What’s a Beta Book?

Writing books takes a long time. Our readers used to ask us whether it’s possible to get access to the material in a new book before it has been published—a sort of “beta test” form of the book, if you will. And so the Beta Book program was born. First, the drawbacks:

Before a book gets to the final, ready-to-publish state, it normally looks quite rough. It will have hundreds of typos and grammatical errors. It’s likely to have technical errors that would normally get corrected in a final read-through by reviewers. And it’ll certainly look fairly ugly—we don’t do any layout work until just prior to sending a book to the printer, so there will be widows, orphans, text split across page turns and so on.

The level of completeness of a beta varies by title and by the timing of your purchase. If you buy a beta book closer to the estimated completion date, you will be getting a more complete book. If you buy a beta when it is first released, then it is closer to the 50% complete mark.

Despite these challenges, we think the idea of giving you early access to the latest, cutting-edge, great material is important. It helps you out, and it helps us and the author as we get feedback.

How does it work?

A couple of months before a book is due to appear in its final form, we might release a title under the Beta Book program. We’ll make two products available in our store:

  • the Beta Book in eBook form (PDF, epub, and mobi)
  • the Beta Book/Paper book combo pack (eBook now, paperback when available)
  • an option to get the current beta version in print form (see below)

Both items will be for sale at the regular price for these products (which means the combo pack will available for a substantial discount over buying the eBook and book separately).

The updatable Beta Book only exists in eBook form. When you place your order for either of these products, we’ll ship you the Beta Book in its current state as an eBook. Note: this could be as little as 50% complete or as much as 100% complete—it depends on how much the author has been able to write.

Do I Get The Final Book, Too?

Of course! When the final book is released, we’ll let you know that the final version of the eBook is ready. If you ordered the combo pack, we’ll also ship you the final physical book at this time. You’ll also continue to get fixes to the final edition eBook for free (for the lifetime of that edition).

What’s your update policy?

When you buy a eBook from us, you’re entitled to free updates for the lifetime of that edition of the book (if we create a new edition, then that will be a separate purchase).

Can I get a printed copy of a beta?

Yes! Starting in 2010, most betas will give you the option to purchase a printed copy of a particular beta version of the text. This is a “snapshot” printing, you don’t get any updates, just the printed copy as it exists when you order. See the Beta on Paper program for more details.

Will the estimated ship date change?

It might change. When a book is started, a target date is put on the schedule. The actual date may shift depending on a variety of factors such as:

  • the authors are waiting for a stabilized release of the underlying technology
  • it has taken the authors longer to write than originally expected (not unlike software projects)
  • the paper that the book needs is backordered

Before the book ships, we do send out an address update request, so you will have a few days warning before actual ship date. If you have any questions regarding the ship date of a beta book, please check the website for the estimated date or email support@pragprog.com and we’ll let you know what the current schedule has projected.

Can I preorder just the paper book under this program?

No. The rules of our credit card processor stop us taking preorders more than 30 days before we ship something.

Can I get updates to my Beta eBook before the final book appears?

Yes. Log in to your account page and you’ll see the status of all the eBooks you own, including Beta Books. If there’s a more up-to-date version of an eBook that you own, you can click to update it.

I found a mistake in a Beta Book. What should I do?

Log in to your home page. Next to each eBook you own you’ll see a link to the corresponding errata page. Click on this link to see existing errata and add your own. Also, if you look at the bottom of each page in the PDF version, you’ll see a hyperlink labeled “Report Erratum.” This takes you directly to the book’s errata page.

What kinds of mistakes are you interested in?

At this stage we’re really interested in hearing about content: technical errors and missing or hard-to-understand text. We do not want to hear about layout issues (overlong lines, widows and orphans, bad page breaks, figure placement, and so on). These sorts of layout issues are fixed later during typesetting. Also, in general typos and grammatical mistakes will be fixed later by our copyeditor.

Thanks, and we hope you enjoy our Beta Book Program!

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