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All Packt ebooks are $5 (packtpub.com)
84 points by angrymouse on Dec 19, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments

I got a similar request to write a book for Packt. They offered almost zero money upfront, and when asked could offer zero reasons as to why they thought there was a market for this book.

It really seemed their plan was "James takes almost all the risk and does almost all of the work but James does not get almost all the money."

I get an ~monthly email asking about producing d3 content for them. For what they're offering it really doesn't make any sense lock what I have time to write or make in a book only a few people will read.

They seem to exhibit the same behavior as online content-farms. Shame we don't have a real-life Panda update to squash subpar books.

I would suggest checking out the reviews on amazon before buying, even if its only 5$ :)

I dont have enough packt titles to evaluate their general quality, but at least I found their early solr books useful(it was also the only book on solr back then, so not much choice :)

I was supposed to write a book for them. Even though they refer to people as experts, table of contents and page count is given up front and is hardly negotiable, so I decided to not proceed. Instead I reviewed the book written by someone else and I'm confident they are not a publisher worth working with. Even though I tried my best as a reviewer the outcome was at best mediocre. Language review is done after the book is done, so it's hard to focus on the content. Half of my comments were ignored because they would cause major rewrites (as a reviewer I was contacted after initial drafts of multiple chapters were completed). And the only payment is a copy of reviewed book.

I don't think these books are worth even $5.

Yes, I had a similar experience. I was asked to review a book that was terribly written. The language problems were so bad that I had a hard time reviewing the content. That said, even the content didn't deserve to be put in writing. Definitely not worth even $1.

I had the same experience with them. Withdrew myself as reviewer because I felt the material would never get to a standard where I'd be comfortable to have my name mentioned with it.

I got a proposal to review one yesterday, was already a little concerned that a vagrant config on github made me ideal for reviewing a cloudera handbook. If the review isn't taken seriously I'll pass, thanks for the heads up :)

I had very similar experience with the reviewing.

You can get a preview of Packt books over on Safari [0].

Personally, I've found the quality of content and editing in Packt books to be consistently terrible. I won't click on a Packt book in my all you can read Safari Library subscription, I certainly wouldn't pay $5 for any of them.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I can't recommend No Starch Press [1][2] enough.

0: http://my.safaribooksonline.com/browse?publisher=83&publishe...

1: http://shop.oreilly.com/category/publishers/no-starch-press....

2: http://my.safaribooksonline.com/browse?publisher=59&publishe...

I can't recommend No Starch Press enough.

Still, some of their offerings have been pretty poor (there was at least one Ruby book that was ill-informed) so the best bet is to check reviews for any given book.

Same for O'Reilly. Used to be I would just assume a book from O'Reilly was properly vetted and worth getting, but after buying a few clunkers I learned to do some homework before shelling out or trusting the content.

"The Linux Programming Interface" is a top-notch book http://nostarch.com/tlpi

I wrote WordPress Multisite Administration for Packt. http://www.packtpub.com/wordpress-multisite-administration/b...

It was an overall pleasant experience, but I do agree they care more about quantity than quality. Their entire editing process was really sloppy. And review process is crap, at best.

I'm writing my next book through Leanpub.com, that way I will actually make money and can have waaay more control over the final product.

There are some comments about the quality of the books, let me share my opinion.

When a book is written for Packt (this is my experience):

1) The author submits his draft chapters to reviewers (there are two or three reviewers per book) - and they provide feedback. The author then has to address all comments from the reviewers, either to correct something (or to make it clearer and understandable) or to reply why it was not corrected. And this goes back and forth until everything is sorted out.

2) After that, technical editors review all chapters and if they feel that something may not be clear enough to the reader or it may have to be double-checked by the author, they will contact him and he'll have to update his drafts again.

3) Then, when the technical editors finish their thing and provide pre-final copies of the chapters, the author has to proofread everything, in order to make sure that everything is as it should be. If the author finds that something is not right he sends feedback to the editors.

You can see that there are many people involved on Packt's side, and (in my case) every one of them cares about quality. At the end of the book the author is even contacted to give an opinion on the quality of the technical editors he was working with.

I know this because I recently authored a book for Packt, named "OAuth 2.0 Identity and Access Management Patterns". It was released few weeks ago.

About the book, I posted an announcement on my blog: http://blog.thisismartin.com/book-oauth-2-dot-0-identity-and...

It is really sad if someone who doesn't know English well accepts an offer from Packt, as I can see in the comments here - there are some cases like that. I hope that they will improve in their selection of authors.

And I've been a reviewer for one (so far).

That particular author had a less-than-stellar grasp of English, and the "review" process was much more a "rewrite" process.

Can I just ask, as somebody who is currently reviewing a book for Packt on the FuelPHP framework, I've found the actual technical content to be quite good. But the foreword and a bit of background info about FuelPHP at the front seemed like it had been written by another author entirely. Do Packt add in non-technical chapters such as this?

In my case all the chapters were authored by me, there were no extra chapters added. Maybe the author didn't did his research properly? I'd advise him to take your review comments in consideration and to re-work the foreword after finishing the first drafts for all chapters.

