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The StartX Files: Why Johnny Can't Read Linux Books - page 2

Penguins Chasing the Publisher's Eye

  • June 4, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

There are four reasons why Linux books have not taken off well.

First, the predisposition for all Linux users to use online and open source documentation. Newcomers to Linux often acquire some sort of guru early on and that guru is not likely to point their charge at some slick 400-page Linux book when a man page or two will do the same job.

Secondly, there is the cost. Why plunk down $29.95 for a book when with a little research and questioning, you can find the answer you need, often tailored to your own unique situation?

Thirdly, the type of user who is new to Linux is often someone who is very familiar with computers to begin with. Very, very few new Linux users are completely new to computers as well, though the efforts of Geekcorps and SEUL-EDU are changing this. Because of this, and because Linux is not all that different interface-wise from Windows, not much new documentation is needed.

Finally, there is the hacker mentality that derives more pleasure from the journey rather than from the actual discovery itself. Day after day, we are regaled in stories of how our fellow users walked through some sort of gauntlet to find out a new piece of information. We love that kind of stuff and want to do it ourselves. Picking up a book is just an easy way out for many Linux users, one that they are not going to travel unless they absolutely need to.

Now, I should add that there are some successful Linux titles out there. Matt Welsh's Running Linux is one of my all-time favorites and it has good numbers. I am sure you have your own favorites and I invite you to share them in the Linux Today talkbacks. These titles, I am sure, will endure.

But expect to see a decrease in the number of Linux titles in the months to come, as many book publishers pull out of the Linux market for now. Some will hedge their bets and keep the most popular Linux titles in circulation, to be sure, but only the strongest will survive.

When Linux sees a huge new influx of users that are novices in technology, then the general Linux book titles will be back. Until then, expect to see the old standbys and maybe some specialized new topics (like Linux programming) as the publishers try to make that next lucky strike.

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