching and I love being able to quickly reference information later in the digital format. I’m normally a paper book lover too, but this is working well for me.

  29. Erica Rueschhoff June 26, 2010

    Comment sent via email:

    I have to agree with Rachel and Alicia from your blog comments – we had a great experience with Lulu.com when we did the book http://www.HearUsRoar.com. I can send you some pictures of the actual book or mail you a copy so you can see the quality. I’d also be happy to share any info I have, just email me. I think having the print option for those that learn better that way is in your best interest and keeping it print on demand will be better for you so that you can make updates easier.

    I’m not sure if you had the book on amazon or not but you could definitely list there. Another thought on monetizing the book for yourself while adding loads of value to all of us wanting to learn more about wordpress – would be to create a membership portal making each chapter a lesson, you could eventually include video tutorials for the different things you teach in the book and then provide each chapter in an individual pdf for them to download – and you could provide instructions for them on how they could send it to kinkos to have specific chapters printed for themselves or the whole book – at their own expense – but you might be able to get them to give you a good discount for your members if you are highlighting their service – if you add a commuity component to the membership portal your members will help each other and learn from each other — it could be really awesome and help you monetize the book and your brillance nicely while providing an affordable way for p eople to learn. – Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you – I think you provide rockstar content and help and I appreciate all that you do for the wordpress community.

  30. Josue Kinnan June 26, 2010

    Had errors viewing the site in Firefox on the Mac, but apart from that loved the site. :)

  31. Vickie Tolbert June 29, 2010

    I love the idea of a ring binder since updates will be freqent. Just tell people what size binder to get and ship us the inner pages.

  32. Karlene Lattanzio July 14, 2010

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  33. David Scott Lynn September 5, 2010

    Hi! I guess I’m in the minuscule minority here, but I read just about EVERYTHING on line, and have for the last five years — IF I can get it online, that is. … I’m on the computer either 4 to 5 or 8 to 10 hours a day, depending on other time factors. But I use Macs and am told their screens are easier on the eyes??? … I just thought I’d put that out there in case you’re on the fence about not focusing on print too much.

    Your Book seems WAY excellent to me, and no, I did not buy the print version, and I doubt I will. And even if the PDF was $100, it seems like it would be worth it. Although your layout skills are excellent, it is the information I want, not the aesthetic entertainment.

    The only PROBLEM, though, is that I am a total civilian when it comes to computers, software & WordPress, so I get scared easily with things that are beyond the basics, like editing config files, etc. So, being a user of Semiologic Pro (runs on top of WordPress), I checked with them on your security idea of moving the main folder down one from root, and putting a weird name in. The Geeks at Semiologic did not even respond to my question, and the owner of the hosting platform that Semiologic recommends (who is known to be an expert and is a VERY helpful guy) thought it would be too disruptive for someone to troubleshoot my site if something came up I could not fix. … So I stopped there, for fear that he was right. Among two experts who disagree, I have no way of judging who to listen to.

    I also began thinking, well, what else in this book would they disagree with? So I have, sadly, implemented little from the book, but do think that has been an error on my part. Just don’t know WHICH part.

    I even have offered to buy the hosting guy a copy of Digging In if he’ll take a closer look at it.

    Any thoughts on getting beyond my Inner Roadblock?

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