With the third edition of the Windows PowerShell Cookbook, O'Reilly and I are embarking on an experiment to expand the boundaries of traditional publishing even further – full, online, searchable access to the Windows PowerShell Cookbook.
There's been a huge shift in the way that people like to get their content in the past few years. The raw unwashed internet is a popular first choice, but usually involves a difficult ordeal of sifting through bad content to find just the right forum response, blog post, or documentation page. Curation. That's the difficult part.
Above all else, that's exactly the business the book publishing industry is in in. Content curation: finding great authors, great content, and great topics. After that, get it to readers in the way they want it.
Printed books have long been the preferred answer. You can skim them easily, feel them in your hands, and bookmark them. They have limitations, though. When it comes to the print edition of the PowerShell Cookbook, version three has grown to over 1,000 pages. It's over two inches thick, weights more than most current laptops (3 pounds), and has over 30 pages in the index alone. Finding a topic by going to the index can easily take over a minute. Through the table of contents, even longer.
This size isn't for lack of trying. With each edition of the Cookbook, I've ruthlessly cut recipes, replaced recipes with new PowerShell features that accomplish the task more efficiently, and done everything I can to make it smaller. PowerShell is just a huge topic, and every recipe offers crucial insight.
O'Reilly has been expanding the envelope of the traditional publishing industry for years – leading the way in eBook publishing, online digital betas, and offering DRM-free electronic versions of everything in the catalog. E-books are extremely portable, and offer basic search functionality. Despite their portability, though, they still don't offer the ubiquity and ease of access that the raw unwashed internet does.
To push this boundary even further, O'Reilly and I are experimenting with a new site: http://www.powershellcookbook.com. The carefully curated content of the PowerShell Cookbook, with the ease-of-use and ubiquity of an internet search engine.
Using the Site
When you visit the site, you are simply asked to prove you own the book by entering a word from one of the chapters. The site remembers you by default, so you shouldn't have to do this very often.
Once you've logged in, you can search for recipes with the ease of any regular search engine:
Each search result links to a recipe, which you can use to read and copy code samples from:
See that big green button? Share It. That's a key feature of the site. Gone are the days of you having to tell people on StackOverflow or a forum – "This is covered in the PowerShell Cookbook. It says, ….". Instead, simply link to the recipe and let them read the answer for themselves! Try it: http://www.powershellcookbook.com/recipe/XmJd/manage-large-conditional-statements-with-switches. If they are not logged on, they'll get the recipe as you see it – but with the bar on the right letting them know that the recipe comes from the PowerShell Cookbook and where to buy it.
To kick off this experiment, we're offering a free trial of the PowerShell Cookbook's online access until February 8th. Visit the home page, use "free_trial" as the password, and let us know what you think!