Django Book has shipped -- and, thoughts on the next book

Written by Adrian Holovaty on December 12, 2007

It's here! At long last, the print copy of the Django Book has shipped. I received my author copies late last week and am still poking at them to make sure that, yes, a tangible book with my name on the cover has actually been printed, on real paper, by a real publisher.

Early drafts of the book have been available free at for more than a year, and co-author Jacob and I are grateful to all of the readers who submitted corrections and suggestions. Jacob is going to update the site soon with the final text of the book (which will be available free under an open-source license), and we plan to revise the online text over time with corrections and additions. There's something nice about having a paper copy, of course.

The book is available on Amazon, and I'm told the big brick-and-mortar bookstores should begin stocking it soon. Looks like it's gotten some buzz already, as it was the number one best-selling "Software Development" book and number four best-selling "Internet" book. Not bad at all! What I'm most proud of is not the fact that the book itself is doing well, but the larger fact that demand for information about the framework is high.

Now that the Django Book is finally in the can, I'm mulling the idea of writing another book -- this time, a book about online journalism. In the past two years, I've been to (way too) many journalism-related events and conferences trying to spread the good word about "journalism via computer programming," and I've detected a strong, I daresay furious, demand, from journalists at all levels in the org chart, for information about this new form of journalism. Higher-ups want to know why they should employ programmers; middle managers want to know how to find them and how to treat them; and working journalists want to learn these skills and strategies. The problem is that I can't point them anywhere for in-depth information. This book would attempt to solve that.

I want to take a shot at writing a manual, a manifesto, a practical guidebook to this emerging discipline of database-driven Web journalism. It would be a combination of high-level strategy and low-level technique, probably split cleanly into two parts (one for the suits, one for the non-suits).

That's about all the thought I've given to this idea. What do you think? If you're a journalist (or even not), is this something you'd be interested in?


Posted by David Lindquist on December 12, 2007, at 7:38 p.m.:

Saw Simon's link to the Amazon page yesterday, and immediately ordered the book. Christmas comes early this year! :)

Posted by Brett Roegiers on December 12, 2007, at 7:39 p.m.:

Congratulations on the Django Book, and yes please write a book on journalism via programming.

Posted by Adam Endicott on December 12, 2007, at 8:05 p.m.:

Speaking as a web developer at a newspaper, I think your book idea sounds great. I also see a lot of confusion about how to do more than just putting news stories on a website. Nobody seems to know what to do, or how to organize the resources to get it done.

Our group is fully capable of making interesting and useful sites, but it's hard getting everyone connected in the right way to make it happen, especially when everyone is busy with the rest of their day-to-day business.

Posted by Adam Endicott on December 12, 2007, at 8:06 p.m.:

Oh, and congratulations on the first book!

Posted by Matt Waite on December 12, 2007, at 8:27 p.m.:

Lord willing, my copy will be on my doorstep tonight or tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

In the strongest terms possible, please, please, please write this book. I could make an argument that it should be two books, split just the way you envision it, but giving both topics more depth. I realize that means twice the work, so it's easy for me to say, but I think you could do a whole book for newspaper managers. It could be equal parts what to do/how to manage it and what NOT to do. There's a lot of's right now shoveling data online as fast as they can with seemingly little creativity or thought of how people might use it or connect to it. This is stupidity, in my opinion, akin to driving really, really fast without a map or directions. You have no idea where you're going, but you're making great time. There's two equally hungry and needy components to that equation: the managers who are ordering their people to put databases online without the thinnest clue what that means, and the newspaper employees who have to make it happen, one way or another. One book could cover both, but I fear one book couldn't feed both hungers without being a massive tome.

Posted by Leonard Richardson on December 12, 2007, at 8:34 p.m.:


Posted by Mac on December 12, 2007, at 8:34 p.m.:

I'll put my pre-order in for your online journalism book right now ;) We need something like that on so many levels.

Posted by Ani on December 12, 2007, at 8:46 p.m.:

Just added this to my Christmas list, its great to see this finally come out!

My suggestion for a future Django-related book would be for programming hobbyists... a book of small Django apps and ideas.

i.e.: some family-oriented ideas such as how to construct a family website: some simple permissions for viewing and content additions, family blogs, holiday wish lists, etc.

The overall idea being, to bring more programming into the mainstream, and personalize it for those more-savvy people. Django is certainly capable of doing this with simple cases such as blogs and lists and this could be one way to capitalize on its accessibility.

