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Articles like this one are the reason I love Internet. Where else could I find out how much one can realistically expect to earn by writing a computer book? Written by a definitive source (i.e. someone who was there, did that)? Read the article for the details but in summary: not much, say $14 k for seven months of work (which ends up being $2 k/month). For a more amusing take on computer books publishing industry, read Philip Greenspun’s experience.
Which brings to me to a question: is there a better way? The assumption is that you want to write on technical subject and earn a little money (a little is key here as we just established that you can’t expect to earn much through writing books). As it happens, Google’s AdSense program has just been launched and becomes quite popular. Some even report respectable earnings (although it’s too early to tell whether it’s because it’s a viable revenue source or is it because of novelty that’ll quickly wear off).
So here’s the plan:
  • write a book on a popular subject
  • publish it on the web
  • add AdSense ads
  • profit!
This is, of course, a pure speculation on my part - I have no idea if page views that a book on technical subject can bring is enough to earn $14 k in ad revenue as I never did that. But there are other benefits in going web self-publishing way
  • publishing on the web is of greater benefit to human-kind
  • you can keep your book up-to-date (actually I think you would have to both in order to keep up with changing technology and to bring more hits)
  • you can capture readers contributions the way Philip Greenspun describes in his 1997 classic that is sort of embarrassing now i.e. you can make other people’s thoughts to make your site more valuable
  • publishing on the web gives interesting (yet rarely embraced) possibilities of improving the text (e.g. full text search, good index, animations to illustrate concepts)
  • it isn’t unheard of to get the publishing deal anyway
But won’t the bandwidth cost kill you? It shouldn’t, if you smart. I’m too lazy to calculate (even in the back-of-the-envelope style) how much bandwidth would it take to deliver enough hits for advertising to pay off, but you can get 700 GB (that’s a lot) for $100 per month at RackShack.net.
And a gratuitiuos link to Scoble.

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