Binding printed docs?

Subject: Binding printed docs?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001 11:31:25 -0500

Joyce Fetterman reports: <<The management of my company decided LONG ago
that they wanted our product
(mainframe & PC software) documentation distributed to our customers in
3-ring binders. It's been that way ever since. They like the way the binders
look on their bookcases. They think it's a *good* look. I disagree. I think
it makes our doc look temporary or, even worse, as though it requires
frequent updating (which it does NOT). I think that large binders are
unwieldy, they require too much desk space, they're a pain to lug around,
and they're a disaster when the darned pages fall out.>>

All of these observations fit my own prejudices on this subject, and there's
been considerable anecdotal evidence produced on techwr-l that supports our
feelings. But none of us has any idea how your specific audience feels about
this; some audiences (your managers, for instance) do love their binders,
and you're not doing them a service by imposing your preferences on them.
Take some time to find out what _your_ audience wants, and then you'll have
a sound basis for proposing a change--or preserving the status quo if that's
what the customers really want.

<<How do you other Whirlers bind your documentation for distribution to
customers?>>

We use plastic comb binding for the most part. I don't like them at all, but
our print runs (ca. 200) and the sizes of our manuals (typically less than
60 pages) don't really justify a fancier solution. Our audience seems
satisfied with the manuals based on the training sessions we've held. One
caveat: We have a captive audience who receive their manuals and software
for free as part of their membership in FERIC. If we were competing for
sales on the open market, you can bet that we'd move to higher production
values in a hurry.

<<Can anyone point me to studies that have been done about this?>>

Don't trust a generic study. Ask _your_ audience. That's the only study that
matters.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at
www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/usersadvocate.html

"How are SF writers like technical writers? Well, we both write about the
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