Excited about David Black’s forthcoming Ruby for Rails, I joined what publisher Manning calls their “Manning Early Access Program,” or MEAP, in February of this year. It’s quite similar to the Pragmatic Programmers’ excellent Beta Books program, and the content of this book is looking excellent.

Like most such programs, you essentially end up buying two copies of the book, at a discount. I don’t remember the exact math, but generally you get a frequently-updated PDF copy while they’re finishing the book, for perhaps $20, and then you get the finished book as soon as it’s released, for perhaps $25, plus shipping. So for $50 you get what should be the best of both worlds.

The catch? In this case, I seem to be the last one to get this book, which is already on store shelves and in the hands of pretty much everyone else I know who has ordered it. They’ve been gloating on the Rails mailing list for a week! I finally wrote to Manning yesterday in frustration, and here is their reply.

Sorry for the delay with your order. We recently switched to a new ordering system which caused a bit of trouble during the overlap. Normally all preorders are shipped in order recieved, but during the transition preorders from the new system were shipped before those from the old. In addition Ruby for Rails is doing much better than we anticipated! Our distributor actually ran out of books before all the preorders could be filled. We’re rushing additional inventory to them now. Thank you for your patience, all orders should be shipped soon.

Ran out of books before the preorders were filled? Is that normal? Wouldn’t one just plan on printing at least as many books as there are preorders? While I’m certainly not familiar with the inner workings of the publishing industry, I’ll be a while before I order another “MEAP” book. I’m too impatient!

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