Apr 27, 2009

More NXT books coming...

Sorry, no details, but I can tell you that more NXT-related books are coming. For many of us who write these books, however, there are always pluses and minuses.

I was reading through some reviews of the last book, One Kit Wonders, and the latest review caught my attention... and made me realize that when it comes to NXT books, you just can't win :)

Feedback on Idea Book (both in reviews and from emails and blog comments) was supportive, but there seemed to be a larger group of readers who felt that the book was heavy on theory and needed more robots - "less talk, more building" seemed to be the consensus.

So... One Kit Wonders got rid of the theory and focused on just robots and the programs to run them. The latest review was 4-stars and stated "This book shows you how to build and program 10 robots . . . that is pretty much it" - - - 10 robot BIs and PIs and "that is pretty much it."

All these comments beg the question: What does the NXT robot owner want in a book?

Any my response: Whatever it is, it cannot be satisfied with one book. (And according to Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Blink," the consumer really does NOT know what he/she wants most of the time anyway.)

Readers want color -well, color will either raise the price of the book (fewer sales and less incentive by publisher to do more) or reduce the page count (fewer robots, fewer sales, and less incentive by publisher to do more).

Readers want more robots - BIs take up a large portion of pages, reducing the number of pages for text/discussion/training.

Readers want more discussion/training - Screenshots of NXT-G software take up a large portion of pages, reducing the number of pages for robot BIs.

I enjoy writing books on NXT and I think many of the other blog contribs feel the same way... but it's very difficult to gauge what our readers want because NXT users are such a large and diverse group in both skills and interests.

True story: I had someone (an adult) come up to me about 6 months ago at a robotics gathering in Atlanta - this person told me "I didn't like Mayan Adventure because it was too short. You need to write the next one and have maybe 10 or more robots."

I bit my tongue because what I wanted to say was "Mayan took about 6 months to write, went through numerous tech reviews for accuracy, and 10 robots would have taken over a year to get done. Oh, and it was written for kids. You write the next one."

Okay, enough griping... my goal with this post was to share with our readers that more books are in the works, but also to inform that we can't make everyone happy. We'll do our best, though... and hopefully you'll like what we come up with...

9 comments:

neobobkrause said...

Some thoughts:

1) Print in B&W but include a "bonus" CD with color versions or more BIs and PIs. If piracy is an issue, then skip the CD but include a license key in every book that provides access to material on in the form of a desktop application or web site. (See 3 and 4 below.)

2) Offer a Kindle version of the book, maybe with "bonus" content. A Kindle desktop application is sure to be in the works -- maybe a color one!

3) Find a development partner to help you package your designs in the form of a desktop application. The revenue model is like a game.

4) Or package your designs as a website. This option has the added benefit of helping you build community around your work.

Generally... know your strength, your passions, your audience and the value chain. Maximize them and outsource the rest.

- Sparky

Tim said...

I think the hard part you are looking for is in the middle. The theory needs to be explained and then illustrate how the theory influenced the design. The goal would be for the reader to be able to learn the theory, have that theory inspire the reader to build, but most important have the theory presented in a way to make the reader/builder successful.

Tim

megamindstorm101 said...

I think that putting it on a website or somewhere on the net even with a password will still have the chance of piracy. Putting it on a video vhs wouldnt be such a bad idea (instructions to pause on each pic and then play and pause ect) but people dont use vhs anymore and they have ways to put it on a dvd which means put it on the comp which means piracy.

as for the person who said let talking more robots for the first book and the one who said more talking less robots well then they should just get both books :) the first one was meant to have talking ebcasue it was for the comeplete begginer while the second one was for the already knowing builder (since they could read the first book) which then would mean they leanr how to use the robot and then read the second book there would be no problem. I think if you put the volume two instead of a whole new title it might have made the reader think that they should read the first one first and then there wouldnt be any of these complaints.

having color was something I used to want (before i even saw the book) but then i saw it and was like "these pictures are perfectly fine I dont see why color is needed" if someone wants color I think you should just build the robot (its easy even in B@W) and then BAM a color robot :)

MG said...

I agree with neobobkrause (color) and megamindstorm101 (volumes).

1)It would be nice to have access to color pics (available through the web) for people who want to see the pics in color, so the cost of the book wouldn't be compromised.

2)Do books with degrees of complexity (beginners, intermediate, advanced; kids, adults/engineering oriented). That way the reader would know in advance the level of "theory" involved inside the book.

I also think that people not being completely satisfied with the content of a book is a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to keep writing more books for a bigger audience and a chance to reedit current publications.

People are buying your books and giving you feedback, and that is a good thing. If you value the readers comments for future publications it makes us keep reading and buying your books.

Making a book it's hard work, and making it profitable even more. Keep up the good work, we the readers appreciate your effort.

LeGo-Bots Lady (;-p) V.Greene said...

Jim, I loved Maya Adventures...it was just the right size, not overwhelming, interesting robots, helpful programming, and definitely interesting reading! I've been hoping for a sequel - doesn't have to have a lot of robots (2-3) - please! For those readers who need books with lots of robots to "copy", where's your creativity? That's part of the fun and challenge in building and programming.

Jim Kelly said...

I was just in a grumpy mood yesterday :) no worries. Thanks for the nice words about Mayan... glad you liked it.

Jim

Enrique said...

Jim, for what it's worth I would really like to add my view: I would most appreciate a color version of the BI's even if I have to pay a premium. My eyesight is OK for a 50+ guy but still, color is something I would very much like. And when you generate grayscale BIs no matter how much effort you put into it, the final quality depends a lot on the quality of the final printer.

But true: it is impossible to please everyone with one product. Each customer has a different expectation on value vs. price.

If 2 versions (B&W more affordable, color more expensive) is out of the question, you might resort to other mechanisms.

For instance, say each book has a coupon/code you can enter on a website and with an extra payment via Paypal or credit card, you can get via mail the color BIs (i.e. in hardcopy), maybe stapled, not bound? .

Or how about a mixed solution: why not post in the book discussion section some color pictures or diagrams of the sub-assemblies or the most complex steps? (something the authors have done in the past to answer specific questions by the readers). Those pictures without the book would not enable anyone to assemble the complete project.

Sorry for the lengthy post. I hope these "out-of-the-box" ideas are of help.

Enrique

Thomas Sheppard said...

Loved the Mayan Adventure book and have used the scroll and stringbot challenges in class. Here is a link to a video of a group of my students doing the Scroll Challenge: http://nlrobotics.blogspot.com/2009/05/scroll-challenge.html

BTW, my students love the story. It really hooks them into the challenges. Great job Jim.

bazmati said...

i've bought every single NXT book that was published except the classroom experiment modules because they are not on Amazon.ca

Publish a book and i'll buy it and when i go to shows with my NXT robots representing my AFOL Club www.quelug.org, i bring them all (my book box is betting heavy) but every chance i get to show off what's out there, i do it, and let visitors flip through pages to help them decide which one is best for them. I sure hope that helps with sales and i encourage you all to keep on publishing. They only really issue in my area is that most of users are french but then i explain what better way for your kids to learn English than to read about something that they are passionate about in the first place!

Looking forward to new books.
Hope to read you soon.

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