A few people have asked me about my involvement in Beginning Perl 2. Like most stories about publishing, the story is an unfortunate one.
I was asked if I would like to write Beginning Perl 2. I said yes. I was then told that the publishers “would prefer to find an author who can carry revisions of the book from 5.6 to the present and beyond for Perl 6”. I said that writing a Perl 6 book at this point was insane, but I took the hint that they were going to be using my first edition but getting another author to update it. I was also told (by Martin Striecher, editorial director of Apress) in a message recieved on the 14th of October last year that:
We use some or all of the material that already exists. You are paid 50% of the royalties of the book after the advance paid to revise the book is recouped.
Excellent. I like getting royalties.
In March 2003, I get asked by Chris Mills:
I just wanted to ask you if you wanted your name associated with the new version.
In April, Chris writes:
I would say that more than 25% of the original text is used.
Well, if you’re going to admit that you’re heavily using my material, it would be nice to have my name on it, I suppose. But what about those royalties, hey?
hmmmm, did anything formal get agreed, or was this just informally mentioned?
Oh, here we go, I can see the screw going in… Chris promised to see what he could do. That was in July. No word since. Yes, I should have got it in writing, but I thought these were decent folks.
Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m all high and mighty and that it’s not about the money, it’s about the principle. Anyone who says that sort of thing is almost certainly lying. I have no income, so the odd bit of cash here and there helps boring things like buying food. There is a principle, I guess; Apress have taken material that I own, under a creative commons license that does not give them the right to make modifications and resell them, and made modifications and resold it. But they’re a publishing company and I’m a missionary, so there won’t be a lawsuit.
But, you know, if you’re thinking of buying Beginning Perl, remember that there’s a perfectly good first edition freely available online under the Creative Commons agreement, (yes, teachers, this means you can copy it and give it to your classes) that I have a Paypal tipjar here, and that I have faith in you to do the right thing. Unlike my faith in certain publishing companies.