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Re: [OT] OpenSource Documentation Fund

At 12:46 AM 5/27/00 -0700, you wrote:
>On Fri, May 26, 2000 at 08:23:31AM -0700, Poet/Joshua Drake wrote:
>>For Immediate Release:
>>OpenDocs Publishing announces: The Open Source Documentation Fund.

>The problem here is that someone else can publish LDP docs, not pay
>authors anything, and then undersell whoever does pay them.  As
>electronic media (distribution via the Internet and CDs) becomes
>predominant, this publishing scheme loses it's significance.  It also
>saves paper and trees.

I am a small publisher. I have considered publishing books on some aspect
or another of Linux, in particular some of the LDP documents. So far I have
done nothing because I really don't know what would be good to do. I have
no problem with paying the authors and the LDP a share of the profits, if I
found a project that I think would be worthwhile doing.

I do think there is a market for a paper copy of certain documents. I took
my old computer (which used to run NT), put a new, cheap, hard drive in it
and installed Corel Linux just to see what all the Linux hoopla was about.
I found the documentation that came with it pretty useless. Were it not for
newsgroups and friends helping me out, I would never have gotten the
network or the modem working. At that, I bought the Idiot's Guide, but it
didn't help a lot either.

There seem to be a ton of Linux books at the bookstores, but mostly dealing
with things that I either had no interest in (e.g., programming) or were
about specific distributions that didn't match anything I was finding on my

One thing that seems to be completely lacking, both in the LDP and
currently published books, is a troubleshooting guide. For example, what if
someone went through the newsgroups and compiled the most commonly asked
questions ("The ppp daemon died unexpectedly -- what does that mean?") --
and then did a step-by-step checklist for the user to go through. I sure
wish I had been able to get my hands on something like that. Would have
saved me a lot of frustration and a lot of my friends' time and effort.

The problem I found was that I would post a question in a newsgroup and
people would respond by posting an URL to a document in the LDP. I would
dutifully go to the URL, but the text was incomprehensible to me.
Everything was written in Geekspeak. The authors assumed too much knowledge
on the part of the reader, thus failing to define terms before using them.

Anyway, enough ranting by someone who doesn't know much about what he is
talking about. I just wanted to say that, if there is something that could
be published in short runs, I'm always interested. I'm a small publisher --
I can produce about 50 copies a day max, so a national best-seller is not
of interest to me. My specialty is short runs. My output is high-speed
laser direct from the computer, so I can make instant editorial changes as
the material gets out of date. I can be profitable on runs of 200 copies at
a time, yet my product looks as professional as anything in a bookstore.

Another of my specialties is writing. I cannot possibly qualify to do any
of the documents for the LDP, as I know nothing to speak of about Linux.
But I have a skill that I find is very lacking -- the ability to explain.
Writing is my thing. I have spent half my life as a teacher and textbook
writer. I can translate Geekspeak into English. Perhaps a publishing
project that would use these abilities would be of interest. And, of
course, to me it is a commercial venture, with enough potential profit to
compensate me, the LDP and the authors.

As for others publishing LDP documents for less, I don't see that as a
serious problem. Once you announce that you are going to publish a
document, the rest of the publishing world will hold off. For example, at
one point I was interested in doing a beginner's book on Corel Linux. Then
I read that someone was already doing one that was scheduled to be released
a month or two down the road. I shelved my plans. With two of us there
would not be enough market for either product. I'd rather let him have that
market. I'll find something else to do. 

>Thus I think we need other methods of funding.  Governments and
>charitable organizations could be one source.  Another is to ask for
>donations from users of Linux, especially ones who have gotten it
>free by downloading or using someone else's CD.

Sort of like shareware applications. Maybe this could be at least part of
the solution for LDP funding. Perhaps the LDP should consider developing
multiple sources of revenue, rather than trying to get it all from one source.

OK, I've wasted enough of everyone's time, so I should shut up now I guess.

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