Yet another Blast from the Past. This one was originally posted on May 2, 2006 and is another one that holds true six and a half years later. It's fun to note that the number of Delphi books out there appears to be increasing as it becomes easier to publish and the bookstore becomes practically the last place you'll go to get a Delphi book.
I'm nearing the end of a pretty big project at a client very near our office. I've been going in ever day full-time for the past few months. I've really enjoyed working there, as the folks are nice, the development process is very professional and quite good, and the camaraderie quite enjoyable.
Now that the project is winding down, I've had a chance to actually do a bit more visiting and kibitzing with the folks there about general topics concerning development (plus various forays into the Civil War, American Idol, etc.) The topic of Delphi books came up, and one of the guys, Randy, made a good point. He noted that the reason that there aren't that many Delphi books out there is that there doesn't need to be that many good Delphi books out there.
The books that are out there are complete, comprehensive, and well done. For instance, there are really two books out there right now for Delphi: Delphi for .NET Developer's Guide by Xavier Pacheco, and Mastering Borland Delphi 2005 by Marco Cantu. Once you've bought one (or both) of these books, you've got pretty much everything you need. Xavier's book covers pretty much everything you need to develop in Delphi for .Net, and Marco's book covers both .Net and Win32 development. If you have Marco's book, for instance, you really don't need any other books.
Another factor in limiting the market for Delphi books is that Delphi is a mature product. It's users are to a large degree familiar with the language and the tool, and thus the demand for books that cover the basics is limited. There just aren't that many folks out there that need to buy a book about Delphi anymore. (Now, we can argue that we all need to figure out a way to increase the number of folks that want to buy books, but that is another blog post.) And since there are so many facets to Delphi, any book on an advanced topic would be of limited interest. And for topics like ASP.NET, there are so many C#/VB.NET based books out there, the content of which is 99.9% useful to a Delphi developer, that there's little reason for a publisher to go to the effort of putting out, say, an "ASP.NET for Delphi Developers" book -- as much as I'd like to see such a thing.
In addition, the presence of resources like http://groups.google.com makes finding answers to questions and problems easy. It's a rare day indeed when I can find an answer to a question using the newsgroup archives. This is an invaluable resource, when you stop to think about it. Shoot, just Peter Below's responses alone are worth their weight in gold. It might very well be that the excellent support received in the newsgroups has limited the market for Delphi books as well.
The bottom line, it seems to me, is that there aren't that many Delphi books out there because we just don't need that many Delphi books.
So what is the future of Delphi books? I think it's with something like lulu.com. Lulu.com couldn't be easier -- you send them a PDF, and then they'll print out a real book whenever someone pays for one. No muss, no fuss. Basically you are 100% in charge of the PDF, and you get 80% of the selling price. Someone like Ray Konopka, who sells his class Delphi Component Development book online as a PDF, would be perfect for something like this. You want to publish your own Delphi book? There you go. The size of the audience matters not. You want to buy a book? Encourage authors to use a service like Lulu.com to publish their materials. Heck, publish one yourself. The overhead costs seem quite small, and overall, it seems pathetically smart and simple.
I suspect that services like lulu.com will florish and only get better and cheaper. The stack of Delphi books at your local Borders (weird -- that link basicall goes to amazon.com...) might not be that tall, but the amount of information available to Delphi developers is still staggering. I've never been a big believer in the "books on the shelf equals market strength" theory -- at least in the sense that I think Delphi's market strength is much, much stronger than one might conclude from a trip to Barnes & Noble. Delphi book publishing need not be dead, it just needs to shift to a new way of doing business.