An important question about my Flixel book

It'd be the same great taste either way!

Update 12th November 2012: I’m sorry to say but this book has been cancelled. It was quite some time ago actually, but for the benefit of people finding this old post through Google I just wanted to make it clear it’s not going to happen any more. Sorry, but my development life took a new path a year ago to HTML5, so if I was going to write about anything now it would be that.

As some of you know I have been busy planning a book on game development with Flixel. However while sitting down to do the chapter list tonight it occurred to me that perhaps I was approaching it the wrong way. So I’m posting this up in the hope that I’ll have enough feedback from you all to guide it to the correct result.

My dilemma is simply this:

A) Do I write a traditional book with chapters, bits of in-line code and illustrations?

B) Or do I attempt something a little more modern? By this I mean an online resource that contains all of the book content, but without the restrictions that paper publishing imposes on you. I.e. I can display full blocks of code collapsed for readability. I can embed swfs so you can actually see right away what effect the code had. If needs be I can use audio or video to enhance the learning. The content would be similar, it would just be embellished. A lot.

Don’t get me wrong, I love books. I love buying them and thumbing through them at my leisure. But when it comes to books about coding I tend to nearly always want those while I’m next to my PC – especially books with a heavy reference or cookbook section to them.

With a book ultimately about game development, which is what mine is, I’m left wondering if it wouldn’t serve the reader better to literally be able to see exactly what a piece of code will do. To be able to play it, right there in the page. And visually demonstrate what happens if you then tweak that code. The whole book would be available from the start, you wouldn’t have to wait for new content to be written. And it wouldn’t be a subscription service either: Just pay once for a login.

But I’m worried if you will actually “trust” buying access to a “book web site” from me – rather than something physical you can hold in your hands. Price-wise it won’t be any difference to a print version, but how would you feel about access to a book site instead of a real book?

So please leave your comments and let me know what you think. Do so here on this post, here on the Flixel forums, or if you prefer in private then by email.

Posted on September 5th 2011 at 11:49 pm by .
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28 Responses

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  • September 5th 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Oh, that’s a tough one…

    Personally, I find it difficult to read development books in an electronic format. I often get PDF versions of the dev books I buy and I almost always find myself reading the print version on my desk while I try stuff out on the machine.

    However, I also find that I often skip over the code blocks and examples. I find myself reading through concepts and ignoring the code, until I come to a point where I think I’ve understood and I try something out. Invariably, this often goes wrong and I have to refer back to the book.

    So… I can very much see an advantage to having the book not only in an electronic format, but having the code run on screen to see what’s going on. In fact, I’d say that I learn more from blog posts – which often have code blocks and working examples – than I do from the books I buy…

    However… Blogs are free, right? While I can totally see the value in what you’re proposing, I think people might find it harder to part with their cash – as it’s not really what they expect.

    So: My suggestion is that you put everything up online, and give access to people who’ve purchased the book – either in print or electronic format… But primarily sell it as a ‘book’ rather than ‘access to paid content’.

  • John
    September 6th 2011 at 12:01 am

    I don’t want to drive your costs through the roof, but how about including a CD with the book?

    The CD could include essentially an offline version of the book, which would actually be better!

    If this doesn’t work, you maybe could set up a system where the book comes with a download code which you use to download the electronic examples.

    Again, I’m not trying to make the book more expensive (for you or the customers) but this is what I would personally want.

    I don’t have much of a problem with trusting access to a website from you, but having offline access is a very important thing to me; I’m not always connected but would still like to learn from your writing. 😉

  • September 6th 2011 at 1:32 am

    I’d love the “modern” approach…but I don’t know how much money you could make with that approach…maybe as John says, you should include a CD instead :)

  • Plamen Andreev
    September 6th 2011 at 1:44 am

    I always read them as eBooks. So, my choice is obvious :)

  • September 6th 2011 at 2:28 am

    Well, I’m truly in doubt.

    But I think Gary point of view is like mine. I do prefer print books, since I don’y have any e-reader and I like being able to read a book elsewhere but on the PC.

    BUT, having the source code available to be tested and previewed is way much efficient than reading/copying-pasting code snippets.