Damn... Sorry for the multiple replies, I should change the HN client app I use on Android.

Exactly the process I went through with them too while writing WordPress Multisite Administration.

I was asked to be a technical reviewer for a Packt book on a topic in which I had some expertise; the chapters I was sent were so bad that providing the correct feedback would have taken more time than writing them from scratch, so I gave feedback on the first and bowed out -- I just didn't have the time for that.

I was then asked to be a technical reviewer for something I know nothing about. I declined.

Given those two experiences, I'd never spend money for a Packt product.

There are some real gems in here for data guys at least - here is two to recommend:

Building Machine Learning Systems with Python

Data Visualization: a successful design process

Disclaimer: They gave me a book for free to write an article on once, other than that I am not affiliated.

EDIT: I see many posts about the quality of books published by Packt, the data vis book I recommended is written by an leader in the field of it (Andy Kirk.)

Another gem I'd like to point out is the book "Infinispan Data Grid Platform". It was my first purchase at Packt, thorough and well written.

I fell for a promotion a while back, the quality of the books I got was simply awful (based on 3 books). None of them were worth paying for, just deleted them.

There may be decent stuff in there, but my experience leaves me unwilling to ever try and find them.

I was once contacted to write a Haskell book about "Data Analysis". I said it was not really my field and asked for sample chapters of some Haskell book they had, if any.

I received back an answer with how to proceed, just as if I had accepted to write the book for them, without any specific answer to what I told them.

This didn't seem very encouraging and I didn't try to have additional information.

They are more miss than hit but there are some gems in the there:


Hi everyone.

As the founder and CEO of Packt I want to say thanks to everyone for this feedback. It's really crunchy and specific. We can work on it. We will, and we are.

We'll publish almost over titles in 2013.

We're trying to bring the benefit of structured, organised and reliable content to as many new tools and technologies as we can. We have tended to prioritize quantity, and we have dropped the ball more often than we should. I'm really ashamed about the times we've released content that isn't up to scratch, or we've come across as aggressive or internally focused. I'm accountable for that, and I apologize.

However without being too defensive, I do need to recognize everyone we have worked with on a lot of projects where together we've brought devs a quicker and easier way to share knowledge, quietly, systematically, and reliably. We've also donated over $200k to open source projects as part of our ongoing support.

In terms of specifics, we are working on improving in-house testing and tech editing, the whole tech reviewing process [including who, how and why], how to improve our offer and process with authors to deliver better content and a better experience, how to release updates and corrections faster, improved CRM and discriminating contact. I'll be honest..that's a lot to do while at the same time we keep the titles flowing and the knowledge being shared.

If we're letting you down, or you want us change, let me know. It's my problem. We'll get together and try and work it out.

Happy Christmas to everyone

Dave Maclean


*I meant to say we published over 800 titles in 2013!

Can anyone recommend a particular book?

So far we have:

+Object-Oriented JavaScript - Second Edition

+Building Machine Learning Systems with Python

+Data Visualization: a successful design process

+Infinispan Data Grid Platform

Mastering AngularJS book is another good one. Written by two team members http://www.packtpub.com/angularjs-web-application-developmen...

PostgreSQL 9 Admin Cookbook and PostgreSQL 9.0 High Performance

The high performance book is great. But it is a rather dense book.

+Building Machine Learning Systems with Python

I read "Building Machine Learning Systems with Python" and it's an interesting and good quality book. I found a small error in the code snippet and added to the book's online errata. Got a reply from Packt and they offered me a free ebook of my choice.

The book is using Python 2.7. Do you know if the examples convert and work well with Python 3+?

The majority of chapters use scikit-learn which is python 3 compatible. So I would imagine it's should be easy to convert the examples

I was told Clojure High Performance Programming is pretty good if you have any interest in clojure. I know I'll be grabbing a copy at that price, was already looking at getting it sooner than later, but this makes it a no brainer.

-Python NLTK Cookbook -jQuery Reference Guide -Practical Data Analysis

I've read all three of these and found them to be hugely informative.

When Packt get it right, they get it really right. Trouble is, they usually get it really fucking wrong, judging from this and every other thread about Packt on HN.

Too much negativity here. Some of their books are good.

I have both PostgreSQL 9 Admin Cookbook and PostgreSQL 9.0 High Performance and they are pretty good books.

I bought a Packt book (or go it free on some discount thing) and it wasn't too bad.

I got the impression that the quality of any given Packt book would be up to the author, that Packt was OK with releasing sub-par technical works.

Caveat emptor.

I just bought Mastering Web Application Development with AngularJS which is also for sale on Amazon and has pretty decent reviews there: http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Web-Application-Development-...

Turns out, you get a discount for print books if you own the e-book, I got 50% off after going back to the site once I bought the e-book: €17,50 instead of €34,99

So... €21,88 for both instead of €34,99 (you always get the e-book free if you buy the print version it seems).

