I have an idea, not sure if it is new or not but I think a lot of people would find it useful. Often I buy an IT book and afterwards think what would really have good if I could have paid for the book in sections at the time and each section contains links to sections in the same or other books which would be good as follow on ride. So for instance if I was reading a chapter on Java web based programming and it referenced spring integration I could then read a section from a spring book and so on.
In short if the electronic version of a book was made up of sections as usual but the sections were related in a tree structure approach which indicated material the section depends on and also what would be good further reading.
Its all a bit like in book purchases, similar to in game purchases :)
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We've thought a lot about this, and it's really hard to do well. We have over 11,000 ebooks on oreilly.com, and connecting the bits is subjective and ever-changing as new and updated products are published. W/ that said, Safari, our online subscription platform, is creating tutorials and recommendations that guide you through both books and training video based on the topics you're interested in. If you're an existing oreilly.com ebook customer you may have noticed that you can now search through and read all the ebooks you've purchased, making it easier for you to discover and explore the content you own. (You can do this through your Member's account.) Next week we're releasing the next stage of this, which allows you to search w/in and explore all the books you don't own. Once you find something interesting you can buy it and have immediate online access or download the products as you normally would.
I hope this helps. It's a great idea, one I hope we're edging towards.
Even though I can understand that it might be complicated I think it would be a really useful idea and a start on say new books would be worthwhile. It is useful that I can search existing books I own and books I don't own but in reality I often buy IT books but don't read them cover to cover, I may read a 3rd of a book and this leads me on to other points of interest. I think my idea is really that I don't by a book as such I buy parts of books. This would possibly bring in more money for O'Reilly and be more cost effective for the customer. It would also make it easier for the customer to bring themselves up to speed on a broader arena of software development.
Recently I bought 'Well-Grounded Java Developer', I know this isn't a O'Reilly book but bear with me. I had been developing Java front end applications for years and decided I needed to learn about server development and bring myself up to speed with the latest concepts in the Java world. I bought the Well-Grounded book because it gave a broad coverage of various Java concepts, no other book appeared to offer this. What would have been really useful though was if I could purchase sections of books covering Java 8, Tomcat, JEE, Spring, JSP ........... If I could have typed in a subject area on the site such as Java Server Development it it could have offered books and sections of books that might have been of interest. If I read about Tomcat it might have referred to Jenkins or Dependency Injection and offered me book sections elsewhere to read.
Obviously with the 11,000 books the cross referencing could be huge, but you have a huge customer base to help you fill it in :)