    So I endorse the digital/print book, which grants access to code and examples (and don’t bother about the CD, I think just being online is fine).

  • September 6th 2011 at 3:49 am

    I think the modern approach would be best. Seems to offer more in terms of reader interactiveness and you can put more info in and explain it better.

  • test84
    September 6th 2011 at 4:41 am

    yes, I like the idea. What I really love to see is step to step instructions, what I hate is how teachers expect or imply people to know things, which students clearly don’t, so please don’t do this.

    I think if you do the online thing, you would getaway with privacy too, right?

    Since I’m not sure how it will turn out to be actually, I can’t say which one but the electronic one definitely looks more sexy!

    Another thing is, if you want, you can update the book, like the code, the new DAME, new FPT or Flixel, etc.

  • xhunterko
    September 6th 2011 at 4:56 am

    Give me an app for that. No seriously. You can put all the stuff you want in an app, then update the app all you want. Granted, flash isn’t supported on the ios. But the idea of an updateable “app” or similar program would be what I’d prefer. Or even a digital magazine? I have a Java book on my ipad kindle and I love going through the source code. It’s how I learn. But yeah, something along those lines. And, since when did you say something about you making a Flixel book? This is the first I’ve heard of it. Still cool though!

  • September 6th 2011 at 7:40 am

    If you want to try a ‘modern’ approach, why not go with a Freemium style model (particularly as it’s games related).

    You could offer three options:
    1. A simple downloadable version (no special content). This version is FREE, and is for people who would probably not have paid for the book in the first place anyway.
    2. A regular paperback book. This version is for people like me, who like having a book on the desk with them, and who are happy to pay the going rate for the privilege.
    3. A fully interactive version. For the few people that want the extra hand holding and examples and are happy to pay a bit extra to get it.

    Everybody has a different opinion on what ‘value’ is, so it’s worth considering catering to those different types of people in my opinion.

  • September 6th 2011 at 8:13 am

    I have read quite a few books on development. I find that if the CD is packaged and there are “bug” fixes or addendum to the code it presents a problem, also versions of the book that get released. What I like is the important pieces of code inline in the book with the whole project of working code separate that I can download from the website. That way you can keep it updated as well. Processing iirc did something similar.

  • September 6th 2011 at 8:15 am

    I forgot to mention that pages and pages of code in a paperback is not much fun to browse through. Rather get the concepts across and have an “appendix” book with the full code if you feel that way inclined.

  • oldmanbiles
    September 6th 2011 at 11:26 am

    Personally, I love having books. It means I can get away from the computer to do a bit of external reading. If I need to know how to do something with flixel/as3 then the current online help is usually sufficient. Maybe a mix of both would be good. Most books now give you an electronic copy to read so write the book as you want, but update the online copy for the changes that the small updates pose. Then you can also give your customers access to a private tutorial bank that you update whenever you want.
    I’m assuming you have access to 3.0 to write in advance for the release so a new copy of your book would only have to be republished for the massive updates, which should be 3.5/4.0 in the future. Having access to personal tutorials that are frequently updated would be a nice big incentive to purchase the book, because your learning won’t end on the last page.

  • Samuel
    September 6th 2011 at 11:30 am

    Personally. I’d prefer a real book, it just makes me feel so much better in the learning process and it will be most cherished on my bookshelf : ) PLEASE do a real book and maybe a link to some resources or a CD! It would look sooooo much better as a physical, real book. 😀

  • superdeformed
    September 6th 2011 at 1:46 pm

    i love the idea of a modern, interactive approach. It is probably overkill for some subjects, but for software dev, I think it is an evolutionary step forward. In the end, I hope your decision is less about what the majority thinks they want, and more about what form you think will best communicate what you are trying to teach.

  • September 6th 2011 at 7:23 pm

    I too prefer a good “old fashioned” book. I agree that coupled with an online resource it makes a powerful tool. Having a PDF or eReader version is just too clunky though it may be more “snazzy”. Plus a book itself is an object of beauty.

  • September 6th 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I love books and eBooks, but in the case of Flixel, which changes almost daily, a living breathing site makes much more sense. You could still offer the eBook option for free or a small additional cost and satisfy most of both worlds. There’s something very valuable to seeing code and then understanding what it actually does. But again, the big value add from my perspective is that it can keep up with the constant Flixel changes.

