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‘CSS: The Definitive Guide’, Fourth Edition

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!

15 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Mon 1 Oct 2012
    • 1957
    Anonymous Coward wrote in to say...

    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
    • Comment
    • Mon 1 Oct 2012
    • 2219
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    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
    • Comment
    • Tue 2 Oct 2012
    • 0453
    Piotr Ingling wrote in to say...

    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
    • Comment
    • Tue 2 Oct 2012
    • 1010
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    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!

    • #5
    • Pingback
    • Mon 8 Oct 2012
    • 1703
    Received from Some links for light reading (2/10/12) | Max Design

    [...] ‘CSS: The Definitive Guide’, Fourth Edition http://meyerweb.com/eric/thoughts/2012/10/01/csstdg4e/ [...]

    • #6
    • Pingback
    • Sun 11 Nov 2012
    • 0029
    Received from Review: Values, Units, and Colors: Values, Units, and Colors Foundational CSS3 Components - ishotjr.com - Put a little mustard on it!

    [...] Units, and Colors is the third installment of Eric Meyer‘s partwork-style fourth edition of CSS: The Definitive Guide, previous editions of which are considered biblical by many.  O’Reilly seems to be trending [...]

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Sun 23 Dec 2012
    • 1244
    Matt wrote in to say...

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

    • #8
    • Pingback
    • Thu 21 Mar 2013
    • 2341
    Received from Selectors, Specificity, and the Cascade | MScriptDesign

    [...] Book: CSS: The Definitive Guide. [...]

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Tue 18 Jun 2013
    • 0239
    Praveen Gowda I V wrote in to say...

    When will the 4th edition be released?

    • #10
    • Comment
    • Tue 18 Jun 2013
    • 1130
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    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
    • Comment
    • Mon 12 Aug 2013
    • 1106
    Bruno França wrote in to say...

    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
    • Comment
    • Mon 12 Aug 2013
    • 1126
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    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
    • Comment
    • Mon 9 Dec 2013
    • 0930
    Greg O wrote in to say...

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

    • #14
    • Comment
    • Mon 3 Mar 2014
    • 1400
    Gerald Vincent wrote in to say...

    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
    • Comment
    • Mon 3 Mar 2014
    • 1410
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    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…

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