‘CSS: The Definitive Guide’, Fourth Edition

Published 11 years, 9 months past

I’m really excited to announce that CSS: The Definitive Guide, Fourth Edition, is being released one piece at a time.

As announced last week on the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing blog, the next edition of CSS:TDG will be released chapter by chapter.  As each one is finished, it will go into production right away instead of waiting for the entire omnibus book to be completed.  You’ll be able to get each standalone as an e-book, a print-on-demand paper copy, or even as both if that’s how you roll.  I’ve taken to calling these “pre-books”, which I hope isn’t too confusing or inaccurate.

There are a lot of advantages to this, which I wrote about in some detail for the TOC post.  Boiled down, they are: accuracy, agility, and à la carte.  If you have the e-book version, then updates can be downloaded for free as errata are corrected or rewrites are triggered by changes to CSS itself.  And, of course, you can only buy the pre-books that interest you, if you don’t feel like you need the whole thing.

I should clarify that not every pre-book is a single chapter; occasionally, more than one chapter of the final product will be bundled together into a single pre-book.  For example, Selectors, Specificity, and the Cascade is actually chapters 2 and 3 of the final book combined.  It just made no sense to sell them separately, so we didn’t.  “Values, Units, and Colors”. on the other hand, is Chapter 4 all by itself.  (So if anyone was wondering about the pricing differences between those two pre-books, there’s your explanation.)

If you want to see what the e-book versions are like, CSS and Documents (otherwise known as Chapter 1) has been given the low, low price of $0.00.  Give it a whirl, see if you like the way the pre-books work as bits.

My current plan is to work through the chapters sequentially, but I’m always willing to depart from that plan if it seems like a good idea.  What amuses me about all this is the way the writing of CSS: The Definitive Guide has come to mirror CSS itself — split up into modules that can be tackled independently of the others, and eventually collected into a snapshot tome that reflects a point in time instead of an overarching version number.

Every pre-book is a significantly updated version of their third-edition counterparts, though of course a great deal of material has stayed the same.  In some cases I rewrote or rearranged existing sections for greater clarity, and in all but “CSS and Documents” I’ve added a fair amount of new material.  I think they’re just as useful today as the older editions were in their day, and I hope you’ll agree.

Just to reiterate, these are the three pre-books currently available:

  • CSS and Documents (free)  —  the basics of CSS and how it’s associated with HTML, covering things like link and style as well as obscure topics like HTTP header linking
  • Selectors, Specificity, and the Cascade  —  including all of the level 3 selectors, examples of use, and how conflicts are resolved
  • Values, Units, and Colors  —  fairly up to date, including HSL/HSLa/RGBa and the full run of X11-based keywords, and also the newest units except for the very, very latest — and as they firm up and gain support, we’ll add them into an update!

As future pre-books come out, I’ll definitely announce them here and in the usual social spaces.  I really think this is a good move for the book and the topic, and I’m very excited to explore this method of publishing with O’Reilly!

Comments (32)

  1. I already own the third edition, and am eager to purchase the fourth edition. But if I buy parts of the fourth edition, what happens when it is finally released as a full book? Am I expected to buy the whole thing again?

  2. Hey, Anonymous Coward—good question! The short answer is no, you aren’t expected to buy the whole thing again. I hope to post the long answer in the next few days.

  3. Is it / will it be possible to pay once for all the chapters (current and future) before the book is finished and receive them when they become available? Something like MEAP program that Manning has? I couldn’t find the entry for the whole book on the O’Reilly site.

  4. That’s not currently possible, Piotr. Mostly because, due to the nature of the experiment and the way CSS is changing, I can’t even be certain of how many chapters the final book will have, nor how long it will be, and thus how much it will cost in the end!

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  7. When is the 4th edition supposed to be released in stores?

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  9. When will the 4th edition be released?

  10. Matt and Praveen: the answer to that is pretty much, “When it’s done.” I don’t currently know when that will be, but I would not expect it in 2013. The fast-changing nature of CSS right now makes it especially hard to know, since it means that by the time I get close to the end I may find I have three more chapters to write—or I may get close to the end and discover that I can drop two chapters.

  11. Is there any plans to release another chapters as “pre-books” before the final book comes out? I’m currently reading the second pre-book and already bought the third one, and I’m finding them to be amazingly well written. It would be nice to have another chapters available still this year.

  12. Hey, Bruno, glad you’re enjoying them! We’ve actually just recently released the “CSS Fonts” prebook—the length of time it took to complete being the reason there was such a dead silence after the first few prebooks were released—and “CSS Text” is almost ready for the printers. After that goes out, I’m most likely going to skip to transforms, transitions, and animations, and hope to get it out this fall.

  13. Is there any way to be notified by email as new chapters are released?

  14. I’m not a great fan of the pre-book approach. March 2014 now and still no CSS Definitive 4th edition. When I plan to put the time in reading a technical book I don’t plan to have to (a) do it in phases or (b) redo the parts that have been updated at a later date. When is the complete CSS Definitive likely to be finally published?

