[Perl] Book Review: Mastering Algorithms with Perl

Reuven M. Lerner reuven at lerner.co.il
Sun Oct 20 00:21:26 PDT 2002

Just to follow up on Offer's note: It's true that Pearson is now
frightfully large, including several publishers that you would think
compete with each other, such as Addison-Wesley, New Riders, Sams,
Peachpit, Que, and Prentice Hall.

And indeed, my latest royalty statement (such as it is) comes from
Pearson Education, rather than from Prentice Hall, which published my

At the same time, my work as an author was always via my editor at
Prentice Hall.  It could be that my editor also works for other
publishing brands within Pearson, but I was never made aware of this.

I'm not convinced that these mergers are good for authors, and
consequently might not be good for readers: Now you not only have
individual books on a subject (e.g., Perl) competing for space within
a brand, but it's now across several brands within the same publisher.
You could argue that Pearson wants to have 20 Perl books published in
one year, and that the best ones will rise to the top and make a lot
of money.

But I was certainly never told what other books were going to be
published by Prentice Hall or by Pearson during the writing and
editing process, which meant that I was potentially duplicating
information that would appear elsewhere.  GM produces many types of
cars, but you can generally expect that Chevrolet won't directly
compete with Buick.  Pearson now has a hyper-Darwinist approach,
working on the assumption that that *some* books will be profitable,
and that the odds of this happening increase as shelves fill with
oodles of Pearson books.

I'm currently working on a book for Apress, a smaller publisher that
really tries to give each book (and author) attention throughout the
process.  By publishing fewer books of higher quality, they hope to
return to the early days at O'Reilly, where it was the explicit policy
to publish one book on each subject.  This policy has now gone away at
O'Reilly (see the latest "Ask Tim," at <http://oreilly.com/ask_tim/>),
which explains why we now see 10 new Perl books from O'Reilly every
year on different subjects.  By the way, I've been told that O'Reilly
just had a third round of layoffs, so this strategy might not be the
best one.  But Apress has decided that Pearson is headed in the wrong
direction, and is trying to profit from it by putting out fewer,
better-quality books.  I sure hope that they're right on this front.

Oh, the publishing industry is just SOOO much fun!


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