Here comes the ebook!

Happy new year! Today the ebook version of the HDRI Handbook 2.0 was officially released. It is now available from these sources:

However, the book was designed as hardcopy. The ebook alone does not give you the full experience. The ebook has lower resolution, does not include the companion DVD, and the continuous text flow eliminates the sophisticated layout of the real book.

Advantages of the Paperback Edition

The ebook isn't bad. I tried it. But the paperback is better. Here are the reasons:

Paper Advantage #1: Higher Resolution

This book has coffee table qualities and is filled with great high-resolution prints in full color. In the ebook all that is compressed down to screen resolution. It has to be, otherwise the ebook would be a 2 GB document. This book is massive, it's much larger than the average. Even after compression it's still 160 MB, which triggers a file size warning on the Kindle and slightly slows down browsing on the iPad. That's due to thousands of images embedded in the ebook, and they all look even better in print.

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This images and layout in this book have coffee-table qualities.

Paper Advantage #2: Designed for Print

The layout of this book is refined to perfection and really plays with the medium paper. There are many double-page spread images, the guest interviews are presented as magazine-style portfolios, and annotated screenshots appear on the same pages as the corresponding tutorial steps (by insisting on the latter I drove my layout editor to the brink of insanity). More critically, there are interactive parts (crossword puzzles, page-folding comparison galleries, cut-out pages for your camera bag) and even a few easter eggs in the print layout. All that is kind of lost in the ebook translation. On the flipside, the ebook does not take advantage of the interactive opportunities the digital medium offers.

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Crossword puzzles are a fun way to test your knowledge; and they do work best in the printed edition.
If you shy away from scribbling in books (even though it's perfectly legal), you will find interactive Flash games on the companion DVD (which is also exclusive to the paperback edition)

Paper Advantage #3: Exclusive Companion DVD

The ebook does not come with a DVD. And you really miss out a lot, because all my original source files used in the tutorials are on that DVD. This is pretty unique in the world of photography books: every tutorial is 100% repeatable. You get everything you need to follow the tutorial steps and arrive at your very own version of the tutorial images. It's learning by doing, or at least learning by dissecting the layer stacks in the provided PSD file and tinkering with the material yourself.

Those are three strong reasons why I highly recommend getting the Paperback Edition.

Why am I so against ebooks?

I'm not. I love ebooks. I don't read novels on paper anymore, only on my Kindle.

But photography books and reference books are different. I always have bunch of photo books on my living room table that I like to browse casually, and I keep a bunch of technical reference books on my desk shelf as reassurance I can quickly look up anything, anytime. The HDRI Handbook 2.0 is meant to fit in both of these places.

Mind you, as far as ebook translations go, this was done very professionally. Headlines are properly tagged and cross-references are clickable links. But it's still a translation. To make a photography or reference book work well in a digital format, it needs a whole different structure than just a PDF translation. Tutorials would need to be video snippets (instead of screen shot sequences), galleries would need to be fullscreen gizmos with gesture-enabled browsing, comparison tables would need to pull updates from the web, and when we're talking about panoramic images they should be presented in an interactive pano viewer. Even writing for an interactive medium is different than writing for a printed book. Instead of a steady-pacing train of thought a well written ebook is delivered in smaller packets, more suitable for browsing than deep immersive reading.

So that's why I argue against my own book in ebook form. Making it the best possible hardcopy book was my focus, and had I designed it as ebook the result would be very very different. I honestly believe the printed edition will exceed your highest expectations. Whereas the ebook is pretty much what you expect: the PDF of a paper book. The ebook is useful as backup or secondary, always-with-you version, but it's not a substitute for the real book.

But when can I get the paper book, then?

Well, it can only be a matter of days.

The original plan was to release the ebook one week after the paperback, just to make a clear point that this is the primary version. But as it turns out, moving physical items around the globe is harder than flipping the switch to enable a download. Somewhere in America, there is truck loaded with 22.117 lbs of books. Yes, such surreal number is shown as "package weight" on the UPS tracking page. Apparently it is now in Hagerstown, which is 24 miles short of the destination: the central warehouse in Chambersburg, PA. That's where the Amazon trucks are standing by, with running engines, to distribute the colorful load all over the country. Well, maybe they are not, but in any case it can only be a matter of days until the paperback version becomes available.

Hang in there. Believe me, nobody is more frustrated with this delayed release than me. If you're waiting for your pre-order, do not jump on the ebook! Wait it out, it will be worth it. As early bird you still got it five dollars cheaper than everybody else, because Amazon just raised the price to $38. Still, worth every penny…

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