In an earlier blog, I tried to distill some of the lessons I’ve learned the hard way about publishing. In this blog, I’ll try and explain a little bit about the very different approach to publishing we’re taking for the SAP HANA Essentials book that will be coming out in May.
Seth Godin, a very successful author and ebook pioneer, just wrote a blog about how he approached the launch his latest book. I literally could just copy/paste what he wrote and put in the title of my book for this blog—it was that spot on with the approach we’re taking with the SAP HANA Essentials book.
The basic issue is that in 2012, getting an idea out to the world requires a completely different approach than in the past. The speed of content development, digital delivery and digital reading have truly changed the way you disseminate knowledge to a wide audience. You still have to do all the hard work of writing a really great book, but everything after that has been completely disrupted from how it was even 5 years ago. Imagine converting all of Major League Baseball into cricket teams—it’s that big of a change.
For the SAP HANA Essentials book, we started writing in earnest in mid-January, but I had been speaking with traditional publishers for a few months before that to try and find a way to do the HANA book very differently than any of my other books. Publishers are in business to make money and that’s fine, however the “profit motive” that they have doesn’t always line up with the strategic goals that SAP has for knowledge dissemination. That’s ok for most books, but for SAP HANA, since we’re breaking all kinds of rules in the tech world, we figured that we might as well break a whole lot of rules in the publishing world as well.
Here’s a few of the different goals and issues that drive the need for a different approach this time.
- SAP HANA is a hugely strategic topic in the SAP ecosystem and knowledge is in short supply globally
- SAP HANA is evolving at a mind-blowing pace and content must be constantly kept up-to-date
- There’s lots of techie content, but its scattered around the web and not easily found
- Nearly every SAP user, consultant and developer already has a Kindle, iPhone or iPad already (if they don’t, they all have a PC)
- SAP makes money selling software and services, not selling books
- SAP already operates on a Spring/Fall corporate “education” clock with the Sapphire and TechEd events as anchors to the calendar
So, in order to deliver a book that “works” with all those factors, we had to do something radically different.
It’s actually quite fitting that we’re writing a book in “real-time” about the engine that powers the “real-time enterprise”. Instead of waiting until all of the chapters are completed, we’re going to release the first few chapters in May and then release blocks of new chapters as they’re finished. So many people have told me how desperate they are to get the book as quickly as possible (for them and their teams), so if we can’t get the whole thing completed till the end of the year, the best thing we can do is to get as much high-quality content out to everyone as quickly as it’s available, and not wait around until its completely finished to ship the whole thing.
Secondly, since we’re making the book available for free, we had to figure out a way to deliver it to the widest audience at the lowest cost. Sadly, Amazon won’t let you permanently offer a book for free on their site and there are lots of restrictions on which countries can and can’t order books. So, we’ve partnered with an ebook retailer in Germany to make the book available globally in both epub and kindle formats, completely free of DRM. We want a million people to get the info in the book, so locking it to one ereader or another with DRM is counterproductive. Anybody on earth can go to the SAP HANA Essentials download site, put in a voucher code and get his or her preferred format for free. They can read it on their laptop, iPad or Kindle instantly. They can share it with colleagues easily. No unnecessary friction to inhibit people acquiring and reading the book.
Thirdly, since it’s an ebook, we can update it frequently, with new chapters, changes in content, better links, etc. In the print world, once it ships from the printer, it’s gone for good. You have to do an expensive revision and reprint to change anything in a print book and it takes years to get one of those done.
So, in essence, we’re doing the SAP HANA Essentials book “faster, better and cheaper” than any SAP book in history and if it works out like we’re hoping, it should be the “best selling” SAP book in history. But, since we’re not really selling it, I’ll settle for the “most widely read” title.