I’ve never promised to be completely accurate (we’re all human), and occasionally I have to decide whether to use a story one week or to put it off for a week to gather more information. The story on the confusion between the two versions of The Little Mac Book, one from Peachpit, one from Que, illustrates well why this can be a hard decision to make. I had heard a fair amount about the issue via email and in the Info-Mac digest, and Peachpit was quite helpful over the phone. The person at Que, however, knew nothing about the issue. I decided to go with the story rather than wait, since it was obviously of some importance, at least to Peachpit and to Robin Williams, author of Peachpit’s Little Mac Book.
I’ve since received email from several people about the problem and have talked to Que to get their side of the story (when you call, they now know about the problem since they’ve received a lot of irate calls). First, a little history. Way back when (about two years ago or so), Que published another book by Neil Salkind, called The Big Mac Book. We haven’t read it carefully, but upon thumbing through it in a book shop about a year ago, it looked like one of those monster-sized books that tells you everything you might want to know about the world of the Macintosh, much like The Macintosh Bible. Que and/or Neil Salkind thought it would be a good idea to publish an abridged version of the book and quite naturally decided to call it The Little Mac Book. Que scheduled this book to come out quite some time ago, well over a year ago, in fact. If Que’s Little Mac Book had come out on time, Que claims, it would have beaten Peachpit’s book to market. Here’s where everything started to fall apart. For one reason or another (Chris at Que said that they were waiting for a certain computer program or something to that effect), Que’s Little Mac Book kept getting pushed back, time after time. Meanwhile, Peachpit released Robin Williams’s Little Mac Book.
The way the identities of these books dance around is all very Shakespearian, especially since Robin Williams originally self-published her book as "Macintosh Basics: An informal guide to using the Mac." I presume that publishing companies regularly check Books in Print (available at your friendly local library) to make sure they aren’t duplicating book titles. However, when Peachpit chose the name for its Little Mac Book, Que’s book wasn’t out yet, and presumably, when Que had checked titles on the original schedule, Peachpit’s book wasn’t out yet. So it all seems like a massive mishap at this point and in the end, no one wins. Robin Williams loses because her book is likely to get less recognition in stores since Peachpit is much smaller than Que, and Que loses because the mistake has caused them to receive a great deal of negative press.
I’m still not completely happy with this explanation. Even though Chris explained that Que often ran into the problem on the other side (apparently there are plenty of books that mimic Que’s titles), I can’t believe that Que just didn’t know about Peachpit’s Little Mac Book for over a year. If they didn’t know, which is possible if a manager left and the new person wasn’t as up on the computer book industry, etc., I would hope Que would make some kind of a statement to the effect, or to possibly even change the name of their book (even though I realize that would be hard to do at this point). It seems more likely now that Que is just hoping that the furor will pass, and to be cynical, that Que’s Little Mac Book will be confused with Peachpit’s. If Que did know about Peachpit’s book in advance, then I think it is negligent that they didn’t change the title before printing, something which they had plenty of time to do, at least in retrospect.
In the end though, I have to agree with Dan Becker, who, along with Carla Rose, sent mail informing me about Que’s Big Mac Book. Dan’s closing quote was "The current situation is just sad." and I have to concur. My apologies to the people at Que if I was unfairly harsh, and my condolences to Robin Williams and Peachpit, because I think they still stand to be hurt by the presence of Que’s Little Mac Book.
Chris at Que
Dan Becker — [email protected]
Carla Rose — JC Rose on AOL