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Old April 23rd, 2017, 05:29 AM
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Default Questions about Wrox Future - Book Feedback & Concerns

There is no TL:DR version. Either read it all or ignore it all. These are the thoughts of a concerned reader – professional .net developer


Wrox Future

I have been thinking about writing a post like this one for months but I guess I didn't know how to present my thoughts in a way that would not insult someone. Actually I still don't but I’ll give it a try. Please Wrox stuff don't take the following as a personal insult but as some ideas-concerns from a worried (ex?)-reader.

For the past couple or more years I see a decline in Wrox book quality and even quantity. Is the company going bankrupt? Has the company being bought from a major publishing house that has other priorities that don't line up with the previous priorities of Wrox? Are the writers bored? Stressed? Not allowed to do their job? Is the interest of printed books in decline in the community? What is the future hold for Wrox and its readers? Any plans you would like to share? I could go on asking a lot more but by now I believe you get my point. On a side note I’d like to see an answer to at least some of the above questions.

Personal Background

I have always been in awe of Wrox Programming Books. I bought almost all Microsoft related ones. Allow me to introduce myself in a paragraph or so. I'm a .NET developer from Greece. I started learning about C# years ago from Wrox books. Back then I had a very low income (now it’s worse but that's another story) so I couldn't buy books. All Wrox books in Greece were 10-20 euros higher than lets say in England. So being desperate I downloaded and printed the .pdf versions of them. Shameful I know. Over the years, growing up, I decided the legal printed books are a better choice so I searched and found bookdepository.com and bought ALL books again. Transferred notes from the old printed copies to the new books. Bottom line: I know and I have studied almost all Wrox Microsoft related books cover to cover. I could provide pages upon pages of feedback, errata, and things that are plain wrong, not just mistakes.

Book Feedback

Before I start presenting some ideas I would like to give a more focused feedback about some of the books.

Entry C#:
Beginning Visual C# 2010 and 2012 were amazing books. Anyone could follow them from start to finish and actually learn stuff. There were only a few gaps that needed to be filled by more professional books or a little google search. Beg. Visual C# 2015 in my eyes was disappointing. Anyone who read the previous versions already knew there were pieces missing. Maybe it was simple or silly things but without them the gaps between topics became bigger. Comparing with previous version I felt like something (even a little) was missing. The book page count went down while the topics, as is usual in IT went up. So the author had to make hard choices. I believe this is not his fault but as a reader I don’t care. The end result was worse than 2010/2012.

Pro C#:
All Professional C# series by Mr. Nagel and others were and are still AMAZING. I was trying really hard to find something to whine or accuse him for but I couldn’t find. Maybe because he is STILL updating his book through his blog. If it wasn’t for this blog I guess I would still call the book amazing but without caps lock activated. For more feedback on the latest book of his check my other forum post.

Entry ASP.NET C#:
Same story as the beg. C# paragraph above. The 2010 (Asp.NET 4.5) and 2012 (ASP.NET 4.5.1) were amazing reads. Especially 4.5.1 was an exceptional book. Imar was (I don’t follow anymore) very active on the book forums, offered solutions etc. I realize this is an entry book so the blog solution mentioned above wouldn’t help much but if it was offered, meaning the book was updated I would have to use the caps lock again. The 2015 version that tried to merge 2 frameworks seemed innovative. Someone could read, learn, and compare the 2 frameworks side by side. I was so hyped for this. The implementation though was lucklaster, to present it as gentle as I can. The book needed at least 100-150+ pages to expand on the topics presented. Also it needed better reviewing. There are things that are wrong in there like the foreach where he tries to change the backing variable. Also the book has ZERO updates since it has been released and STILL it doesn’t have an errata… For more feedback on this book check my other forum post.

This book is good, yes just good. It starts ok, continues ok but as some point the paragraphs are placeholders. Exactly. They offer a link to continue online. I wouldn’t mind this being the case when the paragraph was a few pages long. But not when the paragraph is a few sentences long… It can’t be that expensive to add a 100 pages to a book. My professional printer sure has no problem handling it in similar occasions. So I Imagine for a big publishing house it would be a non-issue.

The Professional Asp.NET 4.5 in C# and VB was indeed a professional book. Very good page count and exceptional topic coverage across the board. You should feel proud as Wrox that you published this book along with Pro C# 6 and .NET core. On the negative side again: where is the corresponding version for asp.net core? A big badass book that covers everything asp.net core related?

Generic Books:
Beginning HTML and CSS: Very good entry book as it is advertised. If I had to find a negative point I would say that it was written before html 5 was an official standard (although it covers html5 just fine). I don’t think it warrants a new version. Perhaps a blog post updating the few points of the book that need a retype and perhaps the addition of a chapter or 2.
Beg Javascript 5th ver. Very good book. Haven’t read it yet. Feedback reserved for some time in the future
Jquery: Havent read it cover to cover yet. Feedback reserved for some time in the future
Software engineering: Almost read 50% of it. Interesting read. But why is it so small? It seems like someone was in a hurry to print some topics. The author seems to have quite an expertise with these subjects. Why not let him express himself in at least a few more pages? Some topics are like summaries. Where is the original text?

