Learning Perl sells decently well, even in eBook formats

It's royalty report time, so the mailbox was full of checks this week. I keep close tabs on how well my books do so I can figure out if the time to write the books would have been better spent making fancy coffees at Starbucks. I think I'm slightly ahead, but only slightly.

However, I noticed that the total revenue for Learning Perl, 4th Edition is very close to $1,000,000 for the 20 quarters it has been available. And, curiously, it's getting closer to that number even though the latest edition has been out for 9 quarters. Who's still buying the old edition?

Even better, though, the Fifth Edition is already over $500,000 in total revenue. Now, only a small slice of that gets to the authors, especially on a title with multiple authors, and that only comes four times a year over several years. My cut of Learning Perl, 4th Edition is only 1%, so I'm not buying any Bentleys.

My co-author (and original author) Randal Schwartz probably isn't as excited about that as I am. I think he was doing that level of revenue every quarter back in the First and Second editions, when you could write "Perl" or "Java" on a cardboard box and sell it for $75 with no trouble at all. That was the time to be a writer looking for enough money to eat.

I'm a bit more upbeat, though, because eBook sales have really taken off. Learning Perl is no slouch of a seller, but a fourth of its sales, measured in units sold, were eBooks for Q2. My other O'Reilly books have similar ratios. I think that's directly related to O'Reilly Media's commitment to eBooks and figuring out how to sell them. Instead of trying to make them the same price as the print book, they give you a break (normally about 25%), and you get access to the book for life, in a variety of formats, and with no tricky DRM. I still think eBook prices should be lower, but we're working on it :)

And, with Perl 5.14 due out sometime next year, expect some updates to some major books. I've been using the /r flag on the subsitution operator quite a bit, and it deserves to be in print. :)

1 Comment

Is the authors' cut on eBooks the same?

Leave a comment

About brian d foy

user-pic I'm the author of Mastering Perl, and the co-author of Learning Perl (6th Edition), Intermediate Perl, Programming Perl (4th Edition) and Effective Perl Programming (2nd Edition).