In the summer of 2009, Manning Publications contacted me with the offer to write a revision of the first edition of iText in Action, published in 2007.
I initially refused, much to the surprise of the publisher. He put forward several arguments in favor of a second edition: the book had received good reviews, the first printing sold out in about a year, and the book was still selling well, in spite of the fact that it was almost three years old and that its content was probably somewhat outdated.
So I had to clarify: “I want to write a second edition, but I don’t want it to be a revision.” I’m always disappointed when a revised version of a book is a rehash of the first version, with only a limited amount of new material. I wanted to write a book that was valuable for developers who already owned the first edition.
I had accumulated a series of new examples, demonstrating techniques that were either presented differently, or were missing from the first edition. Moreover, I had been giving iText training sessions for different companies, and I had discovered that the order of the chapters in the first book wasn’t ideal. The content needed to be reorganized, and the only good way to achieve that was to rewrite the book from scratch.
I realized that this meant more work than merely writing a revision, and although hard work doesn’t scare me, I hesitated. For many companies and families, 2008 had been the year of the economic crisis, but that was the least of my concerns. For me, it was the year my twelve-year-old son was diagnosed with bone cancer. Suddenly all priorities changed.
Eighteen chemotherapy treatments later, with major surgery in between to replace his knee by a prosthesis, life wasn’t the same as before. I received plenty of support from the iText community, and I want to thank everyone for being patient with me. Unfortunately, there were some who emailed me, demanding a solution for their problem for free, not realizing that I had far more important personal worries than their technical problems.
In the end, I decided to accept the offer from Manning and write a second book about iText, because it was an opportunity, and probably the best chance I would get to pick up the iText thread. There’s no better way to make an inventory of a product’s functionality than to write a book about it. Some new iText features were written to fill gaps I discovered while writing the book. The creative process was also very inspiring; some recently added enhancements started off as examples for the book, and eventually made it into the main iText release.
Looking back, I’m glad I took up the challenge, and I’m happy with the result. This second edition is more advanced than the first edition, aiming at the more experienced developer who wants to know more about the Portable Document Format, not just about iText. I can’t hide that I’m very passionate about PDF, and I hope this book transmits this passion to as many readers as possible.