Cost vs. Size of Books

My newest book, Programming Reactive Extensions and LINQ, is released. I’m BalancingStones very  excited about this book, and believe that it provides high-quality information that would otherwise be hard to find, clear explanations, and useful examples.

Paul Betts and I worked hard to ensure that the signal-to-noise ratio in the book was very high, and that there was no fluff or filler.

We took great pride in being able to present two fairly complex inter-related technologies (Rx and LINQ)  in a relatively short book. Naively, I thought that the book being small would be a prime selling point.

The book runs to 182 pages, and is priced at Amazon at $32.24.

This has caused at least one reviewer to pan the book, saying that $32 for 180 pages is a “rip-off.”  He made no complaint about the quality of the book; his entire critique was  restricted to the relationship between the number of pages and the price.

Personally, I do not buy books by the pound, but rather by how useful or entertaining they will be. The question in my mind is not whether 182 pages is worth $32, but rather whether these 182 pages are worth $32. After all, at least theoretically, 182 pages of valuable information must be worth more than 400 pages of fluff.

The real question that you have to ask yourself is simply this:  “would I rather have this book or keep the $32?”  It isn’t really any more complicated than that.


About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty has three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects and is the author of 2 dozen books and a couple dozen Pluralsight & LinkedIn Learning courses. He was a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP and a Microsoft MVP.
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22 Responses to Cost vs. Size of Books

  1. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thanks, However I am experiencing problems
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  2. Mike Brady says:

    Just goes to show that the best product doesn’t always sell. A couple of my favorite and most effective .NET books were two of O’Reilly’s A Developer’s Notebook titles: yours on Visual C# 2005 and Wei-Meng Lee’s ASP.NET 2.0 book.

    I can only assume that the concept didn’t sell so well since O’Reilly dropped the concept. That’s really too bad.

  3. J.M says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve passed over books because they are too big. I don’t want spend $30 or more on a book that has 10 chapters on if statements, while loops, inheritance, etc, just to get to the 3 chapters that I really want.

    I really like your position. In fact, my favorite LINQ book (haven’t read yours yet) is the LINQ Pocket Reference by Joseph and Ben Albahari. I think everyone on my team owns a copy, and 160 pages cover-to-cover, and worth every cent.

  4. Quantity is no better for books than code. Some of the best books are short and to the point. The same can be said for code. Often more time and effort is needed to make the same point with fewer words.

  5. Scott Heckel says:

    Size is something that I look at, but usually in the opposite way. I prefer short over long content when given a similiar, equal choice. Many programming books are skimmable, which is scary because you don’t know what you might be skimming over.

  6. Christopher Estep says:

    Here in Atlanta we have a world-class restaurant by Kevin Rathbun. I’ll bet if you go there on any friday night, you’ll see this joker complaining about having to pay $150 for a meal at Rathbun’s when he could get so much more at an all you can eat buffet. But who do you think has the better food?

    I’ve always equated learning to eating out and I think it’s especially apt here. In our fast-food all-you-can-eat culture we’ve become used to defining value as quantity, not quality. But there’s a reason I would go to a place like Rathbun’s over Texas Roadhouse and that’s because of the quality of the food, regardless of the price.

    Granted, I can’t always afford Rathbun’s and I’m perfectly happy getting something at a drive through that might not taste that great but will fill me up. But I don’t expect my Arby’s to taste like a 3 week dry aged steak, either.

    Books are like any other capitalist endeavor. How many books are there on Rx and LINQ? I only found one. If there were as many Rx books as HTML5 then maybe he’d have a point on length, but since your book is unique in the market, your book is the best value on Rx/LINQ books out there.

  7. alexmcferron says:

    I just bought the book (electronic version). I love your writing style and bravo on the topic. I personally think it is up to you, the author on how long you think the book needs to be and since I’ve been reading your books my entire career, I trust you. I welcome a short but good tech book.

  8. Burke says:

    I would much rather read 180 pages of concise essential information than a 400 page dissertation on a technology. That’s just my style though. I also don’t really like carrying around a book the size of “The Neverending Story”. I also prefer my blog posts this way. I say keep it short and sweet.

  9. Kevin Dockx says:

    Well, it depends on the type of book you’re writing. Of course, content = king, and the content should be precise & to the point. That said, a lot of books contain content that’s repeated throughout the book: for example, the Silverlight 4 Data & Services cookbook I wrote contains quite some repetitive content, because it’s written in a cookbook format: the idea is that a reader can just “jump” to any recipe in the book (where a recipe = a problem that needs to be solved), and read everything he needs for that recipe in those few pages. That means that, for example, in each recipe the prerequisites (eg: you need to install the SDK, this is the link) are repeated. And that of course adds to the page count (albeit very little, but still).

    However, for a book that’s written in start-to-end-fashion (the reader must read through the book and can’t just jump in at any point), I do prefer content that doesn’t repeat itself.

    By the way: congrats with the book, looks very interesting! And: never mind one reviewer, there will always be bad reviews, even when most of them are good to very good.

  10. I for one welcome the trend toward more concise, targeted and informative technical books. Bravo!

  11. All you have to do is look at the rest of that person’s reviews to get a big picture. They obviously have a bone to pick with the world – 9 reviews, all of them 1 or 2 star, all of them negative, and several of them moaning about the page-to-price ratio. I wonder if he’s even actually read the books in question, or really just glimpsed at the preview and started hacking away. I wouldn’t sweat it. It’s like consulting, software packages, or anything else – the price is an investment, the value is the return of investment. If the ROI is high, great, if not … it doesn’t matter how many pages or how inexpensive it is.

  12. Craig Muckleston says:

    I for one buy a book based on the level of experience I have with the technology I am learning about. Price doesn’t come into it. If I am after a Step by Step book, I don’t care if it’s 100 pages or 1000 pages, it’s all about the content. Same with books that dive right in.

    Jesse, I have just purchased your new book and am eagerly awaiting delivery.

  13. Craig Muckleston says:

    I for one buy a book based on the level of experience I have with the technology I am learning about. Price doesn’t come into it. If I am after a Step by Step book, I don’t care if it’s 100 pages or 1000 pages, it’s all about the content.

    Jesse, I have just purchased your new book and am eagerly awaiting delivery.

  14. Thomas Uttendorfer says:

    It’s more difficult and time consuming to write short but precise articles rather than long ones full of buzz words.
    And normally short articles or books are easier to read and understand.
    I’d pay more money for “smaller” books.

  15. Vagif Abilov says:

    But perhaps the dissatisfaction of this gentlemen was partly caused by what other reviewer wrote: “Not sure why in such a short book authors decided to dedicate a half of it to topics that have to be the pre-requisites to reading this book – .Net/C# fundamentals, LINQ, LINQ to SQL.”

    If the book has 182 pages, then IMHO it should go right to the target and assume a reader is familiar with general .NET/LINQ stuff.

    • The book is an introduction to both LINQ and to Rx – very much related technologies. As part of learning LINQ, it is helpful to review a few advanced C# concepts such as lambda expressions.

      We do assume a general familiarity with .Net and C#, however.

  16. Angelo Chiello says:

    The real question is: why a book like this is not released in a digital format?
    Am I not able to find it?

  17. Gilbert Blanco says:

    Your are right sir !
    Personally, I buy books for the quality of information and the subject matter and not for the number of pages, obviously the books of high quality of information and issues dealing with latest technology will cost more even are a few pages.

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