Mark Rittman has an interesting article called “The State of the Technical Publishing Market“.
While I agree you are unlikely to make money from writing technical books, I still feel it has some value.
I was interested in the whole publishing thing for some time before I was offered the opportunity to write a book. It was nice to see the whole process in action.
A quick look at my website will show you the range of skills I’ve had to pick up over the years. Unless you constantly try to re-educate yourself, it’s easy to get locked into a state of mind where you only ever do what you know. I feel that writing articles for my website has helped prevent me from stagnating, but it’s not always enough. Writing a book on a specific topic forces you to focus your attention on that area, extending your knowledge beyond what you may normally achieve. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus your attention.
It’s a giant ego trip seeing your name in black and white. Of course I could publish a PDF with the same content, but regardless of what anybody says, it isn’t the same as holding a book in your hands.
I guess the funniest thing about publishing is people’s reactions. I’ve been writing web articles for years, serving tens of millions of pages each year to people all over the world. Mention that to somebody and you’re just another geek who thinks he has something to say. On the other hand, mention you’ve written a book and you’re a guru… What’s that all about?
What’s my opinion? Everyone should write at least one book in their life! 🙂