Thursday, April 22, 2010

Manning going downhill fast

I'm becoming more and more disappointed with Manning Publications. They used to be a great source of eBooks on cutting edge technologies by leaders in the field. They are the publisher for some of the leading tech reference. Books such as Spring In Action, Groovy In Action and Ant In Action are tech "classics".

Lately, however, I've noticed that their book times are greatly increasing, author quality is decreasing, authors are unknown in the community, books are being threatened with cancellation, there is more and more advertising of "vaporware" (books with only 1 or 2 small chapters), and eBook releases are poorly screened for even minimal formatting quality.

For examples:

Just days ago I received an email from Manning describing how the authors of Couch DB in Action have fallen so far behind in their progress that the content is already out-of-date. Manning is debating whether to proceed with the existing content, entirely rewrite it or cancel it. There is no mention of what happens to customers who purchased the early access (MEAP) version (as I did) if the book is cancelled.

Then this morning, I received an update to Spring Integration in Action, usually a good and welcome thing. Unfortunately, the formatting of this version has some serious problems that were not present in the previous version. The text size varies wildly from chapter to chapter and, in those chapters were it is greatly increased, many of the figures are obscuring adjacent text and several of the figures are just not visible at all.

Now, of course, it must be acknowledged that this is an Early Access version of the eBook and various formatting, font, and figure problems must be expected for these drafts. However, to be useful at all, there must be some minimal standard of readability; which there was in the first MEAP version of the eBook that I received. The loss of this basic readability in the update gives the impression that no one is even reviewing the product before releasing it.

And, finally, to add insult to injury, Manning sent me a link to an online survey asking frequent customers for feedback. I patiently and completely filled out the form but when I tried to submit it, it claimed that I had not answered a couple of questions and refused to take my submission. Rechecking the form showed that all questions had been completely answered! Manning remains completely oblivious to my disappointments with them.

Manning used to be great but, in my opinion, they are going downhill fast!