  • Pedro
    September 6th 2011 at 10:45 pm

    I think the modern approach would be best too.

  • George Wilson
    September 7th 2011 at 2:07 am

    I would like to see the electronic book. I do like paper books but I find that on-line books are easier for me to read. I also really like the idea of seeing what is happening as the code progresses. Sort of like a really big tutorial.

    As for trusting you with payment, that is not an issue. All that you do for the community I have already built a level of trust with you.

  • September 7th 2011 at 2:57 am

    Some books I really enjoy are the Friends of Ed books. What they do is provide “supplemental” material that can be downloaded from their site, which included all assets as well as swf files (sometimes in multiple stages of production). I think this approach is nice, especially when they include the .fla file and/or .as files so you can look at the code as written by the author in the IDE itself. I think this would lend itself to your book well.

    I find that I tend to enjoy books in print rather than PDF as well, but I am not sure why.

    I can’t wait to check out the book regardless of format though.

  • Studion3wg
    September 8th 2011 at 10:01 pm

    I think exactely like time cooper with the 3 options . . .

  • Bubu
    September 10th 2011 at 11:01 pm

    I’m for the electronic format.

    Do you have an approximate time of when you think you can release it? Can’t actually wait for a solid kickstart into flash game development (with Flixel of course). Further suggestions: make sure you make chapters on completed mini-game projects (that’s sort of given) and avoid giving a block of code and then explaining what it does at the beginning. Have the COMPLETE moron understand how to script at the beginning, with the very basics on Actionscript layed out – in the same fashion of the “Actionscript 3.0 Game Programming University” book, which is pretty solid in my opinion. At least, this is how I would want he book to be. Maybe because I’m a moron? At coding I am.

    Try to make it so that any beginner understands the mentality of coding, so he can more easily solve problems when on his own.

  • September 11th 2011 at 9:59 pm

    I’m voting for modern way.

  • Barts
    September 12th 2011 at 2:27 pm

    My voice goes for Tim Cooper’s version. Some freemium available online, print version available on Amazon and mega-extra version for those who need extra help.

  • GAREWA
    October 4th 2011 at 3:48 pm

    The answer, in my humble opinion is both.

    Design the book electronically (as normal), but for print. Distribute the book by print but also as an interactive PDF or similar. Ideally, offer the print release with a code to access the digital evrsion. Offer the digital version separaetly as well for those that prefer.

    We’ve found this is the best way to distribute, similar to how Disney Blu-Rays include a DVD version and a digital (PC) version, but are still offered digitally as well.

    Thoughts?

  • Frozen
    November 9th 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Do it the modern way! Make a “Flixel Game Progamming for Dummies” video DVD.After that, do another DVD “Flixel Game Programming Advanced”.Then sell it online via PayPal etc.That’s what i call modern.

    The flixel tutorial situation is very bad.So it is time for a change.

  • Olias
    March 4th 2012 at 3:37 pm

    I like Cooper’s idea. Why restrict your audience? Some of us will be able to get the pdf version, regardless. Some would by the print, regardless. And some would prefer the interactivity online. If you write with this in mind, it should not be that much more work (i.e., modular sections with supplemental content that makes the text even better).

    The App idea is neat, too. However, I don’t tend to write code on the phone… A very detailed wiki of current updates would work nicely in this format, though. As another commenter noted: Flixel is ever in flux.

    Dvd’s (youtube would reach a better audience) are also nice, but cumbersome in my opinion. If you want to find something fast, skimming through a video is a huge pain. Still, for the visually dominant, access to private clips is always another bonus or public clips for advertising. Disadvantage, obviously, is that it takes more work.

    A CD with the book… I personally dislike these things and generally will never look up anything other than code on them unless I absolutely have to (which means the text was too dense to understand without a visual representation – bad sign). Still, I suppose it is easy to swap content from the “modern” to “text” version through some quickly burnt discs.

  • Eugene
    November 12th 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Any news on a book?

  • November 12th 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Sorry but this book is cancelled. I did say this in a different blog post, but I know that doesn’t help people who perhaps find this article via Google. I’ll update it now.

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