I hinted at making the Maven book open months ago, but we were distracted by pre-production madness for the first edition. As we start to think about expanding the Definitive Guide again, now is the right time to release the source for Maven: The Definitive Guide and seek more community input and involvement. I’m excited about the potential here because I think it is time for the Maven book to evolve into something larger, something more comprehensive. I think we need to supplement the Maven project with some good Quick Start guides and start to expand our coverage of Maven plugins. I’ll be exposing our JIRA project and proposing a plan for the next few releases early next week. Read more for some thoughts about the importance of this shift and some of the ideas we’re kicking around.
If we’re really about open source, it is time to find a way to make collaborative, open source writing work. I’d like to use our effort as a test case for defining a healthy approach to collaborative, open-source book. Although it is starting to happen more and more (CouchDB book, Jono Bacon’s book Art of Community) printing a 400+ page book as a free online book is still somewhat controversial and revolutionary. Most people still have a problem comprehending the logic of printing a book that is available for free online. While the publishing industry is designed to protect, sell, and deliver content in exchange for currency, open source communities are more interested in distributing content for free. There’s a conflict. I’m convinced that open source projects thrive when they have a well-written book that is freely available online. We have to find a way to make open source writing work, we can’t continue to throw great documentation into book contracts that are slanted heavily toward publishers.
In addition to opening up the process, I also want to get people involved in the technology that we use to build a book. We used Wilfred Springer’s docbkx plugin. It works well, there are certainly things that we need to improve, especially in our PDF output and stylesheets. I’m going to try to engage with the JBoss project as I know they’ve created some Maven plugins for Docbook as well. There are many options, and I’d like to use the Definitive Guide as a chance to encourage the development of a “definitive” approach to book publishing with Maven. This is classic open source opportunity, if we can find a better way to render HTML, PDF, and the emerging eBook formats, I think we’ll help to create a new audience for Maven. A lot of people are writing books and hacking at custom build scripts, if we can consolidate book publishing efforts in Maven in a single place, we can bring Maven to non-developers.
So, we’re still importing the book project into GitHub, it looks like it has successfully completed, but the GitHub is still showing import activity. Tune back tomorrow for more information about accessing the book’s source.