A Great Way To Learn Technology: Review Books

Thanks to a colleague, recently I got introduced to a nice way to learn new technologies or acquire new skills – Review books yourself.

But who and why would care about my opinion?

I know, at first, it sounds too difficult and too much pro. After all not everyone is an expert and definitely not at many things at once. So what chance do they have on getting to review books and really how many books?

Well, there lies the secret. Publishers don’t always look for experts to review books. Many times a beginner is what is required to provide a proper feedback on a book.

The reason is simple. A book will eventually be sold in the market and most of the buyers are going to be beginners on that subject; they would be buying the book to learn that subject. So if you like or don’t like the book, chances are their feedback is going to be the same as yours, more often than not. Which means the book will not get many buyers.

So it is in the best interest of the publishers and authors alike if they can get an interested learner to review their book when it is being written. This is a very standard practice now among many of the publishers to get the books reviewed, often by many reviewers at once. Some publishers, in fact, publish each chapter (either online, or email out manuscripts in word/pdf format) as the authors are done with their first draft of them.

This practice is all the more relevant when we consider the technology space. It is a fast evolving industry and there is a promising new product or tool in the market every day and people want to learn about it. Every one is a beginner and there are no experts available in that field yet.

How do I get started?

There are many publishers out there and they all need reviewers at all times. Manning, O ‘Reilly, Packt, Sams to name a few. I have reviewed quite a few books for Manning and I really like the way they encourage feedback from complete strangers at the time of early drafts. Also they are very quick to send out the book to the reviewers once it is published.

O’Reilly though ask for reviews after the book is printed in the market. Perhaps because they have tech reviewers in-house who review the book while it is being written.

One can easily get in touch with the publishers, their websites have all contact information. One needs to give a bit of background while expressing interest. The following information should be provided:

  1. What is your name? Where you are located?
  2. What do you do? i.e. Which technology areas are your interest? Where do you work?
  3. Do you have a blog of your own? (If you don’t, you really need to have one.)
  4. Have you just generally expressed your opinion online? (Even a one-line review on a tech gadget that you bought off Amazon.)
  5. A short disclaimer that you are not directly associated or affiliated with the authors or publisher. (To show that your opinion is unbiased.)

What else do you get?

There are other great advantages of reviewing books:

  1. You almost all the time get a free copy of the book. Either in print or an e-book.
  2. You have your name credited as a reviewer. Great publicity while attending the next job interview.
  3. Some times, depending on the type and the phase of the review in the publishing cycle, you may get paid handsomely too. In fact there are people who do this for a living.
  4. You may get a chance to build a great professional network if you do this sincerely and regularly. And we all know how important a good network is in today’s age.

Thanks for reading. I hope this idea helps you as much as it helped me.


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