Went to a Barnes & Noble last night with the hope of finding a computer book for enjoyment reading, yea I know I’m weird that way. There was a big problem though, nothing there looked interesting. Well there was one exception, the 3 volume set of The Art of Computer Programming by Donald Kunth but didn’t really want to pony up the $150 price right now. I think part of the problem is the preponderance of those 1,000 page tomes that really say very little, “Learn X in Y days”, “The complete unabridged guide to absolutely everything and anything about Z”, I hope you get the point.
Now this got me to thinking about what I am really looking for in a computer book. First I listed the “good” books and noticed a couple of things. The list was surprisingly short. Second that they seemed to fall into 3 categories Reference, Page Turners and Just Cool.
- Programming Perl, 3rd Edition
- Perl Cookbook Tips and Tricks for Perl Programmers
- The Perl CD Bookshelf
References are the must haves, books that almost always end up next to the computer and in the book bag to take to work and have at home. In most cases the occasional reference is just as good, usually better, when online or digital than the print counterpart. Online allows for search ability, a must for good reference. Also online usually means more up to date. As a genre of computer books this one is probably dead unless one is lacking in a decent network connection.
Page Turners are the ones that are worth reading cover to cover again and again. These were more paradigm types of works. Something that changes the way one thinks about using a computer. There are definitely more of these than what I listed but if something is to change one’s thinking it needs to be presented in a short mentally manageable format.
The Just Cool are just that, there were just not enough of these books, only one. The Panda books use of photos makes it something that even has life as a coffee table piece after the contents are no longer useful.
So what did I learn?
Well reference is dead. With the advent of the ambiguous network and great search tools print reference material only serves it’s usefulness when one can’t get access to the net. Very few thick books are anything but reference.
The thick books that are not reference generally have too much to say in too many words to really be useful. Maybe more Thin Books would be a start, who knows?
What started out pretty simple, no computer books for fozbaca, has gotten quite long. Time to get back to where I started.
What I would really like to see is more thin books, something of the 200 pages or less. Drop the reference material. Something that is introducing new paradigms, methodologies and the like. Focus must be on the practical how this information is useful and worth wasting time on reading. Finally it should not be like a Unix Man page. Something that has a little life around and behind the words.