a review by Tom Piper
I’m sure that you’ve noticed that very few software packages come with an instruction manual, and many of those that do just aren’t very helpful. Sure, we also expect that software be designed intuitively so the learning curve is manageable . . . but, powerful programs with lots of tools require thoughtful instructions presented in a logical fashion, while hopefully being entertaining and educational. If that’s not enough, we also expect them to achieve these expectations only with classic paper books, but also using new interfaces like on the computer, iPad and such.
Eight years ago, one of my favorite authors, David Pogue, award-winning how-to author and computer columnist for the New York Times, teamed up with O'Reilly Media, Inc. to launch Pogue Press. They dedicated their companies to producing sterling, beautifully written manuals for popular consumer software and hardware products. You no longer have to learn complex programs by reading electronic help screens or online help as a substitute for a real manual.
The results of this collaboration produced Missing Manuals on iMovie 2, Windows XP Home Edition, AppleWorks 6, and iPhoto which are not only bestsellers, they're also the most popular books on their topics. And Mac OS X, 2nd Edition tops them all. The first edition of Mac OS X: The Missing Manual was the #1 bestselling computer book of 2002, selling 100,000 copies in six months.
So, what makes a Missing Manual? I can’t say it any better than their website:
- Superb, professional writing: Warm, witty, and jargon-free, Missing Manuals have enough clarity for the novice, and enough depth and detail for the power user.
- Complete coverage: Each has a product overview, pointing out what it's good for; successive chapters dissect the entire product piece by piece with a real-world perspective; although Missing Manual titles feel "official" in many ways, flaws in the product are freely acknowledged (a distinct advantage over vendor-provided documentation).
- A menu-command reference: A final appendix of each book serves as a menu-by-menu drive-through of the software's commands and dialog boxes.
Now, they have taken the next step to allow these fine publications to be consumed on electronic media. Almost two years ago, they started releasing Missing Manuals in PDF format (readable on most computers), then in ePub format (readable on the iPad), and Mobipocket (readable on the Kindle). Recently, they have also added Android format. The Missing Manual series has exploded in its popularity over the past 8 years with well over 100 different titles for software, hardware and beyond (I even saw 7 new Mini Missing Manuals released recently, also in eBook formats at $4.99 each).
Books range in price from as little as $19.99 up to $49.99 . . . eBooks when bought alone are generally around 70% of the paper book cost, but when bought in combination with the paper version can be as little as $2.00 extra (keep the eBook and regift the print book to a friend or relative for any occasion). A visit to http://missingmanuals.com will be very rewarding, and add /library.csp to this address to see the complete list of Missing Manuals. If there are multiple titles that you like, buy 2 and get the 3rd one free by using discount code OPC10 in our shopping cart (all orders over $29.95 qualify for free shipping within the US). If that’s not enough, O’Reilly has long been a supporter of Apple user groups (many given away at our meetings were gifts from them), and offer great discounts for us (see description below).
Very soon, we will see the iPad Missing Manual (in June) which you can pre-order now. Until then, you can use your iPad (or iPhone, or iPod touch, or computer) to read electronic versions of their many other jewels. I now have 17 Missing Manual books in the iBook library of my iPad, ranging from iWork ’09 to Google Apps to Mac OS X Snow Leopard to Your Brain (they are branching way out beyond computers). It was as easy as downloading the file, dropping it into iTunes, syncing with my iPad, and immediately reading in iBooks. I fully endorse this series . . . David Pogue and O’Reilly started something great, and their tradition of excellence lives on!
O'Reilly Publishing is offering new and better discounts for groups. User group members can get a discount of 35% off all books and 45% off all ebooks (PDF, ePub, Mobi, Android) from O'Reilly, No Starch, Paraglyph, PC Publishing, Pragmatic Bookshelf, SitePoint or Syngress books that are purchased directly from O'Reilly by phone or online. Add in free shipping for orders over $29.95 (US) and the offer gets even better.
Order from the O'Reilly Store online or by phone at 1-800-998-9938 ( extra shipping costs outside U.S.).
See what the buzz is about: http://www.oreilly.com/store/
This worldwide offer is ongoing.