  15. I’m not sure, Gerald. I had to put the project on hold this past August for personal reasons, and am just now getting it re-started. I would guess the end of this year or early next, by the time it’s all said and done, is about when the final omnibus book will be finished. That depends to some degree on the state of things in both the browser and specification areas, since it’s not like it used to be—back in 2006, you could write a CSS book with the confidence that little or nothing would change while you wrote it! Today it’s a much different story.

    I sympathize with the frustration that readers feel about the delays, and I’ll do my best to beat those earlier estimates, but I’m loth to make promises I’m not (fairly) sure I can keep, and there are a whole lot of disruptive factors at play here. Ah, for the good old days…

  16. Do you have any new update on when the final book can be expected since your comment in March? With no new parts released since then, I doubt it will be this year, but do you think that it can still be early next year? With your personal issues, I fully understand and won’t be offended if your answer is “I haven’t written anything new, and have no idea,” and debated with myself if I should even ask, but I am looking forward to the finished book and won’t get an answer if I don’t ask. I have no personal basis to understand what you are going through, and no idea if you can get into the mindset to work on it or not.

  17. Matthew: your timing is excellent—the ball is starting to roll once more. We’re currently working on process, and I hope to be able to write a detailed updated soon, but the quick summary is that I’ve teamed up with an awesome co-author so that we can start getting pre-books out again, and the full Fourth Edition finished as soon as we can. I’m definitely hoping for next year.

  18. Eric,

    It is now AUG 2015, any update as to when the book will be published?

  19. Are there still plans to release a combined 4th edition? On OReilly’s support forum, in regards to a question about the 4th edition, the response was

    “I wish I had better news for you, but it appears as if a 4th edition of this book is still not currently being planned.” (dated 10 months ago)

    which makes me wonder if the book has been abandoned. I’ve noticed that the first few pre-books had a banner on the cover announcing them as an excerpt from the 4th edition, and the newest ones no longer have that banner.

    I’ve been looking forward to a 4th edition of the book, but have no desire to buy a bunch of little books.

  20. Hey, John and Matthew—the book has not been abandoned! Estelle Weyl and I are working through the chapters, and aim to be done by late spring of the coming year. I’m not sure why the shift in banners and marketing happened the way it did; I admit I’ve concentrated more on the writing and editing than the marketing, as the lack of updates here probably makes clear.

    I’d love a link to that support forum post (I’ll look for it independently, but a link would make sure I found the right one) so I can follow up there too.

  21. And thank you for the update. Glad to know that it is still happening.

    I loved the third edition and think it is one of the best and most complete books on CSS available – both for when I was beginning, and still now that I am more proficient. I’m looking forward to the 4th edition as the third is unfortunately somewhat out of date now.

  22. Hi Eric, do you have an update on progress the fourth edition? I have seen a few books that look like individual chapters available on Amazon (floats & padding). I’m still waiting on the full fourth edition before I do my full CSS refresh though as your previous book was so good. If you can provide an update that would be great.

  23. Are there any new estimates on when the completed book should be available? Do you expect it to be finished this year, or if not, at least next year?

  24. 2017 is around the corner.
    so…. where is the book…

  25. Hey, Metaphor and Matthew. The book is currently on my SSD and an O’Reilly Atlas repository, but I’m just about to tell them to start it on the trail to availability.

  26. Excellent! I’m not sure how long O’Reilly takes to finalize a book, but are we looking at somewhere in the second half of 2017, or early 2018? I would assume, beings it has been published in sections already, that part of the editing process is already done.

    How current is it going to be? Some of the earlier sections have been out for some time at this point (the section on selectors, for instance) and could be quite a bit out of date now. Is it going to be updated to be more current than those (if necessary), or is the content going to be frozen at whatever the individual sections that are already out have covered?

  27. The Early Access version of the book should be available quite soon—I believe before the end of this year, but don’t quote me on that, because I don’t have a firm date from editorial yet.

    I refreshed those early chapters over the last couple of months, so hopefully those are up to date now. But the point of Early Access is to make titles available as e-books, with updates being pushed when errata are corrected or changes made, so that people can flag areas where information has fallen out of date, is incorrect, incomplete, etc., etc.

    If the book does go to Early Access this year, then I’d think it would be in print in 2017. Exactly when would depend on the update process, as readers get their eyes on it and submit errata, and any major changes that might develop in the CSS realm. My hope would be to have it see print by mid-2017, but again, don’t take that as an ironclad guarantee.

  28. it is already march, 2017…is the book available now?

  29. Indeed so, Anonymous—see “Getting Grid” for a link and a few details.

  30. Hi Eric: very happy to see your book coming out. How about those who have already purchased parts of your book. Do we buy a whole thing again?

  31. I believe there’s a discount for those who have bought pieces, but I’ll have to check with the ORA folks to find out the details. Stay tuned for a post about it!

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