Fat Book

All I see in the computer section of bookstores today are FatBooks -- each is over a thousand pages, and full of screen shots and such -- usually with a lousy index.

I long for the days when you could learn everything you needed from SkinnyBooks, like K&R or for that matter, almost anything BrianKernighan wrote.

The rise and rise of GUIs probably has a lot to do with this. For example, here's an extract from page 1 of ManagingProjectsWithMake: "The command $ make program indicates that you want to "make" a version--usually the latest version-- of program". Now imagine how many half-page images would be needed to illustrate the same sentence if the book were, instead, ManagingProjectsWithVC++6

   Exactly none:

"1. Select Build --> Build from the menu."

Haha! Right. It could be done that way, but how likely would it be that it were? So, an interesting question is why the FatBooks provide so many pictures when text like that above would do?

That's how I do it all the time. I think the pictures are there to pad out the book, justify a big price tag, and increase visibility when on bookstore shelves.

It's difficult to understand how anyone could learn much about programming from a book packed with mouse event scripts. Or command lines for that matter. Except that command line commands very often are short programs.

I've decided that LotsOfScreenShots is definitely a bad thing. --KrisJohnson


See UmlDistilled for an example of an informative and influencial book that is also thin in spite of being about (in part) pictures.


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