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Jan 05, 2006: Integrating a Book's Web and Print Content

As a follow up to my recent posting on what makes a good design book, I'd like to learn if there are some especially good examples of books that integrate print and web-based content. For example, a book might reference code samples available from a complementary web site. Or a web-based list of relevant applications might point back to a deeper discussion of those applications within the printed book.

Maybe this kind of integration is really simpler than it appears. A book can point readers to a web page's URL. A web site can link to a book's citation, URL, and/or Amazon page. But I imagine that this integration could be achieved either with a consistent, elegant, usable visual language, or in a clunky crappy-looking after-the-fact sort of way.

Or maybe there are some pretty cool things that really do go beyond simple pointers and links. Dunno; that's why I'm asking...

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Comment: Prentiss Riddle (Jan 5, 2006)

I've got it! Put the entire first edition up as a wiki and let your readers write the second edition. :-)

Comment: Lou (Jan 5, 2006)

Funny you should mention it, Prentiss. Won't be doing a wiki, but will be beta testing manuscripts in a pretty inventive way. More on this when we actually *have* one to beta...

Comment: Jeff Lopez-Stuit (Jan 5, 2006)

This might not be what you had in mind, but you might want to check out Seth Godin's "Liar's Blog" (http://blog.sethgodin.silkblogs.com/). This was a blog he ran for a few months in conjunction with the release of his "All Marketers Are Liars" book. He actually started it before the book was released, and then continued to update it for a while after the book was released.

Comment: Mark Smith (Jan 5, 2006)

In my admittedly limited experience, most "old school" publishers do a pretty poor job of maintain a web site for a book. Usually it is just basic information (perhaps with source code or sample downloads, etc. for technical books). It is obviously a lot more valuable to build a community around the book. Typically individual authors are left to do most of that work, but I am sure a progressive publisher (like you Lou) will do much better. It is great you are thinking about this stuff in a fairly public way.

Comment: Lou (Jan 5, 2006)

Thanks for the comments guys. I think the open "blog questions and ideas" model that John Battelle used with his Google book and Chris Anderson with Long Tail is really smart. I don't think authors should or need to be so secretive with these topics, at least the kinds of topics we need as professionals.

Maybe I should be asking about the best practices for author and publisher web sites...

Comment: Jeff Lash (Jan 8, 2006)

At Elsevier (http://elsevier.com), we sell "e-dition"s of many of our medical and health science books. For a small fee on top of the print price, purchasers get access to a web site featuring the entire book with full-text search, image databases (including downloading into PowerPoint), reference linking, PDA clipping, ability to create notes within the book for further reference, ancillary material (e.g. quizzes), video clips, and additional images and content not in the book.

The biggest feature may be the fact that the online texts are updated, in some cases as frequently as every week, with new information. This is especially important in the medical field with changing treatments and new research continually available.

An example of one of these "e-ditions" is

These are popular with many customers, who like having the content available in print, but recognize the added value in a web site that features things that just can't be easily done in print.

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