Roberto Galoppini just published a brief interview with Mark de Visser this morning which covers Sonatype’s open documentation efforts. As someone who has been involved with Sonatype’s open book efforts along with Jason, Brian, John, Jason, Bruce, and our other contributing authors it is interesting to see the traffic and interest that is generated by something as simple as free documentation. I’ve long been a big believer that books about open source software should be as free as the software itself, and I’m also convinced that solid documentation is a necessary foundation for a vibrant open-source community. Without a good “free” book, it is nearly impossible for an open source project to grow a community.
Here’s an excerpt where Mark discusses our relationship with O’Reilly, and how we’re currently trying to find ways to get our books into print format via print-on-demand.
Mark de Visser: Our publisher, O’Reilly, has been an invaluable part of the success of Maven: The Definitive Guide. When you write a book, you usually deliver a product to the production department of a publisher and that publisher prints a few thousand copies which are distributed to a network of book sellers and intermediaries. Once you deliver the manuscript, both the content and the community are out of your hands. This “dead-tree model” of publishing is as antiquated as it is impersonal, and, with the Maven book, we saw a chance to break the cycle and work with a publisher like O’Reilly who is very open to the idea of publishing a freely available book. Our editor, Mike Loukides, wasn’t hesitant at all to agree to publish a free book and talked about the success they have had with books like the Subversion book and the Asterisk book, both of which were free but generated a great deal of print sales. We will jointly evaluate options to deliver print-on-demand versions of the print books, which match closer to the dynamic nature of our constantly updated online books.
Not only are we interested in pursuing less traditional avenues such as print-on-demand, we’re currently evaluating some of the more open electronic book formats such as ePub. Since our documentation is written in the DocBook XML format, there are some fairly straightforward open source projects designed to create ePub output from a standard DocBook or DITA document. Stay tuned.