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A Rising Tide of Ebooks

Adam is fond of talking about the "Macintosh ecosystem" and how the companies and products that make up that system generally work together for a common good. When a shortcoming is found in Mac OS X, for example, software developers create utilities to address it. In many cases, you get several programs that do the same thing, but with their own unique approaches. Look at the plethora of snippet-keepers (many of which Matt Neuburg has reviewed). A couple years ago, I didn’t put much thought into whether such note-taking and -organizing software existed, and now I look for which one offers the features that suit my style of working.



The same effect is starting to apply to electronic books, as well. Since TidBITS Electronic Publishing started the Take Control series of ebooks (of which I’ve edited three titles), I now pay more attention to other publishers who are releasing Mac how-to books using the electronic publishing route. As more titles appear, the credibility and usefulness of the entire category improves – "a rising tide floats all bits," if you will.


If you’re looking for more resources to expand your Mac how-to book library (and since I make part of my living publishing printed books, I include traditional publishers in that classification), here are a few other ebook publishers that have recently released titles.’s Scroll Down Books — I often wonder how the folks at have time to review all the books and products that they do. Now they’re adding to their plate by launching Scroll Down Books. So far they’ve released two $5 titles in PDF format: "Buying Used Macs," by Neale Monks (176 pages), and "iMovie – On the Cheap," by Chris Seibold (95 pages). (Seibold’s title covers iMovie 4, not iMovie HD, but because the two versions don’t differ significantly – aside from the capability to edit HD footage – all of the information still applies. It wouldn’t surprise me if Seibold is working on an update, as are the rest of us who have published iMovie books.) Although both titles are inexpensive, I was hoping to find a free downloadable sample of each book to let potential buyers preview the content and style of writing.


Fix a Troubled Mac — One of the advantages of electronic publishing is the speed and ease of being able to update an ebook as software and hardware advances. Fix a Troubled Mac, a $15, 222-page PDF written by "dirtymouse" (would a real name be so hard to include?), certainly benefits from that type of flexibility. The title includes troubleshooting information for Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X, with lots of photos and diagrams to help navigate the often headache-inducing process of nailing down and fixing problems. A 4.1 MB sample can be downloaded from Apple’s Web site.


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SpiderWorks — Another advantage of electronic publishing is its economies of scale. When a print publisher creates a title, the company pays for the printing of a minimum of a few thousand copies up front, with the expectation that it will recoup its investment from sales of those copies. But what if a publisher doesn’t think a title will sell its minimum print requirement, or what if the publisher doesn’t have the money on hand for the initial print run? The history of publishing is strewn with good titles that haven’t been released or updated because publishers, for whatever reason, chose not to invest in them.

SpiderWorks, a new ebook publisher, is filling that gap by publishing updated electronic editions of books that are no longer in print (as well as brand new titles). The last edition of Danny Goodman’s AppleScript Handbook was published in 1995, but now SpiderWorks is offering the third edition of the title as a $15 PDF (388 pages), now updated for Mac OS X. Also coming back for more is Dave Mark’s Learn C on the Macintosh ($15, PDF, 292 pages), updated for Mac OS X. New titles include David Hill’s Cocoa Game Programming ($10, PDF, 152 pages) and Ben Waldie’s AppleScripting the Finder ($10, PDF, 107 pages). You can download samples of each ebook, which include the full table of contents and some content.


It’s great to see other publishers releasing ebooks that go well beyond simply printing a traditional book to a PDF file by adding features like links, bookmarks, and layouts designed for onscreen reading. For instance, the SpiderWorks ebooks all feature a two-column layout that seems to be a good fit with the horizontal screens of most Macs and that prints horizontally on an 8.5 by 11-inch sheet of paper.

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