Charles Petzold

EBooks and Piracy

July 29, 2006
Roscoe, NY

Several people have asked me: Will my WPF book come with an electronic version?

The fifth edition of Programming Windows includes an EBook version in CHM format on the included CD-ROM. At the time the book was published, this seemed like a good idea.

I'm not sure when it started seeming like a bad idea. Perhaps it was the first time I saw the entire text of my book (decompiled from the CHM into HTML files) on somebody else's web site. Or perhaps it was the second or third time. Or when I lost count.

Perhaps it was getting word that these public postings of the book were just the tip of the iceberg, and that the EBook was freely circulated among certain circles.

Perhaps it was the number of emails I've received requesting an index for the book. (Of course, the printed edition has an index; it's the EBook that doesn't.)

Or perhaps it was the email I got from a programmer in a faraway land who proudly told me that he finally broke down and bought a printed copy of the book, unlike everybody else he knew.

Whatever the reason, I have to consider the experiment with the Programming Windows EBook to be a failure.

It's too bad. I know that an EBook is convenient for searching. I know that an EBook is convenient for reading on public transportation. I know that an EBook is convenient for taking on the road when visiting clients. I know that some people would prefer sampling a downloadable EBook in the spirit of "try before you buy" (much like shareware), and that I might even sell a few more books this way. I know that an EBook saves trees and doesn't take up valuable shelf space.

My experience, however, is that it doesn't work. We would all like it to work, but nobody seems to know how.

So the answer, unfortunately is: No.