An Interview with Jacquie Barker, author of Beginning Java Objects

by Jessica Sant

JavaRanch: Jacquie, let's start with the big question first: What was it like to have your publisher, Wrox, drop out from under you?

Jacquie Barker: Very disturbing, and the worst of it was that I found out indirectly. Wrox hadn't initially notified any of their established authors about the bankruptcy; at first, they only sent email out to those authors with new books under development at the time.

JavaRanch: Wow, that must have been very unnerving.

Jacquie Barker: Yes it was. As a matter of fact, the way that I found out was by receiving an email from none other than Gary Cornell, the President and founder of Apress; his email basically said "In light of the demise of Wrox, I wanted to let you know we would be honored to have you write for us." I said "DEMISE of WROX?" and then hurriedly sent emails to a couple of other Wrox authors/friends; one knew about the bankruptcy, one did not.

My immediate concern, of course, was what the fate of my book was going to be - at that point in time, Beginning Java Objects had become really well established. It was typically in the #1 or #2 slot on Amazon's "beginning Java titles" list, and I was worried that I'd lose ground if another publisher didn't pick it up quickly enough.

The problem is that when an author signs a publishing agreement, he/she sells one's soul to that publisher, and so I had no control in the fate of my book; I had to sit and wait (along with hundreds of other Wrox authors) to learn of my fate.

JavaRanch: Speaking of your book, how does the Apress version of Beginning Java Objects differ from the one published by Wrox?

Jacquie Barker: Actually, it doesn't, and I am glad you asked, because I want to make sure that folks understand the situation. John Wiley and Sons purchased the rights to reprint the top 30 selling books by Wrox out of 400+ titles; mine was #35 on Wrox's list, so Wiley didn't acquire it. As a result of Wiley's purchase of the Wrox brand, none of the other Wrox titles could continue to be marketed with their familiar red covers; so, in effect, my book was technically out of print when Wrox closed their doors! But, it was still in great demand, and so it was important to get it reprinted ASAP, which I am delighted to say was a priority on the part of Apress. However, in order for Apress to reprint my book "as is", they still had to (a) change the cover and (b) assign it a new ISBN, thus technically making it a new book in, for example,'s eyes.

We've tried hard to get the word out that it is NOT a new edition, but rather a reprint ... but, I am sure that there is still some confusion on that subject, because a few of the old red cover Wrox copies are still floating around in bookstores, etc.

Gary Cornell and I decided that we didn't need to immediately worry about a new second edition of my book. I wrote my book to be "timeless" -- it is based on basic object/Java language principles that are language version independent -- and so we felt it more important to get the existing book back out on the streets "as is", and to worry about revisions/potential sequels at a later date. If something isn't broken, there's no need to fix it!

JavaRanch: So... are there any new books in the works?

Jacquie Barker: Yes! I am working on a lighthearted career guide for "techies" at the moment, which I am going to attempt to self-publish this Fall or Winter. I'm also talking seriously with Apress about a) a second edition to Beginning Java Objects (BJO), which will incorporate some of the more significant features of Java 1.5 (but which will still remain "language version neutral") and/or b) a C# version of my first book (BC#O). A third possibility is a sequel to BJO, which will address deploying Java-based web apps using selected J2EE component technologies (servlets/JSPs in particular). If readers are interested in following my progress on these various projects, I encourage them to visit my website, But, my first priority is the techie career guide.

JavaRanch: How do you find the world of Apress vs. the old Wrox Press?

Jacquie Barker: Apress has been far more organized/responsive to me than Wrox was for most of the time that I worked with them. (The individual people at Wrox were great, but somehow the corporate "glue" just wasn't there to make things flow smoothly.) I am impressed with the professionalism of everyone that I've dealt with at Apress. I wasn't very familiar with Apress before they acquired my title, because their initial focus (as a relatively new publisher) was on C# and Microsoft technologies overall, and of course I've been dedicated to the Java/open source arena for many years. But, Apress (which stands for "the Author's Press"), with the acquisition of a wide variety of formerly Wrox titles, is definitely expanding their vision.

It's also impressive that the founder of Apress, Gary Cornell, is a noted author himself! I first became acquainted with him when he co-authored several of Prentice Hall/Sun Microsystems' Core Java titles.

So, I have high hopes that Apress will do great things for my book!

JavaRanch: Ahhh that's where I recognize that name -- I see it on my desk every day

Jacquie Barker: Yes! And, the funny thing is that when Gary first contacted me about writing for Apress, I didn't make the connection either; and, he is so modest, that it didn't come out until our second or third phone chat (and even then, it was only mentioned indirectly). He said something about having been a Java author, and I glanced up at my bookshelf and said, "You are THE Gary Cornell?" It was quite a fun discovery!

JavaRanch: I think I'm about out of questions, is there anything else you'd like to add?

Jacquie Barker: Hmmm ... let's see ... I'm passionate about the fact that people who want to do justice to an object oriented programming language must learn about objects first. Most programmers dive right into Java from a non-OOP background, thinking that learning yet another language cannot be that tough; they focus on Java language syntax, but miss the boat on its object oriented "bone structure".

Now that J2EE is mainstream, there are many legacy programmers who (a) missed the object technology wave in the early 90's, (b) missed the Java wave in the mid 90's, and (c) are now trying to play "catch up" in a BIG way! I hope that my book will continue to be a launching point for folks trying to get from (a) => (b) => (c).

I welcome reader inquiries, and encourage folks to contact me via email at (or via my website) if I can be of help to them in any way in their "Java journey"!

Lastly, if any instructors are interested in potentially adopting my book as a textbook, I have lots of supporting materials -- PowerPoint presentations, exam questions, and homework assignments -- that I am happy to share.

JavaRanch: Excellent, thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

Jacquie Barker: Jessica, thanks to you (and JavaRanch) for giving me the opportunity!