Why you should buy Jeff Atwood’s ebook

Yesterday I bought myself a copy of Jeff Atwood’s new ebook Effective Programming: More Than Writing Code, which collects some of the best articles from his popular blog Coding Horror. Sure, I can read all the articles in Effective Programming for free on Coding Horror, but I chose to buy the book anyway, and if you enjoy Jeff’s writing then you should too.

Bloggers like Jeff put a ton of time and energy into their writing, and there are few opportunities for them to recoup that investment. One way to earn an income from blogging is by publishing a book. Jeff is a published technical writer, but he makes no secret of his disillusionment with the traditional publishing model, and as he explained on his blog this week that’s why he chose the self publishing route this time around.

You might think that with its cover price of $2.99 Jeff couldn’t possibly hope to make any money from his ebook, but by self publishing he bypasses the middlemen who would otherwise take the lion’s share of the book’s profits. According to figures Jeff quotes on Coding Horror, an author can expect to receive about a dollar in royalties for each dead tree book sold, which is frankly a sorry state of affairs. He cites the example of John Resig, who earned $1.87 for each copy of Pro Javascript, a book that retails for almost $30. Contrast that with the self publishing model, under which the author can expect to net about 50% of the profits (source). That means Jeff stands to earn as much from his $2.99 ebook as he would from a conventional book. That’s a win for Jeff and a win for us.

When you buy a self published book you help make online publishing financially viable for writers, and support the writing they otherwise make available for free. $2.99 seems to me a very small price to pay for the enjoyment I get from reading Coding Horror, not to mention the very tangible improvements Jeff’s other projects have made to my professional life – I’m referring of course to Stack Overflow, the website Jeff co-founded with Joel Spolsky, and which has saved me from countless hours debugging code.

Of course the main reason you should buy Effective Programming is that Jeff is a great writer. On Coding Horror he writes about programming and software development without getting bogged down in code examples, choosing to focus instead on the meta issues that affect our profession: creating usable software, the principles of good programming, writing secure code, building a development team, and the programmer’s career path, amongst other topics. I’ve been a regular reader of Coding Horror for about a year now, and I’m looking forward to discovering some more of the blog’s “greatest hits” in the book.