13 Apr 2015 Giving away too much?

I've just launched my Practical Nanocoatings website. It brings to life many of the formulae in the book I co-authored with Dr Nigel Holmes, Nanocoatings: Principles & Practice.

The question is whether the apps on the website make it unnecessary to buy the book. In other words, are we giving away too much? That's certainly a topic we discussed a lot with our far-sighted editor, Dr Joseph Eckenrode at DesTech. It raises the question "What is the use of a book?"

As someone who uses on-line resources extensively and also has plenty of eBooks and paper books and as I have written 2, nearly 3, technical books I've given that question a lot of thought. My answer is that like most people I'm incapable of following an extended flow of ideas on the web. I can do quick hits of key information, but in general they are out of context - which is fine if I want just that bit of information but unhelpful if I want to see the bigger picture. Books allow an extended flow and each individual item can fit within a coherent context. I find this of great value and so do many others. There's also a lot in a book that's not suitable for the web. The chapter on Nanosafety doesn't contain anything appable, but there is a lot of important information that only works when there is time to explore the subtleties - safety has to be nuanced.

But books are frustratingly "dead" because formulae and graphs just sit there on the page. Hence the need for the apps for those parts of the book which can readily be brought alive.

So I see the book/app combination as the best of both worlds. Those who just need an instant answer to a specific question can get it from a single app on the website. They're not going to buy a book to get that answer. Those who want to significantly raise their game in nanocoatings will need (I believe!) our book whatever happens. If they are borderline in knowing if the book will be of any use then the apps show the sorts of things being discussed and the sort of approach which will hopefully convince them that the right decision is to buy the book.

There's another argument. These days if it's not on the web (or on YouTube) then for most people it doesn't exist. Old-fashioned ways of promoting books are less and less successful, so using the website as self-promotion can only help. Happily there are also a bunch of YouTube videos on my channel so Practical Nanocoatings really does exist!

Finally, writing Practical Nanocoatings forced me to re-read the book. It's funny going over stuff you wrote some time ago. I was a bit nervous. Do I regret things we wrote? Did we miss out some key things? To my pleasure and surprise I found it a good and useful read. It even reminded me of things I'd forgotten. I thoroughly recommend it!