Packt Publishing celebrates 2000 titles

Quick note: Maybe you saw my review of WordPress 3.7 Complete a few weeks ago. Packt just published Learning Dart, their 2000th title, and running a “Buy One eBook, Get One Free” promotion.

Learning Dart
Packt’s 2000th title

Packt has a range of books focusing on open source software, programming, and web development, and I’ve used more than a few to learn new technologies.One other thing I like about them is when they publish a book related to open source, they give cash to the related project . These projects have received over $400,000 as part of Packt’s Open Source Royalty Scheme to date.

Packt eBooks come in PDF and ePub formats, so chances are your reader can consume it. This is a good deal.


Book Review: WordPress 3.7 Complete

WordPress 3.7 Complete
WordPress 3.7 Complete

The fine folks at Packt Publishing asked me to have a look at their latest WordPress book, WordPress 3.7 Complete. This is the third edition in the WordPress Complete series, by Karol Krol and Aaron Hodge Silver. I am happy to recommend it to folks looking for a good introduction to WordPress.

Full disclosure: I read the edition covering WordPress 2.7, when I started getting serious about learning WordPress, but missed the edition that covered v3.0.

Packt specializes in web development and open source software books, so you shouldn’t be surprised that the strongest parts of the book are in this area. But you don’t have to know code to find good, solid information here. Chapter 3, “Creating Blog Content” offers a nice introduction to blogging that will help you start thinking about the kind of content to include in your blog, along with an introduction to the WordPress admin pages.The chapter on choosing themes has some excellent questions that you may not think to ask yourself before choosing a theme from the vast collection of choices.

While there’s a basic introduction to, most of the book’s content relates to WordPress on an independent web host. It might have been nice to note what sections (like setting up widgets and working with the Media Library) apply to both the dot-com and dot-org sites.

WordPress Complete really takes off in the second half, where Krol and Silver focus on creating and manipulating themes and plugins. I don’t know about you, but when I started messing with code, the first thing that scared me was the likelihood of me breaking stuff that was already working. Krol and Silver help break down that fear by showing you how to safely remove your header, footer and sidebar from an existing theme’s index.php file (“What, you want me to break my home page!?”), customize each new template file, and reassemble the new modules so that it all works.

Another big plus for the beginning developer is an extensive section about building themes from scratch. After comparing this method with constructing themes with the help of a theme framework like Genesis, Thesis or Thematic, they advise:

… create your first theme manually, just to learn the craft and get to know all the basic structures and mechanisms sitting inside WordPress. Then, as the next step in your mastery (if you’re planning to work on other themes in the future), you can pick one of the popular theme frameworks, get deeply familiar with it, and use it as the base for your future themes from that point on. Such an approach will allow you to reach maximum time efficiency and save you the effort of dealing with the core set of functionalities that every theme needs, regardless of the design or purpose.

After demystifying the process of theme and plugin creation, and introducing BuddyPress and WordPress MultiSite, Krol and Silver focus the last two chapters on “Creating a Non-Blog Website” using the increasingly powerful content management features WordPress offers.

You’ll learn a bit about using Pages to create corporate and e-commerce sites, membership sites and the like. Can I say that as an author, I especially appreciated introducing custom post types by way of creating distinctive ways of listing books on your site? You may see something like this on soon.

Overall, WordPress 3.7 Complete is a fine introduction to WordPress and web development. Incidentally, don’t be upset that the book misses out on WordPress 3.8. With the increasing speed of WordPress core development, all us authors are at a distinct disadvantage–we can only type so fast!

So what do you look for in a WordPress book? Have you read this one? Comments always appreciated.

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A brief review of the NYTimes Tech Book Review

Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but quite a few technology-themed books are vying for a spot under your Christmas tree this year. So many, in fact, that the New York Times Book Review devoted a special issue to them back on November 3,

Now I haven’t read any of the books, but I have read this whole issue, and want to tell you about the books I’m most excited about reading.

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better

by Clive Thompson

Clive Thompson
Clive Thompson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a book that seems to cover one of my favorite technology topics: Artificial Intelligence (AI) vs Intelligence Amplification (or Augmentation). John Markoff (who, like Thompson, writes for the NY Times) introduced these concepts to me in his book on he birth of personal computing in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s, What the Dormouse Said. Gamers and robot fans are familiar with the idea of AI. Thompson’s thesis seems closer to mine: that the real power of computers is their ability to make everyone smarter. I wrote about this earlier in the year when Douglas Engelbart died.

Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart
Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Walter Isaacson, who reviewed the book for the NYTBR, points to Engelbart’s seminal paper, “Augmenting Human Intellect,” for philosophical underpinning for this idea (along with Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” and J. C. R. Licklider’s “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” all terrific pieces). “Thompson doesn’t delve into this rich technological and intellectual history,” Isaacson writes, “What he provides instead are some interesting current examples of how human-computer symbiosis is enlarging our intellect.”

Isaacson, who most recently wrote the big Steven Jobs biography, is now working on a new project “on the inventors of the computer and the Internet.” I may be even more excited to read that next year!

BTW, Slate Magazine is having an online “Future Tense Book Club” discussion of Smarter Than You Think with Clive Thompson on January 14. Click the link for details, and to RSVP.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

by Brad Stone

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos starts his High Orde...
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos starts his High Order Bit presentation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jeff Bezos has been a very busy guy in 2013. His company continues to grow, acquiring the Goodreads social book review and discovery site, and building distribution centers all over the place (including a new one between Milwaukee and Chicago). He bought the Washington Post on his own, and then gave an interview with 60 Minutes featuring product-delivery drones!

Speaking of that CBS Interview: Read Porter Anderson’s take on what people missed in the 60 Minutes interview while being diverted by drone jokes.

This looks to be a pretty fair history of the man and his company.

Writing on the Wall: Social Media – the First 2000 Years

by Tom Standage

Certainly an intriguing title by The Economist’s digital editor. Reviewer Frank Rose suggests that Standage “asks us to look at media less in terms of technology — digital or analog — than in terms of the role they invite us to play.” The story goes back to ancient Rome and takes us at least through the era of radio, with pointers back to today’s controversies.

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship and Betrayal

by Nick Bilton

This one came out in the days just before Twitter’s IPO (what a coincidence!), and has generated quite a bit of gossip. As an avid and longtime Tweeter, this should be a fun read.


What have you been reading lately? Getting any of the above for yourself or a loved one? Surprised that none of these are eBook-only (no trees harmed in production)? Discuss among yourselves!