Yeah, I just came here to post the same! The problem is I don't want to buy print right after I bought the ebook.... I want to read it a bit first . I hope they keep the sale at least for a week.

Some of the books I liked from Packt:

1. Apache Wicket Cookbook [DO NOT BUY THE INSTANT TITLE.. THAT IS A WASTE OF MONEY FOR PRINTED SOURCE] [Also if you want a starter book for Wicket go with Wicket in Action/Depth]

2. High performance PostgresSQL 9

3. Google Guava - I absolutely loved this book and how it presented the material. I know that the doc is out there .. but this presented the information in an easier to consume way. [Its worth the $25+ cost of the ebook]

4. Jasperreports for Java Developers - That was the tutorial I needed. I believe it contained a few minor errors but eh.

I was contacted by Packt yesterday to write a book on KnockoutJS. I am an expert in the subject matter, however, I'm currently working a full time dev job, a part time dev job at nights, and my startup on the weekends. So, I declined.

Now that I see some of the comments here about quantity over quality, I'm feeling better about my decision to turn it down.

"...I'm currently working a full time dev job, a part time dev job at nights, and my startup on the weekends."

That sounds neat. How did you get a part-time dev job?

I imagine the company that hired him would have preferred a full-time dev, but settled on letting him work part-time for lack of better options. Which is a great option for developers who are getting tired of the 9-5 and want a more flexible schedule. Wait until you're crazy busy then turn in your two weeks. The same company that told you they can't do remote work and the like when they hired you will suddenly get a lot more flexible when reminded of how much they need you.

My had done training in Israel for RavenDB, the big NoSQL database for .NET.

Earlier this year we reached an agreement where I'd work on RavenDB as a part-time dev job. In particular, I'm porting the RavenDB Management Studio from Silverlight to HTML5, see http://debuggerdotbreak.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/ravendb-stu...

I've authored a Packt book - it isn't of high quality.

It was a good experience, but they don't provide the resources needed (help and monetarily) for doing good work.

Yeah. I figured I wouldn't do it for the money, since authoring tech books brings in pennies for the author.

I'd like to do it for career sake. "Hey, I love JS so much, I wrote a book on a popular JS framework."

You must love your work!

I do love software dev. Building things is a superpower. :-)


I just purchased Machine learning with R: http://www.packtpub.com/machine-learning-with-r/book

Just the book i was looking for!

$5 worth the risk?... well can't really go wrong!

I jumped in and adquired "Application development with Qt creator", I can't stress enough my disappointment, poor content, poor explanations, no word about deployment, it doesn't even worth the $5 I've spend.

I was a technical reviewer for their recent Laravel book. I've only just received a copy so haven't had a chance to properly review what went into publication.

All was OK (although the level of English was bad, but I was told not to focus on this) until I got to the REST API section which was atrocious. The author clearly didn't understand REST principals.

I essentially suggested a full rewrite or at least a change of title to something like "simple web api" but I can't comment as to whether that happened yet. I expect not.

Any experience with their Storm, Kafka, and D3.js books?

For the first two, the communities and versions move so fast that I'd be surprised if a book could be kept up to date. (Storm just hit 0.9; Kafka is now at 0.8. I wouldn't recommend that anyone use older versions at this point.) Following the mailing lists seems to be the way to go in those cases. Anyone disagree?

With regards to D3, it seems like the online examples are prolific; it is hard to imagine a book being needed. Besides, it is more fun to tweak D3 directly.

I haven't seen what I think is a good d3 book yet - they all are too simple (ie you don't need a chapter on how to do a simple plot)

I have been asked to become reviewing editor for moodle related books repeatedly. Every time I have to back out after reading couple of chapters. Their books are practically worthless. When i communicated this to one of their team, I never received a reply. So it seems they are aware of their low quality content.

Learning jQuery (http://www.packtpub.com/learning-jquery-with-simple-javascri...) seems to be generally well reviewed.

I took oppurtunity of the deal and bought books on machine learning and visualization and realized that I unwittingly bought the same book twice:

* Data Visualization with D3.js * Data Visualization with d3.js

There's no way of reveresing this now but I do feel a bit silly.

Hey, you still only spent $10! They're DRM free to, so you could send one copy to a friend and pretend you intended to.

after reading a packtpub book, I realized even I could write a book.

Anyone got any recommendations for machine learning or R titles?

To degree do you (a) want code examples (b) want to get intuition? (c) want to dig into the underlying math?

Skip the Packt books and get 'Machine learning for hackers' from O'Reilly.

Anyone know how this shakes out for the authors from a profit standpoint?

Hi benmarks, authors continue to retain royalties and payments as per our agreement at the time of writing. Hopefully with the added benefit of seeing more happy members of the community with copies of their book :)

Still too much for their "Mastering NGINX" book.

I purchased one merely to show support for the author.

expert python programming is the only good packt book i have come across

There has been quite a few offers from Packt and O'Reilly this autumn. A pity I filled up my reading buffer before. (I mostly read literature on the iPad, paper for work stuff so I can lend it to people.)

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