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Perl Books

Posted by brunorc on August 31, 2009

I am very happy, because I was contacted by someone who got interested in Catalyst and Perl. Luckily, this guy is quite smart, as he’s already reading Learning Perl – it’s always better to start with a good book, rather than rely only on suspicious blogs. The other book I’d say it’s worthy to read is the Intermediate Perl. In fact, O’Reilly did a lot of good job in terms of publishing useful books about Perl. And no, unfortunately they don’t pay me for advertising them; even worse, I had to pay for the ones I owe, but I don’t regret the money I spent on them.

I remember the big discussion about publishing the book about Catalyst. O’Reilly turned it down, as it was surfing high on the whole Ruby on Rails wave. One of their argument was that – at this time – Catalyst was still in flux, so its API may had been undergoing some significant changes during the publishing process. Anyway, The First Catalyst Book got prepared and released by other publisher. Maybe I’m not the best informed person, but I think that the API of Catalyst is now quite stable – but The Second Catalyst Book is published by Apress. And that’s not the only book about Perl that will be published by them, since they’re going to refresh the book for beginners, as well as prepare something for absolute beginners!

At the same time, O’Reilly on its Perl page puts the photo of Damian Conway, with the title above: Stay competitive. We can help. Let’s see: I clicked on the perl in their tag cloud and faced the page with some links to the blog posts; one from July 23, and then February, January… competitive, huh?

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that O’Reilly may be no longer interested in investing their effort into Perl books (apart from that put in those already published, which must have been huge, and I appreciate it), while preferring Erlang or Haskell. That’s OK, as those languages are interesting and O’Reilly tries to give them some spin, using some part of the income generated by the iPhone hype or other trendy topics. But then it’s the Enlightened Perl Organisation, which runs the Ironman Challenge. There’s Apress, publishing new titles. Perl already has some spin and if O’Reilly backed out for some reason, the niche created by this move has been already filled.

Update: There are also free books about Perl – maybe not the freshest ones, but still may be useful.

2 Responses to “Perl Books”

  1. brian d foy said

    I don’t know why you think that O’Reilly doesn’t have any commitment to Perl books. They’ve been publishing a major Perl book every year for a long time. As the person whose name appears on the best selling Perl book, I can assure you that O’Reilly puts a lot of effort into publishing quality Perl content.

    You have to look at sales, though. Sad to say, even at it’s best, not a lot of people are going to buy a Catalyst book, just like at its best people didn’t buy Rails books. Talk to Simon St. Laurent, my editor at O’Reilly, about that someday. He spent a lot of time writing Rails books, and didn’t get much back from it.

    Packt, who published the first Catalyst book and which is now out-of-date, and Apress, the publisher of the next Catalyst book, are front-list publishers. The lifetime on their books is measured in months (or even weeks). O’Reilly does something different with its Perl books and measures their lifetime in years. A Catalyst book isn’t good for that long, and even as you read this, it is changing yet again and will need another book in a year. Indeed, Apress’s best Perl book, “Writing Perl Modules for CPAN”, isn’t even in print anymore. It’s now just a free download.

    The trick is to find books that people will buy. There’s always some books that some people will buy, buy very few books that a lot of people will buy. And, this is in an industry where selling 5,000 copies means you have a best seller.

    • brunorc said

      Let me tell it once again:

      Don’t get me wrong. I understand that O’Reilly may be no longer interested in investing their effort into Perl books (apart from that put in those already published, which must have been huge, and I appreciate it)

      I have about ten O’Reilly books about Perl, including the Polish translation of “Mastering Perl” you signed in Barcelona, so I’m pretty aware of what this publisher did for the Perl community. But what hit me was some form of… negligence? from the once a major Perl publisher and still owner of domain – I mean it doesn’t take a lot of effort and/or money to aggregate some blog posts (and I mean the real, good blogs, not my musings) on the mentioned page. And again: I don’t demand anything from O’Reilly, I’m just stumped; but that’s not the point.

      Regarding the first Catalyst book, it is still useful. Mason Book is freely available online since 2003; Mark Jason Dominus made his Higher Order Perl free as well – both of them are quite useful, but that’s not the point.

      At YAPC::EU O’Reilly didn’t have a lot of Perl books on their stand, what stumped me again, as I completely agree with you about their outstanding and long-term quality. But for example there was a lot of books about iPhone programming, and some of them even might have been already out-of-date, because they didn’t target the OS 3.0 – I’m speculating, I didn’t check, I don’t care about programming iPhone. But again, that’s not the point.

      The point is, that even if Perl (and not only Perl, as you pointed out) books market shrank so much, that is no longer relevant for publishers like O’Reilly – there are still another players. So rather than being worried because of O’Reilly, I’m glad because of Apress.

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