I am writing a course book series with 4-5 workbooks. Each subsequent chapter is highly dependent on material in previous sections. Few readers using the workbooks will be able to skip sections.

At a later date, it is likely that I'll release a revision. Since this would involve both reorganizing the material and expanding the series to include new workbooks, readers couldn't really skip from the old series to the new, e.g. starting with books 1-2 of the old, then switching to 3-10 of the new.

Due to the heavy interconnectivity of the chapters, I'd release it as a single book, if it weren't for the limitation of page count.

How can I release future revisions of this series without angering my readers?

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    A discount for readers who bought the old series would be a nice gesture. It might be difficult to organize, though, depending on how your old books were distributed. – SF. Oct 16 '14 at 10:46

Short answer: You can't. But you shouldn't worry about it.

Good textbooks get updated. They are refreshed and corrected, new material is added, things are changed to reflect reader/student/teacher feedback, and items which are no longer valid are removed.

This is a good thing. I'm not saying you have to put out a new edition every year, but updating a textbook or workbook series every five or 10 years is hardly something to complain about.

New students will be getting whatever the current version is. Older students can't expect that the book they bought in 1995 is still 100% applicable in 2014. The world changes.

(Amusing and related anecdote: I took a history course in college. My textbook was R.R. Palmer's A History of the Modern World. I think it was the 7th edition. I went home on break, and I happened to be looking through my mother's bookshelves. She also had R.R. Palmer's A History of the Modern World... the 3rd edition. I would not have expected to be able to grab her copy from 30 years prior and use it in my class.)

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    +1 for "good thing". If a science progresses, text books must be adapted to the new knowledge. If there are fundamental changes to a science, then the text book must change fundamentally. These changes are not irritating, but what your readers want. They want to stay ahead of their science, and the work involved with finding your way around the changes is part of what science is about. What you should avoid are fundamental changes to the concept of a text book that are caused by badly planning the first edition. If your book changes without any changes in the science, then that is sloppiness. – user5645 Oct 16 '14 at 7:08
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    @what, if nothing else changed, that would be correct, but what if the author actually learned something in the interval between editions and now sees a much clearer way to proceed even though the details may not have changed? In college, I took a number of "bad" classes because they were taught by grad students with no real experience using the subject in the real world or in teaching. If one of them wrote a book ... – Joe Oct 22 '14 at 1:05

Presumably each book contains a certain set of important facts, ideas, exercises, etc. Let's call the first editions books 1.0, 2.0, etc, and the second editions books 1.1, 2.1, etc. If you want a reader to be able to go from book 4.0 to 5.1, then 5.1 needs to contain a chapter that summarizes the changes from 1.0-4.0 -> 1.1-4.1. In many fields this sort of thing is possible, but depending on your content it might not be possible or practical.

Another possible solution is to continue to sell the later books in the series, and phase them out gradually, so that readers who started with the old series can continue that series until they finish the whole program. This would make sense if there is nothing inherently wrong with the old series. For example, a language textbook series might undergo a revision where the vocabulary choices and the exercises are changed, the dialogues are updated to be more relevant or more interesting, the exercises are better, the overall organization is improved, etc. None of these improvements diminish the original edition, so you can keep selling it for a period of time if there is demand.

If the series of books is meant to take many years to work through then continuity is more important. If the series is meant to be worked through in a short time, such as one or two years, then this is less of a problem.

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