Re: worth of documentation

Subject: Re: worth of documentation
From: Andreas Ramos <andreas -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 18 Mar 1994 11:01:05 -0800

> Anatole Wilson said:
> > I never reallyt thought about it before, but it really *is* strange that
> > books like _DOS for Dummies_ that take a humorous/less serious approach to
> > documentation do so well.

I'm in the process of writing another one of these "hitchhiker's guides
to your PC". It required a bit of (competitor research at the proposal
stage. The "x for dummies" series does sell well, but not that good.
Gookin wrote quite a few books, all along the same line, before the "Dos
for Dummies" took off. There are about 15 of these general type of books
on the market. Most of them sell about 10-15,000 copies a year. Dos For
Dummies has sold more, but it's not clear how many more. At around
January, they *claimed* that there were "...over 1 million Dummies books in
print..." THis of course must be read carefully. It means the entire
series. It also means "previous versiions, now remaindered (i.e. obselete
and sold as paper waste). It also means "tons of them stockpiled in
warehouses". How many were actually sold at the listed price of $15? It's
not clear. We're guessing at around 100,000. That's great.

Well, actually, that's not so great. About 1 million PC's are sold every
month in the USA (actually, 15 million per year, but that has seasonal
fluctuations)(Christmas is a big season). This means that "Dummies", the
most successful book, is selling to less than 1% of the market of
newbies. That's very bad. What is the remainding 99% doing?

Humor, everyday language (don't write "documentation". Write "the manual"
or "the guide", etc.), and an understanding, "this was written just for
you" style are probably the keys to writing documentation for naive users.

yrs, andreas
Andreas Ramos, M.A. Heidelberg Sacramento, California

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