- Every code example in the textbook, and many additional ones that are part of the lectures or the homeworks, are up on Pastebin. So even students who doggedly refuse to learn an editor with syntax highlighting can see what they’re missing, plus Pastebin provides 1-click copy-and-paste so they can try the code themselves. We created automation to keep the Pastebin links in sync with the URLs that appear in the book and ebook whenever the examples are updated and/or the book is revved.
- Many book chapters include screencasts to show how to use specific tools. Anyone can watch these for free on Vimeo(albeit out of context), and we’ll be doing an iBooks version of the book in which the screencasts are embedded right into the ebook.
- There’s no glossary. With Wikipedia, who needs one? Instead, important terms in the book are linked to the corresponding Wikipedia entries. (In the print book, they appear as URIs in the endnotes of each chapter, but in the Kindle book, the links are live as long as you’re connected to the Internet).
- At the moment there’s no index. This may be a hardship if you only own the print version, but the electronic version is searchable. We anticipate it will be common for print book owners to also own the electronic version (though sadly there’s no way for us to bundle the two purchases, since the print book is created and distributed by the CreateSpace print-on-demand shop and the Kindle ebook is distributed by Amazon, which ironically owns CreateSpace).
- Separately from term definitions via Wikipedia, the book includes various links to interesting news articles, YouTube videos, and other online materials related to the text. If you’re reading the ebook on a device like the iPad or Kindle Fire, you can just click on the videos and watch them. The print book has URIs that you have to type in manually.
So that’s what we’ve been doing and why. The alpha edition, with some missing chapters, is now available (January 2012) at saasbook.info. By March there will be some minor revisions to it and by Fall we hope to have a beta edition that is content-complete.