The story of eBooks and me
By day, a mild-mannered software developer but by night, an international publishing magnate. Read on to hear the origins of Clapham Technical Press.
I’ve been interested in eBooks for several years. Back in 2014, at the London Perl Workshop, I announced that I would be writing a book on Modern Web Development Techniques that would be available by the 2015 workshop. That book never happened, and one of the reasons for that was that I got lost down a massive rabbit hole while researching the best way to publish an eBook.
After a few false starts, I developed the pipeline that I still use today for publishing eBooks. I knew I wanted to store the text in a non-proprietary format - one that I could use all Unix’s text manipulation tools on; one that could be easily stored in a standard source code control system. I write in Markdown and I produce output in ePub, Mobi and PDF.
I gave a talk about my pipeline (called “Conference Driven Publishing”) at a few conferences in 2015 - including at that year’s London Perl Workshop, where I apologised for not writing the book I promised the previous year. In August, I wrote a blog post describing my process in more detail and in November, I used the pipeline to publish my first eBook - a collection of old blog posts called Eighteen Classic Albums.
In 2016, I adapted my talk to a less Perl-centric audience and gave the new version (renamed to “Writing Books (The Easy Bit)”) at the spring FLOSS UK conference in London. A few people seemed interested in what I was doing and I started to toy with the idea of publishing an eBook about publishing eBooks (a project that I have started, but am yet to finish).
I had been wondering what my next eBook would be but in 2017, a perfect opportunity presented itself. A beginners Perl tutorial that I had written for Udemy fell out of favour and found itself in a derelict section of their site where broken CSS made it pretty much unusable. When I contacted them about it, they said they had no plans to fix it but that I was welcome to republish it myself. So I decided to do that.
Turning the course into a (brief) eBook was easy - I was getting pretty used to my pipeline by that time. But I decided that I would take this a step further and make it the first book in a series of books about Perl. Five years earlier, I had used the Perl School branding for a series of training courses and I decided to reuse that brand for my new series of books. Perl Taster soon became the first book in the series and I gave a talk at the next London Perl Workshop introducing the brand and inviting other people to write for the series.
John Davies spoke to me after my talk and proposed a book on using Selenium with Perl (based on a talk he had given at the workshop). A few months later, Selenium & Perl became the second Perl School book and it began to look like we’d really need a website.
So we had a brand. And the brand got quite a boost when well-known Perl author brian d foy got in touch with me and asked if he could publish some eBooks through Perl School. I obviously leapt at the chance and we have now published four of brian’s books. Along with another book each by John Davies and me, that brings Perl School’s current catalogue to a total of eight books. I was interviewed by brian for perl.com about the ideas behind Perl School. We also started making some of our books available through LeanPub. Outside of Perl School, I helped a friend publish her chick-lit novel.
And that’s the story so far. I’ve written and published a number of eBooks on both Amazon and LeanPub and I’ve helped a few other people do the same thing.
But that’s not where it ends. Perl programming is a pretty niche market and the Perl School books aren’t exactly selling in large numbers. So it’s time for the next stage of the plan. I’m going to take the lessons I’ve learned from the last six years and apply them to a larger marketplace. For that purpose, I’ve set up Clapham Technical Press - a service that will do what Perl School does for Perl authors, but for people writing about any technologies. If you want to know a bit more about the mechanics of publishing eBooks, then please get in touch. If you want help turning your ideas into an eBook, then please get in touch. If you want someone to handle uploading your eBook to various platforms for you, then please get in touch.
We’re at email@example.com and we’d love to help you get your knowledge out into the world.