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Does anybody know how O'Reilly chooses topics to publish?

For some reason, I don't see how it can be based on demand.

The reason, I ask, is because they haven't published a Delphi book in almost 12 years and Object Pascal is at least as esoteric as Erlang and as practical as PHP and as robust as C++.

So, maybe someone knows what rationale is behind O'Reilly's publishing methodology or what it is supposed to tell us about the relative popularity or usefulness of any given language or programming technique?

Oh, I forgot about pig and robotlegs

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Snowman, Ixrec, MichaelT, durron597, GlenH7 Apr 26 at 23:05

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

The only qualified answerers here are working for O'Reilly. I suspect a direct e-mail to them would be the best way to answer your question. –  thiton Nov 28 '11 at 14:55
It tells us that O'Reilly is involved in a dark and mysterious conspiracy to DESTROY DELPHI!! ...using an army of pigs with robotic legs. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 28 '11 at 15:01
Maybe people are too busy writing programs in Delphi to write books on Delphi. –  StuperUser Nov 28 '11 at 15:05
Perhaps you'd like to offer your services to rectify this apparent oversight. Here's their author writing guidelines. –  CraigM Nov 28 '11 at 15:21
@thiton I'd imagine there are 9 or 10 O'Reilly employees here on programmers.SE. Probably working on a book, "Figuring out how to ask questions that don't get closed on Programmers" with a beady eyed vulture on the cover. –  Peter Turner Nov 28 '11 at 15:23

4 Answers 4

I've written and tech reviewed books for four different publishers, including writing for an editor who was formerly at O'Reilly. I can tell you that the process goes a little like this in all of those publishers:

  • there are acquisitions editors who have a "list" (essentially a topic or group of topics that books could potentially be written about, so there might be an editor for "mobile" or for "Microsoft technologies" etc.), and a "target" (expected number of $ to make this year from books on their list).
  • acquisitions editor invites, through various means, prospective authors to submit proposals for books to write. These include:
    • subject
    • outline of contents
    • if the editor doesn't know the author, a sample of their writing
    • why the book should be written
    • why the author is the correct person to write it
    • who would read it
    • how many of those people there are
    • expected schedule for completion
    • what the competition (if any) is
    • whether any events (conferences, new product releases etc.) that are important to the marketing of the book are coming up
  • the editor then sends the proposal out for review to a few of the author's peers, who basically validate or refute the existence of the market, and comment on the scope and depth of the book.
  • once the reviews are in, it's essentially up to the discretion of the editor whether to champion the project in some internal company go/no-go process.

So you can see there are many reasons there may not be a book on your favourite topic, from "no editor thinks $topic is in their list" through "no potential author has proposed a book on $topic" to "books on $topic wouldn't make any money".

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While I agree with what jfrankcarr said, I believe it has more to do with the usefulness of a book on Delphi. Because of the steep price that Embarcadero charges for Delphi, it is very unlikely that somebody that already doesn't work with Delphi would pick up their book and try to learn Delphi on their own. Meanwhile, (to the best of my knowledge) the books you linked to are all technologies that are cost nothing to get started in, so that there is no barrier to entry for somebody at the bookstore ('cause that's where we all buy books now right ;) ) who is looking for something new and happens upon the latest O'Reilly book.

It may be partially about which technologies are hot right now, but chances are that for the book to succeed the technology has to be fairly accessible to those interested.

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That's kind of what I thought too, although they did once do the Delphi book, and never updated it. Also, they could just do an Object Pascal book cross platform and open source with Lazarus and Free Pascal. Or they could do a half and half book. And it's not like they've shied away from C# or .NET stuff - or even iPhone development, which arguably costs more for the independent developer than Delphi programming nowadays. –  Peter Turner Nov 28 '11 at 15:29
@PeterTurner C# and .NET programming can be completely free (Visual Studio Express, SharpDevelop or MonoDevelop). I did think about Lazarus/Free Pascal but they don't seem that...popular (bad choice of words but I couldn't think of anything else). A lot has changed for Delphi in the past 12 years. It went from Borland to Codegear and to Embarcadero. Meanwhile new languages came out that have made Delphi somewhat of an outcast (again, for lack of a better word) in the Windows development –  Jetti Nov 28 '11 at 15:34

Like most businesses, their objective is to make money. Based on that, I'd guess that they've found the Delphi book market to be too small and unprofitable as compared to other markets, especially ones that are considered to be 'hotter' now.

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I dunno, it's not like Haskell is torchin' the TIOBE charts. –  Peter Turner Nov 28 '11 at 15:20
@PeterTurner, but Haskell is often used as an example of functional programming, which many programmers strive to learn. Just because you want to learn it doesn't mean you want to use it. –  zzzzBov Nov 28 '11 at 15:24
There are 509 results on this site when I search for Haskell:, and only 281 when I search for Delphi: I know, it's a highly un-scientific survey, but it suggests that here, Haskell is more popular now, and that Haskell books are likely to sell better these days, if the P.SE populate is a good representative sample (and I have no idea if it is or is not). –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 28 '11 at 15:25
My guess is they base their decisions on how many requests for technology X they get multiplied by the number of submissions. So even if 10K people request a Delphi book, if nobody offers to write one they won't publish one. –  TMN Nov 28 '11 at 15:38
@Fru even less scientific, but an order of magnitude higher (in the Delphi direction): About 23,400,000 results. About 2,890,000 results –  Peter Turner Nov 28 '11 at 16:43

Aha, thanks to @CraigM for the link, I think this answers my question

In our professional publishing program for developers and system administrators, we're most likely to publish books on topics with these characteristics:

  • Covers standards-based technology (or is so widely used as to be a de-facto standard).
  • Shows grassroots adoption and a community surrounding it.
  • Has hard problems for users that can be solved by better documentation.
  • Is not already covered by a lot of existing books.
  • Has an author with real expertise.
  • Covers new technologies that might not be on most people's radar but are on the brink of wide adoption or importance.


We're NOT looking for:

  • Books that overlap too heavily with our existing books.
  • Books on proprietary technologies that don't have a huge user base.
  • Books on miniscule (i.e., personal or nascent) products, even if they are open source.
  • Books on topics that have dismal sales despite quality books being available. (If you're addressing a topic where good books have sold dismally in the past (for instance, LISP, LaTeX, or Web-based training), you have a much higher threshold to clear with your proposal. Convince us why there is a revival of interest in your topic, or why your approach to a deadly topic will provoke interest nonetheless.)
  • Books that have been rejected by other publishers, in most cases.


A Delphi book would certainly not hit on some of those criteria, but others it would. An author would need to make a solid case for publishing the book while Dr. Bob and Marco Cantu are alive and furthermore, would need to convince a lot of people that Delphi (or at least Object Pascal) is accessible and innovative.

The book wouldn't be a method of boosting popularity, it should arise with the popularity.

It is apparent though, that some other technologies have made this case successfully.

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From the "We're NOT Looking" for section "Books on proprietary technologies that don't have a huge user base", not sure a definition of 'huge', but it seems like Delphi fits that criterion. –  Jetti Nov 28 '11 at 15:43
Delphi was innovative 15 years ago. It hasn't had anything exciting added to it in ages. –  Boris Yankov Nov 28 '11 at 18:33
I know that I personally do not like to mark my own answers, but I think that you should mark this as the answer. –  Joshua Drake Nov 28 '11 at 20:33

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