Re: Is this why paper books will never disappear? (a bit long)

Subject: Re: Is this why paper books will never disappear? (a bit long)
From: mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 1994 12:44:42 EDT

While everything you say is true, I don't think the issue is at all clear-cut.
It's great to have a hardcopy manual: you can read it away from the computer,
it has a sense of bulk and presence that is absent online, and so on.

However: how much does it add to the cost of the software? How much are
you willing to pay, to have the manual as well as the online? How often
will you use the manual, after the initial learning period? If the software
has frequent updates/fixes, how quickly will the manual become obsolete,
or bogged down with looseleaf revision notes? If the product is complicated,
can it be better communicated online? Will the docs be usable, without
online's search capabilities? Can the doc incorporate animations, interactive
exercises, and examples that actually run and work with the app, immediately,
without typing them in? Perhaps even the initial learning phase when you
_do_ use the manual could be replaced with a stand-alone interactive
tutorial that introduces you to the application and key concepts,
reinforced with exercises and simulations.

I recently bought some hypertext fiction (from Eastgate). This is text that
pretty obviously does not have a written equivalent. I noticed that Eastgate
had tried to provide a sense of presence, of ownership, by providing book-like
packaging for the disks the writing comes on. So you can keep the software
in its sleeve, and have a nice binding to show off on the bookshelf, even
though you don't have a book.

I guess what I'm saying is: hardcopy docs _do_ buy the customer something.
But there may be other ways to provide the customer the same things, at a
lower cost. The replacement won't be exactly equivalent, but it will have
its own advantages, as well as disadvantages.


Michael Priestley
mpriestley -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
Disclaimer: I'm speaking on my own behalf, not IBM's.

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