Technical books are a topic that interest me a lot. From book sale figures and trends we can attempt to better understand where developers are putting their money, not only their mouths. For this article I decided to perform a small experiment, by collecting some interesting data. I considered 23 fairly well known programming languages, and searched for the top selling book (according to Amazon) for each of them. The Amazon sales rank allows us to compare the success of books representative of each language, and indirectly compare the popularity of the languages themselves.
Below is the resulting table with all the data organized by sales rank:
|Rank||Language||Amazon #||Book Title||Publisher|
|2||Java||1,799||Head First Java, 2nd Edition||O’Reilly Media|
|3||Ruby||1,881||Programming Ruby: The Pragmatic Programmers’ Guide, Second Edition||Pragmatic Bookshelf|
|4||SQL||1,929||Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes, Third Edition||Sams|
|5||C#||2,676||Programming C#: Building .NET Applications with C#||O’Reilly Media|
|6||C++||3,317||Effective C++: 55 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Designs (3rd Edition)||Addison-Wesley Professional|
|7||C||3,499||The C Programming Language (2nd Edition)||Prentice Hall|
|8||Visual Basic||4,165||Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 Step by Step||Microsoft Press|
|9||Python||5,537||Learning Python, Second Edition||O’Reilly Media|
|10||PHP||5,936||Beginning PHP and MySQL 5: From Novice to Professional, 2nd Edition||Apress|
|11||Perl||7,692||Learning Perl, Fourth Edition||O’Reilly Media|
|12||Erlang||8,609||Programming Erlang: Software for a Concurrent World||Pragmatic Bookshelf|
|13||Objective-C||10,476||Programming in Objective-C||Sams|
|14||Groovy||13,613||Groovy in Action||Manning Publications|
|15||F#||21,273||Foundations of F#||Apress|
|16||Lua||23,052||Programming in Lua, Second Edition||Lua.Org|
|17||Scheme||29,548||The Little Schemer – 4th Edition||The MIT Press|
|18||Haskell||42,459||The Haskell Road To Logic, Maths And Programming||King’s College Publications|
|19||Delphi||67,035||Mastering Delphi 7||Sybex|
|20||Lisp||86,188||ANSI Common LISP||Prentice Hall|
|21||Forth||93,245||Forth Application Techniques||FORTH, Inc|
|22||Smalltalk||279,312||Smalltalk, Objects, and Design||iUniverse|
Despite the limitations of the methodology employed (see disclaimer for details), I think this table gives us a nice picture of the status of our industry. I’ll let the data speak for itself, and allow you to speculate in the comments, but I’d like to point out a few interesting aspects of the resulting data.
You may notice that the fourth most popular book on the list is a “10 minute” type of book for SQL. This is ironic but it doesn’t contradict the anecdotal evidence, as real world experience suggests that many developers don’t really know SQL, and they resort to quick guides as a remedy while working on a given project. It’s a shame, because database and SQL understanding are essential skills needed to be successful programmers in many areas. To conclude, by looking at the table, it is apparent that the Pragmatic Programmers are definitively influential. Let’s face it, they contributed a great deal to the growth of the Ruby community and are now helping edge forward Erlang’s popularity. According to other data available on the web, Erlang should have been somewhere at the bottom of this list along with Haskell, but the Pragmatic Programmer’s book on this language has already presold many, many copies (it will be published in mid-July). It is clear that this book is going to be a best seller and that it will do a lot to promote the language itself. This is absolutely a good thing, because Erlang deserves the spotlight. By looking at the column of publishers, one can’t help but notice that O’Reilly truly successfully markets its books, and they are generally highly regarded by us developers.
Disclaimer (Or… wait a second, dude!)
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