Tangled Up In Packing Tape

code better • have fun

It’s been a busy couple of months here as we prepare to launch our new book-printing imprint, The Pragmatic Bookshelf. We spent the year writing the first two books, Pragmatic Version Control and_Pragmatic Unit Testing_. The interesting part was what happened next.

We’d decided a while back that we were going to publish these books ourselves. It wasn’t that we didn’t value our relationship with Addison Wesley. We just wanted that bit of extra control that comes from managing the entire process. So we found a printer, registered for ISBNs and an imprint, typeset the books, got the covers designed, worked with reviewers and a copy editor, and then finally sent the whole mess off to be printed and bound. We thought the rest would be easy.

Instead, we then spent weeks putting all the fulfillment options in place. It turns out that while shopping cart software is easy to find, decent, distributed fulfillment software that did what we needed was not. I was determined not to fall into the trap of writing our own, but (yet again) I lost that battle. Still, the result is fairly nice: PDF orders are taken, shipped, and billed totally automatically, and even physical orders are pretty straightforward: a Ruby script downloads the details and coordinates the printing of a label containing appropriate postage.

We put the site live yesterday (do drop by—we’re proud of these books), and so far things are running fairly smoothly.

Apart from the paper cuts…