|When life gives you lemons...|
Open Source Book Authoring
In 2006 one of our staff took a sabbatical to become an expert on Open Source. He spent six months surveying the Free and Open Source Software landscape and summarized the top 200 or so leading projects/products in a book called The Business Guide to Free Information Technology including Free/Libre Open Source Software He was so excited by one product he spent another month studying it and wrote a book about it, Open Source Pro: Joomla. This book rose to become one of the top 500 sellers on LuLu at one point. Both of these books were self-published and released to "global distribution" on LuLu which costs about $140 each and will cause them to be listed on Amaxon.com, Barnes And Noble, and other book sites. He makes an odd frownish smile when he talks about the costs. Less than 50 of the Business Guide books ever sold so he took a net loss on this book (because he also purchased 40 additional copies himself to hand out at various trade shows). Even the Joomla! book which sold a few hundred copies only amounted to less than $1/hour in income! Well, he also completely studied the [lack of] profitability of writing tech books because he wrote several others. He did an enormously deep study on Linux and even traveled and taught courses and even spent a small fortune hosting a trade show. He released two books only on LuLu. Each of these sold less than 10 copies each: Open Source Pro: FC6 Workbook for Fedora Core 6 and co-authored Linux Debugging and Troubleshooting. He also did an enormously deep study on Java and summarized mostly all of what Java has to offer in a book New Java: Java 1.4, Java 5, and Java 6. This book was released to global distribution and sold around a 100 to 200 copies. Since this book had an accompanying sourceforge open source project it is worth noting it has had 488 downloads.
He said his friend who wrote a book for Microsoft Press expected to make $6000 but said it was not worth the time. When asked why he gave up a year's salary and wrote these books he just shrugs. He says he learned a lot. I guess that's what people say when things fail. He points to a friend who had written for O'Reilly in 2000 and claimed he would make $30,000 per book and another website on the web where a book author says this amount too. In fact, he says that friend did write for O'Reilly and another publisher but no longer writes books and says doing so is a waste of time. Perhaps the book industry is dead. For sure, the technical book industry is dead.
So here it is. Drum roll please. The tally. The total. Five books, close to one thousand dollars in publishing costs, and two years later. The income? ... $1,684.52. Wow! An American making less than 30 cents per hour. Actually, its a net loss when you factor in the cost of electricity and the cost of the computer equipment. He even told us he'd blown $40,000 because he hosted a trade show for open source including paid for the marketing, venue, and such himself, had done a direct marketing campaign to 500 IT managers, and purchased and evaluated a handful of computers, point of sale equipment, open source specific video cards, and other equipment. Add in the year of lost income and I'm flabbergasted. Talk about a bad investment of time. I remember seeing him red-eyed and a mess for a year while he tried all those software packages and, in my opinion, its just not worth it. At least he knows a ton about open source now.
I wecome him back to work now. This job pays much, much better!