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The benefits of using Lulu to publish books

Author: Bob Swart
Posted: 5/3/2008 11:41:11 AM (GMT+1)

Like Nick mentioned in his recent blog: the programming book business is changing (or has changed already), and publishing on demand is becoming the norm. I believe Julian was the first to have his great Tomes of Delphi: Algorithms and Data Structures book published on, followed by Marco and myself. Instead of publishing a 500+ page Tome of Delphi, or a 258 page Delphi 2007 Handbook, I decided to go for 100-200 A4-sized pages with contents specifically around a single topic. Which has a big benefit compared to the old days when I wrote mere 50-page chapters for books (like Delphi 4 Unleashed, Delphi 6 Developer's Guide and the C++Builder Developer's Guides). In those days, the publisher had a page count maximum on the chapters, so I could never write more than 50 pages (and the 'normal' book pages contain even less than the A4-pages I'm using for my own syllabi and courseware manuals). In more than one occasion, I had to drop the final (real-world, complex) example from the chapter because it just couldn't fit in. For WebBroker and DataSnap chapters, this was very sad, but after Delphi 5 was released I just started to write my own courseware manuals. For these manuals, there is no page count limit, so now I can easily write 100 pages or more around a single topic. Adding complex and real-world example as many as I wish. But no more book chapters for me...

With new versions of Delphi, the courseware manuals were updated, new titles were introduced, and old titles were retired. The release of Delphi 8 for .NET meant a whole new set of manuals for the .NET Framework - I wrote two: Delphi 8 for .NET Development Essentials and Delphi 8 for .NET ASP.NET Development (with XML and SOAP). At that time, Borland was looking for courseware material as well, and in the end they licensed both my Delphi 8 for .NET coursware manuals (plus example code and slides) for world-wide use as the official Borland courseware.

With the release of Delphi 2005, the Borland Developer Studio supported both Win32 and .NET, and the Win32 courseware manuals needed a significant rewrite to cover all changes and new features. Lots of training events followed. Because my training classes are mainly held in my own house/office in Helmond Brandevoort, The Netherlands (but also at clients' locations upon demand), it was often impractical for developers overseas to attend these training classes. For that reason, I began to offer my Delphi courseware manuals for sale in PDF format (so people could print, but also electronically read them on their own computer), selling them with help of an application written in Delphi 2005 and ASP.NET (one of the case-studies I also wrote a courseware manual about). Priced between 195 and 99 Euros, compared to the training class which would cost 420 Euro. Of course, I rather have people attending the training class (which includes a hardcopy as well as PDF version of the manual), but that's not always possible...

For a little while, Borland sold my Delphi 2006 ASP.NET 1.1 Web Development courseware manual through their shops, still for the high price that I asked for the PDF version, although there weren't any free updates or support from me included (since I had no idea who actually purchased a copy). This was not a big success (if you bought a copy from Borland and want an updated PDF file, feel free to contact me).

Last year, when Marco began to blog about his Lulu plans, I decided to put some of my Delphi 2006 courseware manuals on Lulu, to see what would happen. The downside of Lulu is that the authors will now how many sales you got, but never who actually bought the book. So unlike the PDF manuals that I sell on my own site, which include free updates (and upgrade offers when new versions of Delphi are released), the printed or PDF copies you can buy at Lulu are without support of any kind. But they are cheaper, usually around 15-30 Euro (which is still a lot of dollars, but that's not my fault) ;-)

On you can get a list of all my books on Lulu, including the links to the source code for the examples and exercises, and information regarding the number of pages and prices. Lulu offers a 10-page preview, which always includes the table of contents as well as some content pages.

The courseware manuals with free updates and e-mail support (for the topics covered in the manual) are listed at (you need to login or create an account before you can purchase). Note the Delphi for Win32 VCL Web Development title, covering WebSnap but mainly IntraWeb, which is currently being amended and prepared for publication on Lulu.

Regular book publishers, give you a monthly overview on the sales of your book, and the royalties you get. With Lulu, I get an instant overview of the sales (and a monthly payment of my royalties). Compared to normal book publishers, I make more money per sold copy with Lulu, and this means I no longer have to sell a few thousand copies to make it worthwhile to publish a book (in fact, since I need to write these books as courseware material, I already 'have' them anyway).
The best thing is that Lulu gives me an overview of the number of copies printed and downloaded, and the amount of money made with the titles (currently, I offer 10 different titles for sale). This means that I can immediately see that the interest in my Delphi for Win32 VCL Database Development manual is 10 times as high as the interest in the Delphi 2006 ASP.NET ECO III Weblog paperback or the Delphi 2005 Development Essentials (which was my first Lulu experiment, but August 2007 was a bit late for a Delphi 2005 title).

In summary, Lulu gives me higher royalties and more freedom over what I can write about (longer chapters, more in-depth coverage of topics), and shorter times for the final publication of manuals (days instead of months).

After the publication of the IntraWeb title on Lulu, I plan to have two different manuals on XML, SOAP and Web Services, one using the Delphi for Win32 framework, and another using Delphi for .NET with ASP.NET 2.0 as basis. Two smaller books can be kept cheaper than the big one with both Win32 and .NET included (which is still very popular and sells for 195 Euro in my courseware shop).
After that, I plan to cover more on some of my favourite third-party products such as RemObjects SDK and perhaps also Hydra 3. But if you have any other suggestions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment here...
And don't forget to check out the special Delphi group or C++Builder group on Lulu!



DerekSmith 08/05/03 16:07:02Hi Dr Bob, I have to agree with you logic that Lulu and the move to 'Topical' subjects is the way to go. But have you thought of going yet further? How about $5 booklets on specific topics.. i.e. Interface I/O - Com1, LPT1 and USB interfaces to external devices such as an eTrex GPS or a balance or digital thermometer or to a Pic Microprocessor development board. or Delphi Records -- Never be afraid of Records again -- dine on them for breakfast. You would probably need a user section on your site to allow users to propose topics and as the list built up, a search facility to point enquiries to the booklet(s) which covered a query, but this way a user could get access to information directly on the topic of exact interest and to a focussed depth frequently left uncovered in more general tombs. PS, I would buy the above today if you published them!! 'derekat'-'execsecdot codotuk'
Klaus Edelmann 08/05/04 00:29:07Hi Dr. Bob! For the problem hardcopy-buyed-at-lulu-without-updates vs. PDF-buyed-at-your-homepage-with-updates couldn't you set up a system in order that someone can buy the printed book at your site where you create an order at lulu to make print the book for him and send him the PDF-updates? Regards, Klaus

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