Last week, after a lot of thought and a heap of work, we released my book, Designing for the Web, online. For free. It was only published a year ago, so why release it so soon? Well, I tried to answer it several times in 140 characters, but it’s never enough is it?

There seems to be a history - with a few notable exceptions - of publishing book content online only after it has lost its relevancy, recency, or often, both. As an author, this bothers me; particularly for a book about web design. However, as a small publisher I can of course understand why this is the case. When the book no longer pulls in large sale numbers, or more importantly, when it is deemed ‘out of date’, or ‘no longer as relevant as it once was’, then the motivation for publishing online, for free, is to get a firm grip of the Long Tail in search of new sales. Makes sense.

But I want my book to be relevant. I wanted to increase the reach, and lower the barriers to one sector of the industry that is underserved by this business model: students.

I get a lot of email from students asking for education discounts, advice, tips on how to get into the industry and a plethora of other subjects. But the largest complaint we’ve had on Designing for the Web is the cost for students. I remember being a student (and 15 years ago in the UK, students had it easier than they do now). I remember being handed a book list as long as my arm on my first week in University. My first thought: how the hell am I going to afford this? Then you’re forced to prioritise on a list you know nothing about. Which books do you buy, when you could buy food? Or beer? It’s a tough choice.

We pride ourselves on creating a beautiful, substantial products for Five Simple Steps. It’s why other authors have asked to write with us. We’re not prepared to compromise on that quality to lower costs for a broader reach; there are plenty of other publishers who do that. We’re focussed on creating a great physical product and a PDF version that is equally considered. When you’re buying our books, you buy the whole experience, not just the words.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the online version. So, the idea was that we’d launch the book online to serve that audience who prefers to read their content online, or those who arguably were most in need of this book, but had hard decisions to make on how they spend their money. I wanted to retain the relevance and recency of the content. I just wanted to give a bit back. Maybe all this working in Open Source is getting to me.

It’s worth noting that we might not be doing this for every title, as it’s very much an Author’s decision. In that respect, this is a little unique as I’m both Publisher and Author. I’ll be posting another post this week about the upcoming titles we have planned for the next 12 months. Some very exciting titles planned (including the rather late Grid Systems title of my own).