Help me out, Pragmatic!

I’m an avid Pragmatic Bookshelf reader.  I probably own 30%-40% of their book titles.  The writing is always great, editing is even better, and they’re often the first to print on some great up-and-coming topics.

I saw recently that they are offering ‘Friday-series’ PDF books for $9 and I found one on using memcached that I decided to buy.  I’m pretty good with memcached and use it quite regularly, but there are always new things to learn and I figured this would make a great reference if nothing else.  I also thought it would make for great reading on the plane trip during my upcoming trip to RailsConf (call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather carry the physical version rather than read it off my laptop, especially while traveling).

I purchased the PDF, downloaded it, and when I went to print it I found that the background of every page is tan!  I bought it with the specific purpose of printing, but that’s a waste of a LOT of ink to print a solid background on every page.  I went through a very lengthy process to try and fix this so I could have a nice hard-copy:

  1. Adobe Professional has a great accessibility tool that will re-color the background.  It worked perfectly to remove the background and leave the rest of the document intact.  Unfortunately, despite what the print-preview shows, the pages still print with the tan background.
  2. Adobe Pro also has a tool called ‘Remove background’ but it only works on backgrounds added by Adobe Pro.  Not the case with this PDF, so that doesn’t work.
  3. I searched the web for removing backgrounds from PDFs but found very little.  I tried xpdf but it couldn’t handle this file and any watermark removal tools I found were sub-par.
  4. I e-mailed Pragmatic asking if there was any way of getting a white-background version.  Obviously a long shot, but I figured I had to at least ask.  To their credit, I received a response from Dave Thomas in a matter of minutes.  This is what he had to say:

To be honest, the Friday’s are really not formatted for printing in many different ways–the font is optimized for screen viewing, and there’s tons of white space. It never really occurred to us that someone would print one.

Really, I have no problem with the font or the white space, but I found it VERY surprising that it never occurred to them that someone would print one.  I could have sworn that the purpose of a PDF was to provide a format that would display and print consistently across platforms.  To be honest, I can’t find a PDF I’ve bought that I haven’t printed.   Thankfully Peepcode PDFs (which I own almost all of) are B&W and print terrifically.

In the end, I printed it with the tan background and I’m thankful I ordered new ink cartridges last week that should be arriving very soon.  Hopefully, the Pragmatic guys will think twice about a colored background with their future PDFs.

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