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New Redbooks Materials and Channels

Editor’s Note: For the history, process and value proposition of the IBM Redbooks program, see Part 1 of this two-part article,

For decades, the IBM Redbooks* program has delivered invaluable technical information to users around the globe in the form of print documents. With the advent of the Internet, and particularly social media, IBM recognized new opportunities for outreach and for helping users get the most out of their systems as simply and efficiently as possible.

As befits a 45-year-old program, change began gradually. First, the classic content became available via electronic files accessed over the Internet—more than 700,000 Redbooks publications are downloaded each month, for example. Today, some of those same publications are now available as Apple iBooks and are soon to be joined by versions for Google devices. The change goes beyond distribution channels, however. The content itself is also changing.

“There are a lot of new and youthful people in the IT industry and an unprecedented need to enable them,” says Todd Kelsey, IBM Redbooks manager. Technical staffers at companies today need a way to be prepared for initial decision making. They don’t want a soup-to-nuts user guide so granular they can’t quickly extract the takeaways they need, and yet they need more than just sales and marketing content. Like Goldilocks, they don’t want information that’s too deep, they don’t want information that’s too superficial; they want information that’s just right for the task at hand.

Not Your Parents’ Redbooks

To address the shift, the Redbooks brand has transformed from a model of deep, best-practices content produced over long cycle times to a continuum ranging from that comprehensive content to succinct, connect-the-dots material that can be created rapidly and delivered over a variety of channels.

“Clients have told us they highly value the traditional Redbooks publications, but they need just-in-time information for a range of purposes,” Kelsey says. “For example, they’ll say, ‘I’m going to talk with my CMO. I’m just looking for 10 pages on what this solution or product is and where I can learn more. I need more than marketing and sales information because I’m technical; I need information that helps me understand what a product does along with relevant scenarios so that I can do my job effectively.’ ”

That’s not to say the classic Redbooks publications are going away. Such publications are still relevant, useful and popular. Now, however, they’re not the only options. “We’re not replacing the concept of Redbooks publications—we’re extending them to reflect how job roles have changed, as well as leveraging new social media channels and popular formats like video,” Kelsey says.

Those formats include:

  • Technical blogs, written by Redbooks authors and staff, covering key technical topics in a highly interactive medium.
  • Videos of different lengths and styles, providing executive insights and product education, from interviews to a three-minute overview series.
  • Point-of-View publications representing an IBM subject matter expert’s perspective on a particular technical topic. Many are written by members of IBM’s prestigious Academy of Technology and outline business challenges, industry trends and the business value a company may gain.
  • Product Guides, which provide a 10- to 40-page overview of a specific product, including features, specifications and complete compatibility information. The Power Systems* product line alone currently boasts 18 Product Guides
  • Solution Guides, providing a higher-level overview of a solution, often in less than 10 pages, discussing what a given solution is, how it’s architected, and how it can be used.
  • Redguides, which review different technologies from the business point of view, focusing on an emerging technology trend or showing how a particular approach delivers business value or a competitive advantage, for example.

Kristin Lewotsky is a freelance technology writer based in Amherst, N.H.



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