Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Paper vs online: opinions wanted

I'm writing a text-book type reference manual (which discusses concepts as well as procedures) for an application that will be used by software developers. One team member believes we should provide printed copies as well as online copies of the document; I'm not so sure. (Users will have the option of printing the document whether we supply a printed version or not.)

If you were a software developer purchasing an application, would you want a paper copy of such a manual in addition to an online copy? More to the point, would you use a paper copy?

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Some people really like having a printed/bound manual - whether they read it or not.

Since not everyone would want or use it, charge extra for the printed version. That way the people who want it can get one but not everyone has to pay for something they don't use.

Make sure that your users know that the printed version is the same as the on-line version so they won't feel like they have to buy one to get all the information they need.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Can you ask the customers?

Who's in a better position to know what customers will want -- the person who recommends having a printed manual, or you?

I'd find out what your customers want.  Some customer bases want a printed manual, some don't.

The Pedant, Brent P. Newhall
Wednesday, July 23, 2003


Wednesday, July 23, 2003

I like paper text-book like manuals whenever I am not the one picking up the tab ;-)

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, July 23, 2003

I find paper based manuals much easier to read on the toilet.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, July 23, 2003


You just need wireless in your house ;-)

Don't make them pay extra for the printed copy - give them a discount for choosing an electronic version.  It's a subtle difference, but I'm someone who really dislikes having to buy manuals for products I've spent a good deal of money on.  But if that's the price of the product - I can't complain.  Or maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

How big is the document? 

Personally, it it's over a 100 pages I'd like the paper version.  If it's less, I can easily burn off copy of my own at the printer if I wanted it. More then a 100 pages and you run into the hassle of having to find that mega-stapler to attach all the pages together.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

If it's a big document, or one I'll be referencing a lot, I end up printing it out... And then I have endless paperclipped or bindered documents.

Print on demand is really coming into it's own, find someone who will publish your book with the right formatting, and then your customers can choose whether or not it's worth the $10 or whatever to have a printed copy of the manual, or you can absorb the price and have it shipped to them.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003

It really depends if it is a reference or something to sit down and read. For a reference book, online is the only way to go. For a book that is something that you will read at least a chapter's worth, then on paper is preferable. I too want to read it in the bathroom.

(Wiring my house is not an option if I'm at work and the laptop is way to hot for bare skin. No mental pictures please)

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

I have to say I like printed documents. Reading substantial amounts of text online is too clumsy. You just can't flick back and forth, nor can you scribble in the margins (excepting Tablet PC flimsy attepmt at this).

Love the idea, mentioned above, of offering a discount for electronic-only, rather than charging extra for the printed document.

I would always like to think that there was an online version, as well as the printed version, just in case you need to look something up quickly, but given the option of one or the other, I'd always choose the printed one.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, July 24, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home