Re: Online docs -- was RE: PDF vs HTML

Subject: Re: Online docs -- was RE: PDF vs HTML
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 16 Oct 1996 06:31:34 PDT

--- On Wed, 16 Oct 1996 11:44:18 +0200 Shmuel Ben-Artzi <sba -at- NETMEDIA -dot- NET -dot- IL> wrote:

>When these scenarios start to be commonplace, will the majority of our
>customers continue to be
>"extremely unhappy" if they don't get a printed manual? Not likely. Just the
>opposite, in fact. And if the paradigm doesn't seem to be shifting quickly
>enough, some enterprising Web entrepreneurs will find ways to speed up the
>process. That's what Microsoft, Corel and a bunch of other major players did
>to kick-start the movement to online docs in the first place. They put most
>documentation on CD's, passed the savings (usually between $100 and $200 for
>major products) on to the customers, and then made the printed docs
>available to anyone who requested them as an extra-cost option. Though I
>haven't done a comprehensive survey on this subject, I'd be willing to bet
>that the number of clients who demand the redundant printed docs at an added
>cost of at least $200 is pretty small.

Actually, I'm sure that the number of people who order,
for example, MS Word docs from Microsoft is in fact pretty
small. After seeing the farce that comes with Word 95/7,
few people would ask for more of the same.

However, a quick walk through
the nearest bookstore will show how many people find the online
docs provided with Word inadequate. There are literally dozens
of books in larger bookstores about Word, with comparable
numbers about everything else under the sun. If people were
that happy with online docs, these books wouldn't be selling.

Interestingly, many people argue that aftermarket books about
commercial programs contribute to problems with software
piracy -- if you purchased the program, you'll get the docs.
Now, even pirated programs or software available through a
corporate network come with accessible documentation. However,
the demand for additional, usable, hardcopy docs apparently isn't

I'd say that MS and Corel, among many others, did an effective
job of cutting their costs, improving their competitiveness,
developing an additional profit center in house (for their
manuals that do sell). Additionally, they have helped
many computer book publishers tremendously and given consumers
the chance to comparison shop for their documentation,
rather than taking what comes out of the box.

Saying that failure to provide adequate documentation
in hardcopy drives a paradigm shift into online
documentation is like saying that the person who
stole your car encouraged you to get more exercise.

(not necessarily in favor of killing trees, but a realist)

Eric J. Ray ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com
TECHWR-L Listowner

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