My editor at O'Reilly & Associates sent me an email the other day. It read "I'm pleased to tell you that SQL in a Nutshell will be one of 19 titles submitted to Apple by early next week. It may take up to 3 weeks after that for them to appear." From what I understand, it might cost anywhere from a few cents to $4.99. That's an awesome price, considering the print edition is within spittin' distance of $50.00. And, in my humble opinion, it's a price that very nearly constitutes highway robbery when you consider the amount of toil that I and my co-authors put into the book, now in its third edition. On the other hand, any publicity is good publicity. So I'm excited to see what happens next.
In case you hadn't heard this from other authors, let me be the first to tell you. Remember that old song Video Killed the Radio Star? Well, we've got the same crime with slightly different actors. (No, it's not Ms Scarlet in the Library with the Lead Pipe!) Simply put, the internet is killing print. It's a fact. Newspapers are losing subscribers in droves (averaging about 6% - 7% last quarter alone). Magazines are withering away. While my favorite news magazine The Economist (an English publication with a conservative bent) is still as fat as an old Sears & Roebuck catalog (also killed by the internet) with lots of words in tiny print, have you bothered to pick up a copy of Time or Newsweek lately? They're so thin that they're almost transparent, which can also be said of royalty checks for database authors too.
My books have been available via the website Safari for quite a while. Which, for some reason, seems to be as effective a marketing statement as "I'm kind'a a big in Europe. Really. I am." And while I know there's a line for it on my royalty statements, it has never made a measurable difference to my bottom line as an author. Will the Internet ever make a dollar for any of us content creators? I fear not. After all, smarter and richer people have tried to make a buck tackling this same question. (Ok - now that I think of it, those people are probably not smarter. But for a while longer, at least, they're a whole lot richer.) Ever taken a look at all those news stories about kids getting sued for downloading Metallica and Colbie Calet without paying? Well, the downloaders are winning.
As I thought about the opportunity, I happened upon this great article that helped me see why having my book as an iPhone app was a good thing: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/why-are-iphone-users-willing-to-pay-for-content/. Maybe there's salvation for content creators in the delivery channel? Maybe iPhone users will consider paying a tiny fee for great content partly because they simply enjoy using their cool gadget/PDA/statement of personal style with excellent interfaces and eminently readable print, bookmarking, and other fancy features? The jury is still out. Yes - reading SQL in a Nutshell on your iPhone or iPod will make you cooler. (That's my story - and I'm sticking to it.) And if too few people agree with that statement, I, and many other content creators like me might not come around for the next edition...