Posted by Anonymous for now on December 12, 2007, at 9:10 p.m.:

"I want to take a shot at writing a manual, a manifesto, a practical guidebook to this emerging discipline of database-driven Web journalism. It would be a combination of high-level strategy and low-level technique, probably split cleanly into two parts (one for the suits, one for the non-suits)."

Oh my god. Write this book. Please?

Posted by Martin on December 12, 2007, at 9:12 p.m.:

Congratulations on shipping the book, great to hear that it has added to the already significant buzz around Django. I am not a journalist but still think your book idea sounds interesting and you are certainly the right person to make it happen. Are you considering using the same open approach you used for the Django book? The idea of a clean split between a programmer and suit part I am not so sure about. One of the most compelling features of such a book would be it's ability to provide programmers and suits with a common ground and understanding they could work from. I have a interdisciplinary background myself and the few books in my field that achieve this have been of immense value to me. Would it be an idea with a common text + some technical appendices (maybe at the end of each chapter?)

Posted by Nathan Youngman on December 12, 2007, at 9:19 p.m.:

Congrats on the new book Adrian! Chapters Canada delivered my web order today (sneaky Canadians:-), and I'm quite looking forward to getting home and take a look.

Presently my day job is with Ruby on Rails, but I did work with Django a little last year prior to the Django book project. I'm looking forward to having a solid polished guide (in dead tree format) to better learn Django and try it out on a home project or two.

I'm not a journalist, but you new book idea carries some intrigue for me. All the best.

Posted by luxagraf on December 12, 2007, at 9:20 p.m.:

Congratulations on the the Django book and definitely do the journalism book. As someone who moved from programming to journalism and now back again to a healthy split between the two, I think there's definitely a need for something like that (not sure if the need is enough to get you a best seller, but I know a few people I would send some copies to).

However, I don't know that the high-level approach is the best way to go. I think there's more mystery around the actual hands-on tools of online journalism than the philosophical overview. Most of the journalists I work with are familiar with the basic ideas behind online journalism, in some cases even database journalism, but they came in without the slightest idea how to write a blog post or that Word documents can't "just be put online" (and I write for very tech savvy publication).

Our organization is constantly shooting itself in the foot because the disconnect between the techs and the writers is seemingly insurmountable and anything that could bring the two closer together would be huge.

Good luck.

Posted by Ryan Pitts on December 12, 2007, at 9:26 p.m.:

Congratulations, Adrian! And can I pre-order 3 copies of the next book for, say, Christmas gifts next year ... ;)

"Higher-ups want to know why they should employ programmers; middle managers want to know how to find them and how to treat them; and working journalists want to learn these skills and strategies."

Yes. YES! Yes.

Posted by paul on December 12, 2007, at 9:38 p.m.:

Just a silly thought, if you had an amazon associate account you might make an extra buck or two with no skin off our backs (something I believe no one here would be opposed to).

Thanks for all the hard work!


Posted by Paul Bissex on December 12, 2007, at 9:59 p.m.:

Congratulations, and go for it, respectively! I worked in weekly-paper and national magazine environments in the pre-web days and often think about what I'd want to be doing if I were there now. I'd buy your book!

Posted by Sandy Walsh on December 12, 2007, at 10:07 p.m.:

I just bought the PDF version. Excellent book and my early geek x-mas present to myself. Keep up the great work!

Posted by michael w on December 12, 2007, at 10:25 p.m.:

I pre-ordered from Amazon back in September, and I received my copy on Monday! I left a positive review, but for some reason it's not showing up. Oh, well - 5 stars!

Congrats, and thanks for the excellent resource!

Posted by Marty Alchin on December 12, 2007, at 10:55 p.m.:

First, congratulations are definitely in order for the Django book! My copy's in the mail this week, and I'm looking forward to reading the final cut.

As for your new book, I would absolutely love to see you put your thoughts in print with regard to programming in the journalism world. I've been frustrated for years, watching TV shows where people can pull up any amount of news from any source, and easily identify patterns and cross-references, with just a few keystrokes, and I wished it could be made real, but I knew conventional search engines just weren't up to the task. Reading some of your thoughts on the subject gives me hope for the future of news, and I'd be thrilled to see you further promote the movement.

I only wish I could help!

Posted by Nick on December 12, 2007, at 10:55 p.m.:

michael w: I preordered from back in August 2006 (yes, that's 2006) and just got an email from Amazon telling me it won't be turning up until after Christmas!

