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Reviewing the Wrong Book

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Posted: April 20, 2021 | | Categories: Miscellaneous

I was up on Amazon this morning and I noticed the following review of my latest book (Learning Progressive Web Apps):

Though the author is clearly passionate about PWAs, the writing is poorly edited and the explanations are incomplete. Examples are repeated and reprinted 2-3 times, as are instructions for running sample code.

Despite being a 200+ page book on PWAs, the author delegates the most crucial definitions and explanations to other resources. Precise information about how the API is structured is completely absent from the book — e.g., the service worker container is never even mentioned. Instead, you get unidiomatic examples and shallow explanations covering a fraction of the API. This book reads more like a series of blog posts written by a hobbyist than a programming text.

I know it's hard to get your ego out of the way of a bad book review, but in this case, I'm pretty sure the book review isn't for my book. This isn't the first time this has happened on Amazon, but in the past, Amazon would let me reply to the reviewer and set the record straight. On today's Amazon, that option is no longer available.

So, looking at the review, the reviewer says the book is poorly edited and explanations are incomplete. That alone tells me this reviewer didn't read the book since the book went through several thorough edits - there's no typos, misspellings and all of the content is clear and concise.

As for incomplete explanations - over explanation is actually a problem with some of my books (like this one), I make deliberate effort to make my explanations as complete as possible, that’s my writing style. I always write from the perspective that I'm telling a story to someone who knows nothing about the topic (expecting that a more experienced reader will skip the introductory material).

Examples repeated and reprinted 2-3 times? Absolutely not, not this book. Each example appears only once in the book. Since the book's sample apps build on previous examples, there are places where previous code is shown as I build new functionality on it. That's the only way to do that type of learning - build on top of previous learning. Instructions for running sample code is repeated throughout the book once per chapter because I can’t know that the reader is jumping around in the content, so I make the content as complete as possible so that the reader won’t get lost. Authors receive contracts form their publishers for a book of a certain length, in many books authors repeat the instructions for every sample and publish the boilerplate code for every example just to drive up the page count for their book.

As for “the author delegates the most crucial definitions and explanations to other resources” that again proves that the reviewer didn’t read my book since there is no place in the book where a reader is referred to another resource for details. I link to reference materials, but everything, literally everything you need to learn how to code PWAs is in the book.

I don’t understand what the reviewer means by “Precise information about how the API is structured” - what API? I have absolutely no idea what they mean.

They are right though that I didn’t make any mention of the service worker container - the book has a whole chapter on Service Workers and everything you need to know about how to work with them is in there - without any need to mention that there’s a container object that hosts all those capabilities.

Anyway, apologies for the diatribe here, but I can only hope that someone who reads that incorrect review on Amazon will somehow find this and see that the reviewer apparently didn’t read my book or didn’t understand it very well. Does the book have faults? Absolutely. Is it well represented in the review? Nope.

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