Browsing the puny (I miss Borders!) Technology section at the local Barnes & Noble today, I did not see a single Perl book. I was hoping that they sold out, but the manager confirmed my fears: they no longer carry Perl books in that store. The reason, he said, is that no Perl book has been published since 2012.

In regard to the size of the Technology section: The way the shelves are stocked is based on sales. Since people rarely buy their technology books from the store (guilty...), the Technology section is correspondingly small. "The people who are interested in these books read them in the Cafe, but they never buy them."

There was a healthy selection of Python, C#, and even Objective-C titles. On the other hand, there was only one book on Go. After looking up Go in this computer, the store manager explained this one as follows: these books are prepaid, meaning that you can order them, they get printed on-demand, and then you buy them at the store. I did not feel satisfied with this explanation, but politely let the manager attend to other customers and wandered off, deep in thought...

Is the writing on the wall for Barnes & Noble, too? It will be a sad day when this store closes. The local Borders was replaced by DSW; what will replace Barnes & Noble? A Zumba school? Cheesecake Factory? Another DSW to compete with the one 1 mile away? How many pairs of shoes do we need?

I spend between $100 and $200 at that store yearly: I buy children's books that look interesting and cost little. Today, too, I did not walk out empty handed. The sun was shining and people were going about their day, happy to be off on a Tuesday. And none of them knew (and did they know, they would not have cared) that there was not a single Perl book in that book store and there never again will be. Truly, an end of an era.


"No Perl book has been published since 2012" is incorrect.

* Learning Perl (7th Edition) by Randal L. Schwartz, brian d foy, Tom Phoenix: October 2016
* Programming Perl (4th Edition) by Tom Christiansen, brian d foy, Larry Wall, Jon Orwant: February 2012
* Intermediate Perl (2nd Edition) by Randal L. Schwartz, brian d foy, Tom Phoenix: July 2012
* Mastering Perl (2nd Edition) by brian d foy: January 2014
* Modern Perl (4th Edition) by chromatic: October 2015
* Penetration Testing with Perl by Douglas Berdeaux: December 2014
* Perl One-Liners by Peteris Krumins: December 2013

Those were just the ones searching for "perl" on O'Reilly's website.

What's really more interesting is that O'Reilly has stopped selling physical books. Their website now directs you to Amazon. They say that people are more interested in subscription services such as Safari. There's been a huge shift in the post-literate society recently that I can see in my sales. It's not about Perl becoming niche (which I don't argue), but the way people want to consume information (or, indeed, decline to consume it). I encounter many more people now who, despite all the efforts of communities to provide knowledge, aren't reading.

What's really going to kill it is the lack of financial rewards for writing the books. Sales have fallen off a cliff in the past year. It's not just that I write about Perl for a small audience. It's one of the reasons I had a Kickstarter for Learning Perl 6. I couldn't gamble on doing the work and then getting weak sales. I think there might not be enough possible sales in the pipeline for updates to those other O'Reilly books.

Some people who write books do it as a side project with a full time job. Someone can do that and get away with it, but you don't often see updates to those books or additional books from those authors. That's too bad. I'd like to see much more from Damian and Mark Jason but the money isn't there. Although I can't speak to their choices, I think if Damian had 1% of Obama's book deal, we'd have a kick ass Perl 6 book from him. Heck, I bet Damian would do it for 0.1%.

I think if Damian had 1% of Obama's book deal, we'd have a kick ass Perl 6 book from him.

Yes. No question about it.

As brian indicates, it's simply a matter of ensuring the book earns enough to cover the cost of living while it's written...and earns that amount fast enough to compensate for living without other income while it's being written. And, yes, even 0.1% of Mr Obama's deal would probably achieve that.

Indeed, that 0.1% might well represent more income that all my books have collectively earned over the past two decades. For the overwhelming majority of authors, writing books is a social means, not a financial end.

An even deeper problem is the opportunity cost of writing a book. When I'm writing, I can't realistically be keynoting, or teaching, or consulting, or developing new ideas and new presentations. So for any book deal to make economic sense, it has to be paid at the kind of rates I can earn for those activities.

Which book deals are not...unless you are J. K. Rowling or Barack Obama. (If only I'd written Larry Wall and the Objects of Perl or The Audacity of Perl Best Practices. ;-)

I suspect that things will get even tougher now that O'Reilly is moving to an "all-you-can-eat smorgasbord" model. It's not clear to me how they will pay royalties on books that are accessed via subscription, but I'm pretty confident that this change won't produce a substantial increase in income for most authors.

There are so many existing Perl authors from whom I'd love to see another book, but I understand how very unlikely that is. For almost all of us, the financial hit from writing a book is something we can afford only once or twice in our career. With six excellent Perl books (and a seventh on the way), brian is our community's most notable exception. And even he now seems to be proving the rule.

Self publishing is easier than ever. Which is being taken advantage of.

Whats interesting is that as a result of changes in the way people consume media, we are seeing people embrace new concepts. Or perhaps, old concepts with a new spin on them.

For example, perl maven is more or a less a serial with regular editions. This likely suits people who have a few moments to read over it while in transit or squat 'n surfing.

Perl tricks dot com is similar. Although its really just a blog.

I am not aware of, but would like to hear about, anyone with a regular "podcast".

I am also unaware of anyone doing regular video podcast things (vlogs?) relating to perl. Kids sit for hours watching **minecraft** or watching people **unwrap consumer electronics and clothes** - surely there is a gap there for someone to post perl?

Kids sit for hours watching **minecraft** or watching people **unwrap consumer electronics and clothes** - surely there is a gap there for someone to post perl?

There is a big difference between making a Let's Play video or an unboxing event and a proper tutorial.

The gamers often have quite substantial income from those streams and the related advertising, which gives them access to high-end recording software and editing tools, or even people who edit it for them. They need to invest a lot of time into research and building their brand. It might look like it's just playing games (which the video itself probably is), but there is a lot of preparation required.

People doing unboxing on the other hand need patience, and also decent equipment. They often also have deals with product manufacturers, which give them stuff to unbox for free, or money to buy better gear. Recording something like that takes a lot of time to get it right.

I train young developers in Perl on the job, and I can say that really preparing material for a structured course is a lot of work. And I'm not talking about the high quality stuff that Damian, brian or Curtis do. Just writing down a seemingly simple tutorial for a trainee with little technical knowledge for a one day task where you're expecting them to figure stuff out on their own is already quite a hand full.

Doing that in a way that it comes across structured and well-prepared is really hard. Making it entertaining at the same time is even harder. And the same people who like to watch the things you've mentioned likely value quality, so making all of this in a way that it looks nice (something we as a community are not particularly good at in general) will be even more work. I wouldn't want to watch someone rambling about some code while hacking away in a screen-recorded vim or notepad, correcting typos all the time and not following a script.

I think the idea is good, and it might be nice to get Perl content on one of these video training platforms that have popped up and provide high quality content for a lot of technologies. But rolling your own is hard. You've mentioned Gabor's Perl Maven. He has also tried recording videos, but as far as I remember he has not been doing that for a while. Maybe he'll tell us why. My guess is it's too much work compared to writing, and the ROI is way too low.

Self publishing is easier than ever, but don't mistake what you see for people making money.

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About Dmitri

user-pic I blog about Perl.