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Oct 05, 2005: My New Gig

How come I'm not blogging lately?

Typical reasons, ranging from lots of travel (hey, still a few seats left for my Seattle seminar!), to project work and book writing, to, sadly, some serious family illnesses.

But there is one reason that might stand out: I'm starting a new company. And no, it's not Argus II. (IA consulting firm? Been there, done that.)

I'm starting a new publishing house dedicated to user experience design books. Short and highly practical titles focused on specific methods and practices, rather than technologies or broad perspectives. I'm convinced that the age of the 500 page "what and why" book is over; for the most part, we get it already. We know what UX and related fields are, and why they're important. What we need moving forward are brief 100-150 page books that show us how to use methods to make and defend our design decisions. (The search log analysis book that Rich Wiggins and I are writing will be one of the first batch of these method books.)

Anyone familiar with publishing will wonder why I'd want to jump into such a difficult industry. Certainly the economics of traditional publishing are awful. But for a host of reasons, new business models are now possible (and perhaps a requisite for survival) in publishing. What it means to be a publisher in 2005 can be a radically different proposition than it was ten or even five years ago. I'm chomping at the bit to try out a new model, one that I think will work especially well for a niche like UX.

That's all I can say right now, but I'll keep posting updates as the as-yet-named publishing house takes shape. Speaking of which, one of the biggest start-up challenges has been coming up with a good name. What would you name a UX publishing house?

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Comment: Brenda (Oct 5, 2005)

What a great idea! I love the idea of assembling my ideal UX reference book (aka toolbox) one chapter at a time.

How about a "toolbox"-esque name? Sorry, no inspirations beyond that.

Good luck!

Comment: Lucy (Oct 5, 2005)

Perhaps reverse the ideology: Experiencing users

Comment: Andrew Hinton (Oct 5, 2005)

What a great idea! Bite-size design knowledge-nuggets!!

(As long as they're low carb.)

Seriously, I'm stoked... can't wait to see how it shapes up.

Comment: Andrew (Oct 5, 2005)

Great news! I suggest you seriously consider the "Beta Book" approach that the Pragmatic Programmers recently used on the "Agile Web Development with Rails" book. I bought the book when the first draft was released as a PDF, then got new PDFs each time they released a new version. When the hard-copy version was released, I got a final PDF update and of course the print book shipped to me.

The best benefit of this was the amazing amount of energy that people put into finding bugs, suggesting revisions, alternate techniques, or even whole chapters; the final book is pretty different from the first PDF I got. It's one of the best technical books I've ever read, and it's in no small part due to the writing-in-public process the authors went through.

Comment: Scott T. (Oct 5, 2005)

I specifically jumped out of my RSS reader to make the same comment as Andrew, so consider this a "me too!"

Comment: Lou (Oct 6, 2005)

Thanks for the early votes of confidence (and keep'em coming!). Livia, I'd love to have something up by DUX, but it'll be tight. I'll be there though and looking forward to catching up.

Andrew O and Scott, I had a very similar concept to Pragmatic's beta books, so it was great to see it in action. I also have found some commonality with Apress, another interesting publishing company (http://apress.com/). And many companies now provide both digital and print versions of their books; I think that'll make a lot of sense given this particular audience.

More ideas? :-)

Comment: Uday (Oct 6, 2005)

This may sound like a dumb irrelevant question in the context. I would like to contribute to writing one of those books too. How can I do this?

I have been developing User Interfaces for enterprise grade applications for the last 5 years. I also have a bit of experience in Technical Writing.

I have always wanted to write a good book on ui development. But have no clue as to where to start.

Comment: Peter Boersma (Oct 6, 2005)

Excellent initiative! It's always good to have a friend in the publishing business :-)

How about Books4U or Books4UX? The first URL is parked (i.e. probably for sale), the second one is free.

Best of luck,

Comment: georgivar (Oct 6, 2005)

I would suggest Polar Bear Publishing but a quick search on Google showed that there is already company with this name (I'm not sure it exists today, however).

Comment: Lou (Oct 6, 2005)

It's amazing: just about every slightly decent name is taken (or too close to another company's name, at least from the perspective of the US Patent and Trademark Office). And naturally just about every domain name is taken. Argh.

Uday, not an irrelevant question; you're just way ahead of the game. We'll get there soon. :-)

As far as which books to publish, I'd like to develop a--hey, get this--methodology that gathers user (i.e., reader) data to help make those decisions. To borrow a phrase from Steve Toub, an old Argus colleagues, we'll be "eating our own dog food".

Comment: Donna (Oct 6, 2005)

Hey, congratulations!

Comment: Michael (Oct 6, 2005)

Good stuff, Lou. I'll be a loyal customer, to be sure.

Comment: Guilhermo (Oct 6, 2005)

Great idea but donīt forget another countries that donīt speak English. Think about translate all books about IA that actually exists.

I think itīs a easy way to get money for your project. Here in Brazil, for example, there isnīt IA books in Portuguese.

Comment: Matthew Clapp (Oct 6, 2005)

That's great news. There is certainly demand in this niche market and there is also plenty of room for innovation. I look forward to what develops.

Comment: Lou (Oct 9, 2005)

Thanks all! Guilhermo, good point, but it's really up to the companies that published the books you're referring to to get them translated.

Comment: Deb (Oct 13, 2005)

At the Zoetrope Virtual Studio (an online writing community) short pieces are called "flash fiction" - maybe this is something like?

My choice for a company name would be The Gordian Knot - here's the Wikipedia entry in case you've forgotten your mythology...

It's about solving a complex problem with a 'bold stroke' -

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