A “real” letter and an old book

As a co-author of Harnessing Hibernate, I get to hear about some of the feedback the book has received from time to time. James recently shared a letter he received about the book, a real “letter”: signed, sealed, and delivered by the United States Postal Service. How archaic? Someone decided to read a computer book, type up a letter, and mail a physical artifact. My initial reaction was, “what kind of crazy jackass would bother with the USPS when our email addresses are listed in the…” But, after some reflection, it certainly worked; it gained someone’s attention more so than a simple email. A real letter is much more difficult to ignore than something that shows up in my busy Gmail INBOX, and you have to consider that the person who sent this letter is more invested in his feedback than someone who fires off a random email.

Emails are easy to ignore, and the promises made in an electronic format fade quickly. Committing ink to paper is something else entirely, and you tend to take printed material more seriously than you would an electronic message. Printed letters are much more interesting, and they retain powerful lasting value that emails do not… see this blog post about letters from the recently deceased John Hughes. As effective as it was at gaining my attention, I can’t help but return to my initial reaction. Is this someone with an interesting archaic quirk? Or, is this some email-avoiding conspiracy theorist?

One of the pieces of feedback in the letter was that the book was out of date. Of course the book is out of date, bulk-printing 10,000 copies of a 400 page book about a rapidly evolving open source project is certainly the definition of crazy. Unlike other books I’ve helped to write, Harnessing Hibernate is not free. It doesn’t have a life outside of the printed product, and it is getting more and more irrelevant every single day. Harnessing Hibernate is a lost opportunity, if it were an open title, it would quickly gain an audience and a community willing to help develop the content.

  • http://arcadia.brunchboy.com James Elliott

    It’s almost as strange as sending you an email with some scanned attachments, and getting my reply via your blog! :DSo do you think O’Reilly would be willing to open up the book? And even if they did, is it too late at this point?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11010999293614731190 Tim O’Brien

    Hello, I thought I responded, maybe I didn't.I'd love to convince Mike to let us open this thing up because it would give me an excuse to drive up to Madison. I also think it needs a couple more chapters and a version update.The Maven book has been a very rich experience, I get feedback about it almost every day, and, now that it is on Git, it is starting to attract people who have an itch to contribute. I really think that this book could attract solid traffic.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01750987313137998879 mosabua

    Situations like this make my day. Now if only OReilly would open the book. That would be awesome.