Two new IP video "books," two ways of doing things

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10/28/2008
Two new "books" about IP-based video surveillance have been recently published, and they offer an interesting insight into the future of communication and information sharing. On the one hand, you have Intelligent Network Video: Understanding Modern Video Surveillance Systems, written by Axis Americas GM Fredrik Nilsson and published by CRC Press. It's got a hard cover, is nearly 400 pages, has a thorough index and comes with a CD that's both Mac- and PC-compatible and offers network video design tools. Plus, it's got lots of pretty pictures. You can currently buy it here for $57.56. (Of course, my copy is signed by the author so is going to be worth gazillions on eBay someday. But don't be jealous.) On the other hand, you have Security Manager's Guide to Video Surveillance, written by John Honovich, proprietor of www.ipvideomarket.info and a former product development head at 3VR and general manager of Sensormatic Hawaii. It's "published" by www.ipvideomarket.info, runs about 120 pages, does not have an index (but doesn't need one - and I'll get to why), and is about as bare bones as you can imagine, without any pictures, or, really much of a change of fonts or anything that might pretty things up a bit. But here's the kicker: It's available for free here. And when you download the pdf, it's completely searchable (hence, no need for an index), cut-and-pastable, etc., and, better yet, it's a living document. Honovich has plans to update it two or three times a year (this is actually version 2.0), and it's "open source," meaning you can do with it what you will (as long as you give John some credit), and you can contribute to it, asking questions or suggesting new topics that John will address in future additions. I've got to say, I'm getting to like this Honovich guy. While Nilsson's book is incredibly thorough and well done (and I'm not going to get into a full review of both books right now), think about what it is: A completely static tome that's being introduced to help you understand modern video surveillance systems, when the very idea of a modern video surveillance system is constantly changing. Sure, CRC Press could publish an update next year, and every year after that, but who's going to spend the $50 multiple times? And how many trees are we going to kill in the process? Doesn't it make sense to have an online document, like a Wikipedia page, for instance, that offers all of this information on IP video in a way that can be easily updated and is, theoretically, always up to date with current thinking and technology? Of course, these two books are aimed at different audiences (Nilsson's is for the integrator, Honovich's more for the end user), but much of the content overlaps, despite the completely different approach the books take. Honovich's is much more casual and is presented in a question-and-answer format. Nilsson's is more formal and is presented like the textbooks you had in college. In terms of content right this second, you'd have to go with Nilsson's for total value, but you'd also have to pay $50 for it, and it could be completely out of date in two years. There's a whole lot of value in free, and in getting another free book in six months. Some people still like the look and feel of a hardcover book, and that does have an attraction. And we obviously struggle with this very issue in house - as in, why publish a "newspaper" every month, when we could put the same content online and have it be fully updatable with new information and not kill any trees? Yeah, well, we're working on that. People still like the look and feel of a physical paper, and advertisers, our life blood, still really like to pay money for print ads while they expect online ads to be much cheaper while at the same time delivering the name, email, and color photo of every single person who sees them (that's a slight exaggeration). When we all have great portable digital newspaper and book readers, print will completely die. Until that day, we've got a hybrid system with benefits on both sides. Where do you come down?