For the past few months, tech publisher Manning Publications has impressed me with its marketing push by offering quick-strike discounts on print and ebooks. Until Manning’s recent marketing and discounts, I was buying a Manning book maybe once a year, and I almost never bought it directly from the publisher. Instead, I’d usually check sites like BestBookBuys to find who had the title I was looking for at the best price. But with its steep short-term discount offers, and my newfound fondness for ebooks, I have purchased Manning books in recent months on Groovy, Grails, Spring and Ext JS, almost always buying the ebook version for $10 to $15 — a great price for a tech book.
As part of its marketing push, Manning offers daily and weekly discount codes on its website and Twitter feed. Discounts are often 50% or more from its regular price. Tuesday, for example, the Ext JS In Action ebook for which I paid about $15 a few weeks ago (on discount from $27.50) was on sale for $10. (The book, not yet in print by Jesus Garcia, is a great introduction and explanation on how to use the Ext JS 3.0 component library and the only book I found available at the time covering version 3.0.)
In addition to the book discounts, following Manning’s marketing message won me an additional $300. In one of Manning’s emails in August, I learned that Manning was holding a monthlong technology quiz in September. Manning posted a question daily on a technology topic related to one of its books, with a $300 grand prize to the contestant who could answer the most questions correctly. The tech quiz was great marketing because it brought me and hundreds of others to the Manning website daily. As a quiz incentive, Manning gave away two ebooks every day to two contestants and offered a daily discount on one or more of its books. After answering 30 technical questions, on topics as diverse as features of ActiveMQ, Clojure and Silverlight, I’m proud to say I walked away as the grand prize winner. The competition was stiff. Manning said it had 1,500 contestants. Toward the end of September, there were still about a dozen people with perfect scores with just days left in the contest. After the final question, only two contestants remained with perfects scores, me and Belgian developer Renaud Florquin. I was lucky to be randomly selected as the grand prize winner. (Thanks again, Manning.)
In addition to improving its marketing and pricing, Manning also has impressed me recently by expanding its ebook file formats. Previously, Manning offered its ebooks only in PDF format. Earlier this month, Manning announced it will begin offering its books in the mobi and EPUB file formats. That’s great for me because I like reading books in the mobi format on my BlackBerry using the free Mobipocket reader. Ebooks have won me over from the paper version of tech books because of their searchability, the ability to cut and paste code, and their ultra portability by being on my phone and laptop when I visit customer offices. The mobi format is also supported by the Kindle, while the EPUB format is popular with devices like Sony Reader, the nook and the iPhone.
Keep it up, Manning. If you keep offering good technology books at great prices in flexible formats, I will continue to be a regular customer.