Re: Discuss: Third party manuals?

Subject: Re: Discuss: Third party manuals?
From: Beverly Parks <bparks -at- HUACHUCA-EMH1 -dot- ARMY -dot- MIL>
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 1995 08:06:52 MST

"Geoff Hart asked: <<If we do such a great job documenting software,
why are so many people making a good living writing third party "how
to" books? What are they doing right and what are we doing wrong?>>"
Cool idea, Geoff. Thanks for providing your own paraphrase!

I have two theories, both based on personal experience, and
neither related to the other.

1. In many cases, the third party books are a rehash of the
material provided in the manuals that come with the software.
The factor that makes the third party book sell is that the
material is organized in a different way. Possibly the type is
larger. There are usually more hint/tip boxes--stuff that gets
embedded in the text of the software manual. Based on customer
assistance calls, the third party book may give prominence to
topics of frequently asked questions. Overall, the third party
book may *appear* easier to understand and digest.

2. Perhaps opposite of what many believe, I usually purchase
third party books to software that I like and expect to use
often, rather than to software I seldom use or have a difficult
time with. There is a delicate balance there, however. If I am
*very* comfortable with the software and all of its features
(i.e., Microsoft Publisher), I don't feel another book would
gain me anything. So I guess it's a middle-of-the-road thing:
if I purchase new software and like it, I'm likely to purchase
a third party book about it. If I purchase new software and
don't like it--for whatever reason: lousy interface, poorly
written manual--I'll probably put it on a shelf. And that,
folks, goes to show just how important a well-written,
well-organized manual is to product sales!

=*= Beverly Parks =*= bparks -at- huachuca-emh1 -dot- army -dot- mil =*=
=*= "Unless otherwise stated, all comments are my own. =*=
=*= I am not representing my employer in any way." =*=

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