When I announced the serial publication of CSS: The Definitive Guide, Fourth Edition, I failed to address the question how pricing will work. Well, more decided to break it out into its own post, really. As it turns out, there are two components to the answer.
First component is the pricing of the pre-books. Roughly speaking, each pre-book will be priced according to its length. The assumed base for the electronic version is $2.99, and $7.99 for the print version, with significantly longer pre-books (say, one where two chapters are combined) priced somewhat higher. How much higher depends on the length. It’s possible that prices will drift a bit over time as production or printing costs change, but there’s no way to guarantee that. We’re basically pricing them as they come out.
At the end of the process, when all the chapters are written and bundled into an omnibus book edition, there will be discounts tied to the chapters you’ve already purchased. The more chapters you bought ahead, the deeper the discount. If you bought the pre-books direct from O’Reilly, then you’ll automatically get a discount code tailored to the number of pre-book you’ve already bought. If you bought them elsewhere, then O’Reilly’s customer service will work to create a comparable discount, though that will obviously be a slower process.
The second component is: how much will the codes cut the price of the final, complete book? That I cannot say. The reason is that I don’t know (nor does anyone) what minimum price O’Reilly will need to charge to cover its costs while taking into account the money already paid. I’m hopeful that if you bought all of the pre-books, then the electronic version of the final book will be very close to free, but again, we have to see where things stand once we reach that point. It might be that the production costs of the complete book mean that it’s still a couple of bucks even at the deepest discount, but we’ll see! One of the exciting things about this experiment is that even my editor and I don’t know exactly how it will all turn out. We really are forging a new trail here, one that I hope will benefit other authors — and, by direct extension, readers — in the future.