Charles Petzold

VB .NET Book Declared "Out of Print"

August 23, 2006
Roscoe, NY

Sometimes such a letter is actually good news for an author. Perhaps another publisher is interested in reviving the book and is willing to go crazy promoting it. But usually the letter just confirms what you've known for awhile: Nobody's buying the book any more. And that makes me sad.

The book in question is Programming Microsoft Windows with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET, which was basically a translation of my first Windows Forms book Programming Microsoft Windows with C# from C# to Visual Basic .NET.

Perhaps the book was ill-conceived from the start. After all, if there's one group of programmers averse to learning how to write Windows Forms programs without using the Visual Studio designer, it's probably VB programmers. Or maybe the title just had too many mentions of "Microsoft." I don't know. What I do know is that the book sucked up 6 months of my life — translating a book from one programming language to another is not as simple as it seems — and the result, in David Hume's immortal words, "fell stillborn from the press."*

There is a consolation: When publishers calculate royalties to be paid to an author, they hold on to some of those royalties as a "reserve" in case some of the books they've sold are returned from the booksellers to the publisher. When a book goes out of print, the reserves are "released," which means they're paid to the author in a lump sum. So that'll be nice.

Meanwhile, for the foreseeable future, I'm sticking to C#.

*Although this is how it's commonly quoted, David Hume actually wrote that his Treatise of Human Nature fell dead-born from the press. Here's the entire passage: "Never literary Attempt was more unfortunate that my Treatise of human Nature. It fell dead-born from the Press; without reaching such distinction as even to excite a Murmur among the Zealots. But being naturally of a cheerful and sanguine Temper, I very soon recovered the Blow, and prosecuted with great Ardour my Studies in the Country." (David Hume, My Own Life, 1776, from Appendix A of Ernest Campbell Mossner, The Life of David Hume, University of Texas Press, 1954, page 612)