Ah well. I'm sure it'll be worth the wait...

Posted by Mike Cantelon on December 12, 2007, at 11:14 p.m.:

A book on online journalism would be brilliant... I work at a newspaper that's making the conceptual jump from print to online, and it would be very useful to have a book to refer editors and such to for some big picture perspective.

Posted by Mindy McAdams on December 12, 2007, at 11:15 p.m.:

The "strong, I daresay furious, demand, from journalists at all levels in the org chart, for information about this new form of journalism" exists in some j-schools too, Adrian.

I would like journalism students to learn these skills and strategies. "A practical guidebook to this emerging discipline of database-driven Web journalism" would be absolutely great, especially if it offered practical, clear examples of how to get started with baby steps, e.g. simple XML data and even Excel or a Google spreadsheet.

The trick to making it usable for general journalism students would be showing -- nay, proving -- that data are interesting, that these techniques are accessible to someone who has a math phobia, and that in the end you get better journalism because you understand this stuff.

Jumping straight into Django is not for everyone who signs up to do journalism. But understanding structured data should be REQUIRED for every journalist today.

Posted by ToddG on December 13, 2007, at 12:10 a.m.:

Your book idea reminds me in part of a book I looked at the other day -- O'Reilly's "Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications".

While that book is full of AI and computer-learning algorithms, and not for non-programmers to browse through, it's focus on using the data and the scale of the web to organize and produce new information seems in many ways similar to what you're driving at online journalism-wise. In other words while being very much about the math and tech to do it -- in the end it's *not* about the techniques -- it's what you can achieve/discern with them that is the focal point -- with explicit examples, not hand-waving and technical jargon that non-devs don't understand. Which is actually pretty different than most programming books (for good reason I suppose). Definitely flip through the book if you don't already have it (or didn't write the intro or technical review it!).

Posted by anonymous on December 13, 2007, at 12:12 a.m.:

An announce on would be great too!

Congratulations for your talent and thanks for Django.

Posted by Ryan Sholin on December 13, 2007, at 12:15 a.m.:

As someone who has played the part of a student, reporter, online editor, and suit (jeans and t-shirt at the moment, but whatevs), I wholeheartedly would say we need your next book at all those levels.

I'd put the emphasis on practical matters and strategy for middle managers (i.e. How should a City Editor know when a story is a data story?)

Posted by Matt on December 13, 2007, at 12:48 a.m.:

Nice. Ordered. About book #2: I'm having trouble picturing a book that could provide in-depth info for all three of these audiences (suits, middle managers, working journalists) without stiffing one or all of them, since their needs are so different. But I think your imagination is friskier than mine, so I trust it completely. But my guess is that the high-level stuff (for the suits) could sit comfortably within a chapter. Make it the foreword to your book, write it in such a way that it will incite viral distribution, and post it online!

Posted by Ed Summers on December 13, 2007, at 3:17 a.m.:

kudos on getting the book out the door, i'm ordering one.

I'm not a journalist, but I'm a librarian. Libraries and publishing have been similarly affected by the www revolution. I can definitely see how libraries could use a howto book, and so I can totally see how journalists could too. Have you considered teaming up with Ben Hammersley?

Posted by Mark Hamilton on December 13, 2007, at 3:28 a.m.:

Adding to the chorus: Where do I preorder the next book?

Posted by Empty on December 13, 2007, at 4:15 a.m.:

Congratulations on the book. The entire community is very excited by it. Regarding the Journalism book, please write it! It's definitely something that is needed. Not just from the Journalism side, but also from the side of programmers in the world of Journalism. Keep up the great work.

Posted by Pat Thornton on December 13, 2007, at 5:25 a.m.:

Congrats on the book! I will have to check it out once I get done reading my Apress book on PHP. I wanted to get my work to let me use Django for some upcoming projects, but I've been told that IT probably won't install Python or Django on our server.

That leaves me with having to learn Ruby on Rails. So, what's the big difference between the two frameworks besides the obvious Ruby versus Python? Maybe you or one of your readers could give me some good talking points to send to IT about why they should let me use Django instead of Rails.

I think the other book sounds like a great idea. In fact, you need to get that done ASAP. You're a Web guy though -- you need to somehow tie in your future book with a big Web component. Maybe you can start releasing chapters on the Web. I think it's a book journalism needs.

