Your feedback wanted! New eBook Hosting for PowerShell.org

After dealing with numerous problems from PenFlip (where our free ebooks are currently located), we've decided to try two new hosting providers: GitBook and LeanPub.

Both of these are, or can be, based on Git/GitHub, which means the Markdown text of the book will always be open-sourced and available. Both offer conversion into PDF, MOBI, and EPUB formats, so you can download whichever you want. Both enable us to update the books at any time. Both are relatively easy to use; GitBook provides a moderately better writing experience since they provide a native app that kind of hides the Git-i-ness, but it's not a huge deal. More or less the same thing could be assembled for LeanPub if we wanted.

They do their formatting slightly differently, so it's worth looking at each to see which you like better. We don't have a ton of control over their formatting, so what you see in these tests is what you get.

LeanPub offers two key differences:

  • While we can and will continue to make the books available for free, we can also suggest a purchase price, and then actually let readers set a purchase price. This would enable donations to DevOpsCollective.org.
  • Readers who "buy" the book (even for free) can register to receive email updates when a new version is produced. This _does_ mean you have to register using an e-mail address to download any book, even if you're not paying for it. We know some people get twitchy about providing contact info.

We're going to use one of these new solutions, and we'd like your feedback. Try them both, if you can - we've converted Creating HTML Reports in PowerShell over to both so that you can do a side-by-side comparison and see how they produce their various formats. Provide any feedback in the comments, below!

The LeanPub VersionThe GitBook Version

 

UPDATE: At least two folks have found that they can't access GitBook from their corporate network, which is concerning. Please indicate in the comments if that's a problem for you, too.

UPDATE: We're playing with GitHub. Both GitBook and LeanPub support it, and we're thinking we may be able to publish to both locations automagically, so people can choose the one that they like best. It looks like LeanPub will only generate a "Preview" when we push to GitHub, and we have to go in and manually "Publish" that latest version, but there may be a way to automate that.

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About the Author

Don Jones

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Don Jones is a Windows PowerShell MVP, author of several Windows PowerShell books (and other IT books), Co-founder and President/CEO of PowerShell.org, PowerShell columnist for Microsoft TechNet Magazine, PowerShell educator, and designer/author of several Windows PowerShell courses (including Microsoft's). Power to the shell!

23 Comments

  1. I think providing an email address is a small price to pay for a free book. *shrug*

    In any case, I vote LeanPub, just because I can't get to the other one from here.

    • I think it just hasn't been properly categorized in the proxy. Getting it fixed is a long drawn out CR process, which could take many months. Hurray for bureaucracy and political non-sense. We had a CR in to white list Huddle (per a requirement from higher command), after six months they cancelled the CR. Thus I don't see them fixing it anytime soon.

  2. After a brief look at the layout of the books:

    * GitBooks has some syntax highlighting, which is nice, but looks kind of like an exported blog post.

    But

    * LeanPub looks considerably better. More code/text per line and looks like an actual book. No code highlighting, but that's ok.

  3. Personally I like the GitBook interface. It's clean, and looks like GitHub. I prefer to donate separately to the devopscollective, instead of trough books. I've read a sample on both sites, and leanpub looks a bit messy to me. I was considering Gitbook also for The Big ISESteroids Handbook, so I'm a bit biased. 🙂

  4. I prefer the speed and usability of GitBook for non-converted format and how hands-off they are (no registration, just here-you-go for free books).

    I do like the colorization of the PDF conversion with Lean...

    Gah, it's a toss up

  5. First thing to say is I'm glad you're moving onto something else - I'd found penflip a bit frustrating.

    Secondly, on balance I prefer gitbook. It looks cleaner to me. Also I like being able to get to individual chapters via a URL, which I don't think you can do with Leanbook.

    Both are good though 🙂

    Finally, if there is any re-formatting that needs to be done, let me know. I'm guessing there won't be, given that both alternatives are markdown-based, but I'm happy to help if needs be!

  6. Can't look at GitBook over my enterprise proxy so I'll have to look at that one tonight at home. I do like the option to donate to DevOpsCollective.org for the books.

    • Some companies are blocking access to GitHub on their proxies. They state the ability to download source code that could be threatening to security.

    • @Don,

      Most likely they either are not aware of it or haven't unlocked it for us users with developer access yet. It tells me it's blocked for "Download/File Sharing" which since I work for a bank, they have to be really careful about.

  7. There seems to be a bit of syntax highlighting in the LeanPub PDF, which does not exist in the GitBook version, interestingly enough. Personally, I think they're both similar enough in their ability to produce a legible document that the additional features (alerts/donation) tip the scales.

    On the topic of LeanPub registration: it is extremely minimal.. just an email address. No other personal information is required. And the benefit is always being updated when a new version comes out.

  8. I like the GitBook interface/interaction better but like a few others had issues trying to download some of the books at work.
    About half of what I downloaded worked fine on the first try. The difficulty with the rest is that the download would not complete or just stopped at some random point and would not seem to continue in any reasonable time frame. Some of the rest took two or three tries before the download would complete. One however, "secrets-of-powershell-remoting", I could not get to complete a download after some 30 tries, that included IE and Chrome. IE actually didn't even want to start the download but Chrome would start and then the download would stop at some random point. I was able to get the e-book from LeanPub without any issue. I also tried the GitBook download at home that night and had no issues.

    David Reynolds

    • Sounds like your work network has some interesting stuff happening ;). We've decided to go with dual-publishing, so you should be able to get to them somehow.