Technical Writing 101: new edition, new approach

Alan Pringle / News4 Comments

In early May, we will release the third edition of Technical Writing 101: A Real-World Guide to Planning and Writing Technical Content. We published the second edition in 2003, so it was time for an update. A lot has changed in technical communication since then!

You may have noticed a change in the book’s subtitle: the previous editions’ subtitles mention “Writing Technical Documentation,” but the new edition focuses on “Writing Technical Content.” We made that change because “documentation” conjures thoughts of printed manuals, which are no longer the primary form of output for many companies (or the new edition of Technical Writing 101, but more on that later). Because a lot of product information is now online, we added information about multimedia content to the chapter on visual communication, and we also revised the chapter on production editing to include information about reviewing online output.

Today’s tech writers are handling more and more aspects of the technical publishing process; fewer companies employ full-time editors and production staff. The new edition—which is 44 pages longer than its predecessor—accounts for this shift in roles. Other big changes in the third edition include new content about DITA and Web 2.0. DITA’s use has grown exponentially since we released the second edition, so it was essential for us to introduce DITA to prospective technical writers. The use of blogs, forums, and wikis has also had a profound influence on technical communication in the past few years, so we added a chapter that explains the impact of Web 2.0 technologies on technical writing. For more information about what’s in the new edition, check out the table of contents (PDF, 135 KB).

Perhaps the biggest change for this edition isn’t in the content: for the first time, we are releasing this title in PDF format. For $20, you will be able to download the new edition instantly from our online store. As with our other PDF-based books, the file will have no digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that prevent printing or that lock the file to a particular computer. Those who prefer a printed book can buy one in the near future from Lulu.com, which prints books on demand. A printed copy will be $35.95: the same cost as the second edition, despite the increased page count.

This is our first foray into print-on-demand books. After some number-crunching, we decided we did not want to print copies in advance and distribute them ourselves for this edition. Distributing your own printed book entails a lot of money and work: pay a printer to print and ship cases of books to you, store those cases of books, ship copies all over the world, deal with bulk returns from bookstores, and so on. We have seen a decline in the revenue from printed books (as have other publishers), so we thought it was time to try digital downloads as the primary method of selling the new edition of Technical Writing 101.

Many schools have adopted the book as a textbook since we released the first edition in 2000, and we hope the $20 price for the digital version will make it even more accessible to students—and to anyone who is considering a career in technical writing.

If you’re an instructor and would like to review the latest edition, please contact us at books@scriptorium.com. We’ll send you a coupon code so you can download the PDF version at no cost from our online store.

Watch this blog and our newsletter, Illuminations, for more details about the upcoming release.

About the Author

Alan Pringle

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Content strategy consulting. Publishing (electronic and print). Eating (preferably pastries and chocolate). COO at Scriptorium.

4 Comments on “Technical Writing 101: new edition, new approach”

  1. Congratulations! Your book is my favorite introduction to our industry, and I have recommended it often. I look forward to seeing the new edition. And kudos to you not only for the updated edition, but for publishing on demand. It makes perfect sense.

  2. David, because a PDF file is the primary delivery format for this edition, we’re not doing preorders: our online store gives buyers immediate access to an electronic item after payment. We will release the book May 1 (next Friday), so you don’t have to wait long! Much thanks for your interest–Alan

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