Perhaps we can’t quite compete with the sales volume of the iTunes Music Store’s first few days, but the sales of our first two Take Control ebooks have still utterly exceeded our initial expectations, with nearly 3,000 copies sold so far. The last week has been tiring and stressful, but in the end, we were able to put all the pieces together just in time.
Take Control of Upgrading to Panther — We published Joe Kissell’s "Take Control of Upgrading to Panther" at exactly 8 PM on Friday, October 24th, matching Panther’s release in our time zone to the minute. As soon as the Web pages went live, the orders started flooding in, some coming even from people who were waiting in line at Apple Stores that hadn’t yet opened; taking advantage of the free AirPort network at the stores, they managed to order and read Joe’s advice on iBooks and PowerBooks before going inside and buying Panther.
So what ground does Joe cover? He starts at the beginning, walking you through seven steps you should take before you even think about inserting the first Panther CD into your Mac, things like backing up your hard disk and repairing permissions. Then he looks in depth at which installation option is right for your situation, discussing exactly what each does. The actual installation process is easy, but what do you do if you can’t get it started, or if your Mac won’t start up after it’s complete? Joe provides answers to five common problems in a troubleshooting section, and for those unlucky souls for whom Panther proves problematic (hey, we’re realistic – it happens), Joe provides a number of ways you can downgrade to your previous version of the Mac OS. For those upgrading from Mac OS 9, and for those who want the cleanest possible installation, Joe gives special steps, and he throws in a bonus section that lists URLs for downloading updates to some common bits of hardware and software.
Worth $5? We’ve already heard from a number of people that Joe’s 52-page ebook is worth several times more, but personally I think Joe’s ebook is worth it for the peace of mind alone. I’ve done plenty of installations, but I wouldn’t have thought to disable all my Login items before installing, and given that the previous versions of both QuicKeys X and Default Folder cause instantaneous and distressing problems, the advice was extremely welcome.
Take Control of Customizing Panther — With barely a breather, Tonya and I kept working through Saturday to put the finishing touches on our second title, Matt Neuburg’s "Take Control of Customizing Panther." It went live just over a day later, and as with Joe’s book, no sooner had we updated the Web site than orders started to arrive.
Where Joe’s book leaves off after making sure your installation has been as smooth as possible, Matt steps up next to help you customize Panther so it works exactly the way you want it to. If you haven’t read Joe’s book, or if you’re experiencing installer’s remorse, Matt explains how you can install some of the optional pieces of Panther after the fact, along with why you’d want to. He then looks at four of the aspects of Panther that you can customize to the best effect, Finder windows, keyboard shortcuts for menu items (globally, or in a specific application), Panther’s new Exposé feature, and your font menu through the almost devilishly confusing Font Book application. He finishes off with a look at a miscellany of smaller customizations you can (and probably will want to) perform.
If Matt’s 29-page book saves you from trying to figure out how Font Book is (or isn’t) enabling your fonts, I think that alone would be worth $5, and his warnings about customizing Exposé are equally valuable.
Early Lessons Learned — It’s impossible to foresee everything, and we fielded a number of questions and comments in the hours after our initial release.
Sometimes you just have to have fun. On a lark, Joe volunteered to bake a batch of his famous (well, at least he tells us they’re famous) cherry chocolate chip cookies for a randomly chosen person from the first 1,000 orders. Little did he realize that it would take less than 13 hours to reach that point, and he hit 2,000 orders by mid-Monday. Joe’s out getting ingredients now for two batches of cookies, since we decided to extend the offer to someone from every 1,000 orders, and we’re doing the same thing with pumpkin muffins for Matt’s book.
Entering passwords in StuffIt Expander proved surprisingly troublesome for users. We password-protect the StuffIt archive containing the PDF to prevent the direct download URL from being posted somewhere out of context, but it turns out that copying the password from the email receipt from Kagi and pasting it into StuffIt Expander’s dialog box often fails (particularly with StuffIt Expander 6.0) when typing it in doesn’t, and we’ve seen crashes even in the latest version when pasting. To address this problem, we simplified the password for Matt’s book, and added more-detailed instructions to the Kagi email receipt.
Kagi normally adds VAT (value added tax) to purchases made by customers in 12 European Union member countries. I’m currently trying to figure out what’s necessary here, since it seems that under current E.U. regulations, someone has to pay the VAT in at least some of these E.U. countries. At this point, I simply can’t say how we’ll end up handling the VAT issue, but it’s a good example of how Internet taxation adds significant costs and overhead.
Part of the way we’ve managed to charge so little is that Kagi is actually sending orders through our own merchant account. It turns out that our merchant account currently accepts only Visa and MasterCard, and not American Express, Discover, or other credit cards that Kagi normally handles. I think we can add support for American Express and Discover fairly easily, but until then, I hope the limitation of Visa and MasterCard isn’t too onerous. For those who prefer the physical world, Kagi does accept checks, cash, and money orders, though using them will be slower.
Stay Tuned — We won’t have any more titles for a week or two, thanks to travel and needing to incorporate everything we’ve learned so far into our systems. So read Joe’s and Matt’s books, and rest assured that the rest of our authors are utterly jazzed by Joe’s and Matt’s success and are hard at work on additional titles. Thanks for believing in us on this one.