in reply to Re: Perl losing momentum ?
in thread Perl losing momentum ?

Your local bookseller wants to move merchandise off the shelves of your local store. Yes, he'lll sell you a cup of coffee while you give the book a once-over, but he's not running a library. Therefore, what you see or do not see on your local shelves is much more an indication of what's moving in your local store than of the health of the language in-general. Any retailer watches carefully to see what is selling where, both to determine how many units to order (and how many unsold units to return to the publisher for pulping), but also to transfer product from one store where it isn't selling, to another store where it is. Technical books will be found in greater abundance at stores which are close to Universities and office-centers where geeks work. Computer books, in paper form anyway, are notoriously expensive, slow-moving and hard to sell. Just look at how many books which have the misfortune of having the once-necessary word “2007” on the cover which are now selling for 15% of the cover price if that. (Next stop:   to become newsprint or a grocery-bag.)

Knowing this, the good Mr. O'Reilley actually sells most of his material on-line, for electronic delivery, which of course makes a great deal of sense to him since they're all just DocBook files anyway. His service can spit out a PDF or whatever-you-want, produced on-the-fly, and either delivered to you or simply made available for online browsing. I'm quite sure that those electronic-book readers are going to be very big in our industry... and good for the planet, too. Ones-and-zeroes weigh nothing.

As we all know, “fashion sells.” Last year's trick is last year's trick. There are literally billions of lines of COBOL out there doing heavy-lifting every microsecond of every day, but books on COBOL are best found at MacKay's (Used Books). The books that are most likely to be placed in retail bookstores are fat (at least 1.5 inches on the edge), cheaply printed with wide margins and big type (to make them fatter...), splashed with easily recognizable trademarks, and are written about “fashionable” subjects like (at the moment...) Ruby.

Here's a wee thought for you. Look at yourself, as a bookseller would. Right now, you are probably feeling that there is something you don't know. Therefore, you are probably fairly self-motivated to buy a book about it soon, if you haven't done so already. Okay, then, what kind of book are you most likely to buy? One about Perl? Probably not. One about Ruby or Haskell or some other “shiny new thing” that promises to be the next silver bullet? Probably. The book that is most likely to make it to the checkout is one that will be written with the slant that you probably know one or more similar programming languages, you want to find a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM in the back cover (although that's expensive), and you'll want to “kick the tires a bit” with some easy-to-do projects that you may or may not do. You'll spend about a week with the book, and put it on your shelf for reference, or you might (bad dog! cheap skate! no biscuit!) return it. And that is what a good retail merchandising director makes it his or her business to know!

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Re^3: Perl losing momentum ?
by toma (Vicar) on Feb 01, 2008 at 20:17 UTC
    You can be deceived by the bookshelf-space theory, in the US at least. Books in the US are typically sold on consignment, so the bookstores don't pay for them until they sell. That's why there is so much junk on the shelves. Some publishers pump out garbage and hope that someone is desperate enough to buy it. If not, re-pulp and repeat. It can easily be that there are only a few good books in a bookstore, and the bookstore does fine. In this environment, "the front supports the back", so they really are in the coffee and browsing business.

    It should work perfectly the first time! - toma

      Believe me, I know whereof I speak in this case. Booksellers don't own the inventory (that's basically true of every retailer...) but they do want the sales. Since books are both bulky and perishable, a huge amount of attention is placed upon just what gets ordered, just where it should be placed in the store, and just how long it should be allowed to remain there. In quite a few stores these days, the computer-books section is down to just one or two rows... computer-books simply don't pay.

      Let's face it, Sweet Savage I-Want-Your-Body Hunk, or anything by John Grisham, is going to out-sell anything at all about Ruby... and continue doing so for a very long time.

        I guess I'm not seeing the same thing locally. The bookstores around here are the size of the public library where I grew up, and the computer section is the size of a whole bookstore from back then.

        Of course books with a broader appeal will outsell computer books. I'm not sure what you mean by a 'row' in a bookstore. I enjoy visiting my Big Bold Bookstore here in California. Ours has something like 500 linear feet of computer books. It's interesting how they have one section of titles mostly like "How morons can program visually in 42 days secretly revealed", and other sections with shelves full of good stuff. The good stuff overflows onto tables and displays. The other big bookstore in town (which is not really known for high-tech) has more expensive coffee but they only have the junk section, with maybe one or two shelves of good stuff.

        It has varied over time, but I think the Perl book shelf space is at least 4:1 bigger than the Ruby. Ruby of course has a great growth rate, which is what gets many people excited. If anyone tells me about a really slick open source dynamic cross-platform language that creates sharp native-app GUIs and has good high speed numerical libraries, I'll want to try it. If it ever happens, I expect I'll learn all about it in my local bookstore soon after I first hear about it.

        I'll pay the extra 30% to buy it there, because mostly I buy where I shop.

        It should work perfectly the first time! - toma
Re^3: Perl losing momentum ?
by chromatic (Archbishop) on Feb 01, 2008 at 23:36 UTC
    Knowing this, the good Mr. O'Reilley actually sells most of his material on-line, for electronic delivery, which of course makes a great deal of sense to him since they're all just DocBook files anyway.

    If you mean "most" as in "most of the O'Reilly catalog is available through Safari", then that's mostly true.

    It you mean "most" as in a quantified portion of sales (whether units or revenue), then it's not true.