As usual, O'Reilly has a good idea that other scitech publishers should take note of. This is actually somewhat similar in conception to what Morgan & Claypool's Synthesis offers.
I'm on a lot of the O'Reilly email lists; this is the announcement I got yesterday:
I want to tell you about a new line of documents we just launched: O'Reilly PDF guides. Our PDF guides are in-depth and timely treatments of cutting-edge topics that just can't wait for a book. While developing them over the past months, we kept using the term "lightweight" as a guiding principle. Lightweight meant that everything about the guides had to be fast and easy, and every feature had to be absolutely necessary, or we dropped it.
Each PDF guide is created using a stripped-down book template that has a minimum number of design and layout elements, making it easy for the author and editor to handle them. To save time and expense, a generic cover is generated from the template itself. And throughout the process, we cut by more than half the number of people who normally had a hand in creating something like this. We did all this with the goal of getting great documentation to you as quickly as possible. How good are they? Well, you'll be the judge of that, but I'd like to think that an early reviewer's comments may be prophetic:
"Can it be I'm the only one who sees this as a breakthrough publishing concept? An opportunity to see truly immediate published release of professional material, without waiting to be placed in a journal or book, tightens up the relationship between conception and application. I thought you would want to know. I am intrigued." --Howard Goldstein, Howard Goldstein Design
The list of PDF's currently available is here. They're all short (30-50 pages mostly), on hot topics (What Are Syndication Feeds or
Java vs. .NET Security for example), digital and inexpensive (us$8-$10 mostly). This ties in with the post on textbooks from yesterday. There's a lot of interesting stuff happening with publishers these days; the good ones are experimenting with new models. Some will succeed and some won't, but that's evolution for ya. Along with O'Reilly's PDFs, their Safari University product is very interesting, allowing profs to assemble a print or online text from bits and pieces of other books. I mentioned Morgan & Claypool before, but their model is also a very interesting experiment, producing substantial medium length review articles in ebook format.