O’Reilly decides to let this Missing Manual be found — on Wikipedia

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Here’s a book publishing news-note that is refreshingly appropriate.

A new book from the the O’Reilly “Missing Manual” series called “Wikipedia: The Missing Manual” is today being published simultaneously in print and is being posted in the Help section of Wikipedia.

In other words, in addition to publishing a $30 version of the book in print, O’Reilly is open-sourcing a free version of the book’s contents in a way that can keep its contents up-to-date — indefinitely.

The drive to post “Wikipedia: The Missing Manual” to Wikipedia was spearheaded by author John Broughton, a registered editor at Wikipedia since 2005 with more than 20,000 edits.

My observation: I have a print version of a similar book sitting on my desk — O’Reilly’s MediaWiki, by Daniel J. Barrett — and I can see how having this new book’s contents online will help promote book sales, rather than cannibalize them. A book that serves as a manual has a certain functionality in print that, despite the belief of many, is unique when working in an environment that is new and complex. My copy is dog-eared and sitting there, just where I want it when I’m trying to figure out a nuanced hack. It’s like another monitor, dedicated to some esoteric stuff.

Having a resource that is simultaneously online and in print adds to the functionality and productivity-enhancing roles of both.

Better still would be also having a video-enhanced version.

[Cross posted in Hammock.com’s Conversational Media Weblog.]

  • It’s like another monitor, dedicated to some esoteric stuff

    But if you had a second monitor you’d be able to use it for access to every book ever open-sourced, rather than have an increasingly full bookshelf loaded with reference books. 🙂

  • I actually do have another monitor. And a Kindle. And a MacBook sitting nearby. But if I’m heads down on one project that requires referencing lots of stuff I don’t have committed yet to memory, I find it helps to have a printed book version. I think it’s like when one plays a new song on a musical instrument — it helps to have the music.