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Wikipedia has a tool for assembling books of their best content. And that's a good idea!

We have a lot of high quality content here, certainly enough for a small book. You could write a book on Stack Overflow alone.

I'm not saying that it necessarily has to be integrated into the main site, but this is just a suggestion if anyone wants to implement it.

Stack Exchange probably could make money selling the physical books though. CC-BY-SA allows selling, as long as you allow others to make copies of your book, and credit the author.

What Wikipedia does is you can custom order any set of articles as a book (it even has a nice set of authors at the end, to satisfy the BY part of CC-BY-SA).

This could even tie into the docs feature.

Some of Wikipedias books

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    I like the idea, however I don't think SE is going to go to the effort to put this into production. – angussidney Jan 31 '16 at 0:48
  • @angussidney It wouldn't even need to be SE though, due to creative commons. Anyone want to loan me a million dollars to start a printing press? – PyRulez Jan 31 '16 at 0:50
  • This is a really nice idea. I'm fairly young, and haven't come across programming books (at all really) but gather they are fairly popular. – Tim Jan 31 '16 at 2:03
  • Oh, I didn't realize I have dupe-hammer powers on Meta. Didn't really mean to close the question single-handedly. Don't think reopening is a good idea either, though, as the linked original appears good and fitting. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Jan 31 '16 at 8:37
  • Either way I don't think this is a good idea. SO's content is hardly suitable for compiling a coherent book on anything without super heavy editing, and what's the point in confining a living, breathing, constantly evolving and updating resource like a Stack Overflow question onto a dead tree anyway? Can anyone provide an example where this would really make sense? Let's start by putting together an example of a digital edition of a number of questions that anyone would actually buy. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Jan 31 '16 at 8:40
  • The other question is specifically about SO, and I agree there that print books wouldn't produce a lot of return on investment (lots of editing needed, and info goes out of date quickly). This question seems to be more general, and not all sites are like SO. I could totally see Seasoned Advice or DIY or EL&U being able to compile useful collections of their material that would stand the test of time, for example, and as I said in an answer, Mi Yodeya has already found this to be useful. Voting to reopen. – Monica Cellio Jan 31 '16 at 18:14
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    @MonicaCellio - I think that the site that would have the best hopes for publishing a book is Puzzling. After all, logical puzzles books are already pretty common. I agree that the question has a larger scope than the preceding one, so IMHO this is not a dupe. But I fear that as a request, this one would have more hope to be considered at a specific site level. – Hitodama Jan 31 '16 at 20:21
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    @SPArchaeologist I agree that the decision to do so needs to be made and implemented by individual sites; had this been tagged feature-request I wouldn't have voted to reopen. If "we" is "we users" rather than "SO, Inc" then it seems useful to collect answers about how to go about doing that and what things to take into account when deciding. But this is still something for interested users to do in the end. – Monica Cellio Jan 31 '16 at 20:24
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    @MonicaCellio "Code-Golf: The Book with the fewest Bytes" – PyRulez Feb 1 '16 at 1:08
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    I love this. We have all the pieces; we have a bunch of smart people, some of them experts in typesetting, some in pulling things from data dumps. Stack Overflow probably wouldn't work well, but sites like User Experience, Puzzling, Chemistry, etc. (just off the top of my head) could make awesome coffee table books. – Undo - Reinstate Monica Feb 1 '16 at 1:21
  • @Undo Oh yeah, Puzzling would be awesome. If any Puzzling people see this, do that. – PyRulez Feb 1 '16 at 1:22
  • Books are out of date before they even get published – Dagon Feb 1 '16 at 7:43
  • Looks like someone recently went and did this, presumably completely algorithmicly: amazon.com/George-Duckett/e/B00M87SQR2 – Isaac Moses Feb 1 '16 at 14:54
  • @IsaacMoses They didn't follow the CC-BY-SA rules. That's bad mojo. Do you have evidence they copied from Stack Exchange? If so, we should raise an issue on meta (selling is allowed, selling without attribution or share-a-like isn't.) – PyRulez Feb 1 '16 at 21:16
  • @PyRulez, He says in the product descriptions that the content is from Stack Exchange. He also claims to follow attribution rules. I haven't seen inside any of the books. How do you know they violate CC-BY-SA? – Isaac Moses Feb 1 '16 at 21:18
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I doubt that Stack Overflow Inc. will do this (it would be pretty tangential to their main focus, and they're pretty busy already), but there's no reason you or others couldn't do this. Mi Yodeya has produced four publications so far, one with an actual paper print run (all can be downloaded). Stack Exchange blessed this venture and even allowed us to use the site logo -- do note that site design is copyrighted by them and you need to ask. But other than that, if you follow the attribution rules in the CC-BY-SA license and don't violate SE's copyright on the design, you can do this today.

Here's how we handled the citation requirements:

  • For questions, we included a short-form URL on the page where the question appeared.

  • For users, we used names throughout and had a page of name-to-profile-URL mappings in the credits at the end.

We're pretty scrupulous about attribution, so page through one of our publications to get a feel for how this worked for us.

Turning Q&A content into publishable books involves a fair bit of work. We used meta to manage that, distributing the editing load, and then one person collected the resulting posts into the final document. Here is the project plan for our most-recent book; you can follow links from there to see details. While each of our books has been led by one person, we've always sought (and achieved) broader community input.

  • Did you manually compile the posts into LaTex/Word/[your favorite file type], or do you use automated processes for this? – apnorton Feb 4 '16 at 0:11
  • We manually edited in Markdown, then manually imported into Word and produced PDF from there. For a ~50-page book every 9 months or so that's fine for us; most of the time is spent on the editing, not the final production, anyway. (I wasn't the Word-wrangler, but I'll point out this post to him so he can comment further if he likes.) – Monica Cellio Feb 4 '16 at 1:02
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    @apnorton As Monica said, the manual editing is a big deal, for a bunch of reasons. What works well online, especially hyperlinks, doesn't necessarily work well on paper. In addition, we edit for grammar, style, and format to ensure that we put our best foot forward when publishing a fixed document. We also put additional emphasis on accessibility, either replacing or defining jargon terms. In some of our publications, we put together a glossary. After all that, the final layout consists mainly of pasting into MS Word, with effective use of Word styles to unify the formatting. – Isaac Moses Feb 4 '16 at 2:10

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