Dear friends and readers:
Read the license yourself for the full details. In the first draft of this annoucement, I wrote that the book was free. A better way to put it is that you are free. It is unfettered: I still charge thirty bucks for an ebook, and here’s my explanation why. But you are free to obtain the book any way you like, free to share the book any way you like, and best of all, you are free to build upon it.
I also made certain specific “editions” of the book free: You can read the entire book online. And the source in markdown is on GitHub. From now on, if you spot a mistake, you can file and issue, or better still, fork it and send me a pull request!
Why are you still here? Why aren’t you reading the book online, for free?
Oh, you’ve already read the book and are waiting for the barista to pull you a quad shot. In that case, here’s some background as to why I’m making the book free.
Not-so-long-ago, I zigged whilst my employer zagged, and I found myself unemployed. I was feeling very positive about the future, so I decided that as far as a “job” was concerned, I was going to aim as high as I possibly could. I had a consulting gig to help with the bills, so I spent the next twelve months being extremely picky about what I looked into.
Not picky as in “Does it pay one million dollars?” But picky as in “Would I find myself waking up at four in the morning and hopping online to flesh out an idea concerning work.” (As I did five hours ago).
Along the way, I did a lot of writing. It’s good for me to write, it helops me clarify my thoughts. Most of my essays are, as Paul Graham would say, attempts to essay or venture out and see how a thought fits in the world. I blogged quite a bit about programming and about the freedom of ideas.
I even accepted five conference invitations, thinking (correctly) that writing a presentation engages my brain as much as or more so than writing an essay. Conferences are rare for me, I am extremely shy. (I don’t attend our Toronto Rails Pub Nights, so most Toronto Rubyists have never met me. Some are suprised to hear that I’m a Canadian!)
I am very committed to this idea of sharing. I campaigned, hard, for a job on the FirefoxOS team at Mozilla. I really wanted to work on developer tools for Forefox OS. I believe that bringing another ten million or 100 million or even one billion people online with smart devices is going to be a tremendous opportunity for the world becoming a better place.
And not just in terms of “Oh look, one billion more people to join our social gossip-sharing gamified site,” but also in terms of there being another 100,000, one million or even ten million new programmers writing programs to solve problems that we can’t even imagine as we sip our tasty espresso. How do we help them program? I’m super-stoked by where Mozilla is going with this, and likewise I’m so excited I can barely sit still when I look at what people are doing with things like Squeak or Light Table.
From the start, I chose to charge real money. There is an important idea here that asking for money was a way to force me to write good books and create something valuable up front. I was constantly asking myself, “Am I creating more value with this writing than getting a Ruby gig?” Knowing you are going to ask for money changes the way you write. It was also a way for me to measure my ability to add value after the fact. If a book has free downloads, what does it mean to have 1,000 or 2,000 or 5,000 or even 50,000 readers?
But one paying customer… That’s a thing, that’s proof that you’ve created the perception of value. Combine that with a 100%, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee, and what have you got? A very good idea of whether what you’re doing is valuable to people. Furthermore, I wasn’t working. So ever paying customer was paving another few inches of “runway,” to use the startup metaphor. My readers were busying me time to improve the book and time to find my own next dream to pursue.
I believe in this. That’s why I write, and that’s why I work at GitHub. And you helped me get here:
Part of why I believed in myself enough to go through the terrors of interviewing for my job is the confidence you the readers gave me when you supported my books and told me that the ideas I was trying to share were useful. I can’t thank you enough for that.
Be well, and may your ideas multiply upon themselves and spread to the furthest corners of the universe. And share the book!