Visual Studio books:
I only bought VS 2015. It was amazing. I don’t expect 2017 tbh. Something is broken in Wrox. And if by some miracle a 2017 version is released it won't be updated as usual. Sorry for being salty but this is the hard truth.

SQl server 2012 programming: The best book I have ever read on applied databases. Meaning not databases in theory (we had plenty of those in university back then) but in an applied environment -> MSSQL. I’m sure the 2014 and now 2016 version of the program must have something that warrants a new book on DB programming, or not? In any case this book should exist in every bookcase.
MS SQL reporting services:
These ones are the only ones I don’t own but I see a continuation of the series up to the latest 2016 version so good job there.

Woah it seems I have a lot of wrox books!

Future Buys
Enough with book feedback. I would have bought Professional GIT and sql reporting 2016 but I don’t see the point (from my current business perspective). I reserve my right to judge them at a later point in future. I have a feeling they must at least be decent. Also I am expecting front end in asp.net core. It has been delayed for a year now? I know it won’t be as good as a professional ASP.NET core book (that I asked for in previous paragraphs) but at least it puts the emphasis on front end.

I see no book for Angular JS 2 // Bootstrap 3 or 4 // Professional ASP.NET Core // ASP.NET Security (identity and others) // Professional Visual studio 2017 // Beginning visual C# 7 (for this just update the old book) // Web Programming Practices or Web Development tricks for LoB applications or whatever. // SQL Programming 2016 (insert cloud options as well)

With docs.microsoft.com someone might argue that there is no point in printing books anymore. Well someone with mental problems (no offence) maybe. But the truth is: a book is not only presenting a technology, the know-how etc. it also presents the experience of the readers and the reviewing community via exercises , quizzes, mini projects, tips. You can never get these in online tutorials. Obviously you can get them if you search through a ton of tutorials but you get my point. Plus a book has a beginning, and an end. I for one, although 32 years old atm and will keep using books to learn stuff and google to fill any gaps presented from reading a book. As an alternative I use Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA). If Wrox can’t fulfill my needs I can turn to apress.com or similar publishing houses. And no, Willey .NET books are a joke or are aimed for students at university not me, not us developers.


Kind regards,
Papathomas Ioakeim
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Old July 12th, 2017, 09:14 AM
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Wow, thanks for the incredible feedback and please accept my apologies for the late response. This post was trapped in moderation limbo and I just spotted and released it. I'll do my best to answer this as I can.

Wrox went bankrupt. In 2003! John Wiley & Sons ("Wiley") bought Wrox's best-sellers at the time out of bankruptcy in 2003. All of the book's you've listed as "great" and those not so great have all been published while Wrox has been and still is a part of Wiley.

Here are the big changes I can talk about:
Pluralsight, Lynda.com, and others have had tremendous success teaching programming and web development through videos and that's dramatically cut the number of people reading books. Writing takes more time by freelance authors than creating video and as books sell fewer copies, the best authors can no longer devote the time to books and forums they used to.

Safari Books Online and other subscription book services offer reading 10,000+ books a month for one low subscription price. While Wrox and the author get paid for books being on there, we all get paid a lot less than someone buying books. Safari is "netflix for tech books" and publishers aren't making enough money from Safari to publish as many books.

The bottom line: even our best-sellers like Professional C# and Professional ASP.NET that you mention sell fewer copies than they used to. The success and profit of the best editions of those (ASP.NET 2.0, 3.5, 4; C# 2005, 2008, 2010) funded investment in new and speculative books. The best-sellers sell less now, meaning less money to invest in other new books. Simple business.

Authors have always been freelancers (at least the last 14 years) and many of them have either moved on to new career challenges or even done interesting things outside work - like getting married and raising a family. The work they did in forums was because the loved helping people learn and while they still love that, they may also love spending time with families.

We continue to publish a very selective list of books with potential to be worth the author's time. There's a great new edition of Professional JavaScript on the way, Reto is finishing the latest edition of Professional Android, and there are others.

And there are also fewer of us working on more things - the same situation you've probably seen in many companies. I worked on nothing but Wrox for almost 10 years but lately I get to work on books on cybersecurity and a few others things too. While those are great and fun, it does mean I miss things - like moderating the forums as well as I should. Sorry.

I hope this helps. We're still alive and working hard.
Jim Minatel
Associate Publisher, WROX - A Wiley Brand
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Old July 12th, 2017, 10:21 AM
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Thank you for the reply. The post was indeed caught in moderation limbo and because it took me a while to edit it I decided to just drop it instead of trying to post it again. The initial draft I had written in MS Word was a bit hostile so I edited on the fly to actually make it a feedback post.

I'm glad you are still alive and working hard. I see what you mean. The business model seems to have changed. You cant argue though that the quality of a well written book cant compare with online tutorials. That's why it is easier to publish videos. "A book has a beginning and an end".

Well, I got some answers even if it took a while. Keep up the good work.
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