Update on Windows 10 Field Guide

Update on Windows 10 Field Guide

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the Windows 10 Field Guide, which is certainly understandable. So here’s an apology for the delays, and an explanation of what’s happening.

First, work on the book progresses, though the timing of this year’s home swap coincidental with the re-scheduled Windows 10 launch was of course unfortunate, and has certainly slowed things considerably. Right now, I’ve got well over 200 pages written in Word, including figures, and my expectation that this book will be a far more manageable size (~400 pages) than was its predecessor, Windows 8.1 Field Guide (~600 pages).

As you may know I’ve been experimenting with digital publishing for more than a few years now, and the Windows book is the only one I/we have ever charged for. With Windows 8.1 Field Guide, we decided to charge very little for the book (just $2, a ludicrous amount of money) with the hope of attracting as many readers as possible. That didn’t pan out: we made no more on that book than we did on Windows 8 Secrets, our last (and final) print book, which probably retailed for about $29.99 or whatever. Long story short, creating these books isn’t financially viable. I make a lot more money just keeping my site updated.

But I do love books. And I do enjoy the notion of this thing that can collect the valuable how-to information about Windows into a single place. I have always felt like the book could be the reference and the site could be where information gets pushed out most quickly, if in a more scattered fashion.


There are other challenges.

Our content has been stolen repeatedly, despite the low cost. Other sites have offered the book for free, and recently one site even charged for readers for this and others of my e-books, including Windows 10 Field Guide, which I’ve not even published anywhere. Since this site is hosted on Azure, I’ve alerted Microsoft. They’re moving very slowly to correct this problem. Too slowly.

With the previous book, we handled payments ourselves, taking both Amazon and PayPal. This has been an epic disaster, leading us to seek an alternative for the new book. Some people have actually challenged the $2 sale through their credit card companies, a transaction that is costly for us to fight, even though not a single person who complained about this charge ever reached out to us personally. My guess is that they didn’t recognize the charge and just challenged it, not realizing how much this hurts us. But it’s happened several times.

So we keep adjusting, and thinking about how we can present this content differently, or more efficiently.

For Windows 10 Field Guide, there have been a few changes as a result of these and other issues.

First, I’ve not been writing the pre-release version of the book publicly as I did with the previous book. I had sort of hoped some egalitarian system of feedback loop would arise naturally, but it never did. Yes, some readers are always great about supplying feedback, but most aren’t. And that’s fine. But rather than waste time pumping out pre-release book versions, I decided just to write. And perhaps add to the book more transparently once Windows 10 was out.

Second, the pricing has to go up and fairly dramatically, though not the level of retail books. I’m thinking variable pricing with the lowest possible price at $10, and the recommended price at $15. This is too much work to just give away, and while I haven’t really show this off yet, one of the neat new additions to this book is an awesome poster and a series of amazing reference sheet inserts from Martin McClean of Posterpedia fame. Martin has also made all of the wonderful Field Guide book covers, including of course the new one for Windows 10 Field Guide.

Third, we don’t want to handle payments ourselves. This lead us to Leanpub, which seemed like an ideal venue for us because they handle payments automatically. The trouble is, Leanpub paradoxically can’t handle Word documents natively, and they instead use an arcane and, sadly, writer-unfriendly system based on Markdown. Their site talks up Word conversion, but it’s garbage and hard to work with, and as of today I have yet to see a finished document that in any way corresponds to the quality I can achieve—in PDF, ePub or MOBI form—on my own. This is hugely disappointing, and we’ve spent the past week working through this issue.

Whenever we do get the first, unfinished version of this book out, I will make Windows 8.1 Field Guide available for free to anyone that wants it.

But with regards to the schedule for Windows 10 Field Guide, the original intent was for the book to ship day and date, in complete form, with Windows 10. Which was of course originally going to ship in October. This was plenty of time and wouldn’t impact my normal annual home swap, which takes place roughly the first three weeks of August each year.

But when Microsoft changed the date to late July, I knew I was sunk, and there was no way to meet that date. So my new plan was to ship an incomplete book on July 29, with the idea being that it would include the most important information for upgraders. However, there was a ton of new information about upgrading and clean installs that week, as you may recall. So I figured I’d get it out a week or so after the July 29 launch.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the absolute shitstorm of issues readers would have over the first week or two after Windows 10 launched. Between the traveling—we also had friends visit here in France for 10 days and went on a side-trip to Venice—and all that additional work, it just wasn’t possible.

Since then, it’s been an almost hilarious laundry list of excuses that include coming down with a cold, getting food poisoning, and now the most recent issues with Leanpub. I had expected to ship the book, and several updates, by now. But so far, nothing.

That will change soon, I hope. I will keep plugging away with writing, and Rafael in particular has been key in working around the weirdisms in Leanpub, so we should be there soon. The nine-hour time difference between here (France) and PST, where Rafael lives, has been problematic of course. But once the book is out, I’ll keep updating it until it’s “done,” after which I’ll just keep updating it as Windows 10 is updated.

But man, what a mess of bad timing and bad luck.

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