I can't convince my boss on how important of database journalism is (he is the head of our paper's Web site), and most newsroom editors just don't get it. Journalism needs a book that lays out first how important databases are and how important programmers as journalists are, and then the book also must deal with how to staff these positions and manage them.

Posted by Mason on December 13, 2007, at 6:26 a.m.:

I picked up my copy today. I sat down in the store and didn't stop reading until chapter nine. Great job, you two.

Posted by Tane Piper on December 13, 2007, at 1:39 p.m.:

Great work guys! The online Django book has been a great help in learning to use Django, and I can't wait to finally get my copy and review it.

Posted by Pedro Valente on December 13, 2007, at 2:29 p.m.:

Convincing the suits that there is a new model of journalism to be done is a big challenge that I believe this new book can be of tremendous help in. As a journalist/programmer and Django enthusiast living in Brazil, I can say the "furious" demand is still waiting to begin out here. But everywhere I do the Django-data-journalism elevator pitch there is this amazement and eagerness to know more about it. Good luck with the book, it will certainly be a reference work in the area.

Posted by Lorenzo Bolognini on December 13, 2007, at 3:32 p.m.:

My copy of the book is on the way! Congrats guys! And please go ahead with the other book project. I'm a programmer with a politics and economics degree and a passion for writing and what always strikes me is the lack of understanding of IT by non software companies; they're usually victims of IT, victims of their solution providers and don't yet realize the savings they could make by investing *little* in IT.

Posted by Rob Ballou on December 13, 2007, at 5:52 p.m.:

Congrats on the book! I'll be trying to get this in our office as soon as possible :)

Posted by Greg on December 13, 2007, at 11:07 p.m.:

Congrats to both you and Jacob on the book! It must be very fulfilling to see it finally hit the presses!

As a web developer at a major national newspaper, I think that your book idea is an excellent one! It's not just journalists that need to understand the possibilities of publishing to a dynamic, database-driven website, it's business owners, project managers and executives as well. Too many people within the organization that I work at just "don't get it" and a manifesto of some kind that would help them to better understand what's possible and how to make it happen would be a godsend.

Posted by Will Sullivan on December 14, 2007, at 12:21 a.m.:

Congrats guys, I'm amending my Christmas list right now.

Posted by Mason on December 14, 2007, at 2:46 a.m.:

Is there going to be a place for errata? I noticed at the end of chapter 12 in "What's Next?" it makes reference to the next chapter being all about the comments subframework... but that doesn't actually happen until chapter 14, as chapter 13 is caching.

With regards to your upcoming book ideas... I would love it. As a developer, having the opportunity to play a role like you did with LJWorld would be huge. A job like that is something I'd pounce on.

Posted by Andrew Walkingshaw on December 14, 2007, at 3:55 p.m.:

Congratulations on the Django book, and thank you for Django!

I'd certainly be interested. I'm no journalist, but I think the same story's happening elsewhere - as a scientist who programs a lot, it feels like some of the cultural problems are the same.

Posted by Emersom on December 14, 2007, at 10:20 p.m.:

Congrats!! I'm a jounalist (amateur Django programmer), very interested in the new book project.

Posted by stephen o'grady on December 15, 2007, at 12:55 a.m.:

"That's about all the thought I've given to this idea. What do you think? If you're a journalist (or even not), is this something you'd be interested in?"

i'm not a journalist, and i'd still be very interested in this.

Posted by Collin on December 15, 2007, at 9:14 a.m.:

We've been inviting users on our site to share events, reviews, venue listings and articles for our entertainment magazine in China. I would absolutely love to read a book about leveraging computer programming and journalism - they go hand in hand this 21st century.

Posted by Manoj Govindan on December 18, 2007, at 10:05 a.m.:

Good work on the Django Book!

My work is not even remotely related to Journalism but I would certainly buy a book about online Journalism. I can think of several uses for it - for instance ideas about how to collect, process and present data related to my hobby. A "Case Studies" section like the one in the Django book, perhaps a little more detailed, would be particularly useful.

Posted by Eric on December 19, 2007, at 10:15 p.m.:

Yes on the Journalism book! :)


Posted by Frank Wiles on December 21, 2007, at 7:30 p.m.:

Congrats on getting the book done! I think your idea for a second book is a good one, but you should consider self publishing it via I think I've mentioned LuLu to you before, using them vs a traditional publisher would easily quadruple your take home on the book.

Posted by Erik Rolfsen on December 31, 2007, at 12:52 a.m.:

I head up the online team at a and would grab a book like that as quickly as I could. Cheers.

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