Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Great Manual Repository

Why aren't all product manuals released under some Creative Commons-style license on the web in PDF form and archived in a Great Manual Repository? If you go looking for the user or installation guide for a TV, a washing machine, a digital camera you're faced with either navigating a particular vendor's web site (they're almost all awful), or trawling through a myriad of sites whose design is fetid and that either end in a demand for money or an endless list of links to other sites.

It's time this came to an end. What's need is The Great Manual Repository. It shouldn't be hard, and it should be possible to do it in a way that has low cost. After all, the manuals are already being produced.

Here's what would be cool:

1. A web site to which manufacturers release manuals under a suitable license. There could even be an embargo if the manufacturer wanted to limits its competitors' access to manuals for a period (say manuals would be released one year after the device).

2. The web site organizes the manuals by suitable categories and, of course, allows free text search to quickly find a manual without forcing you into the endless drop-down menu forest manufacturers seem to love.

3. The manuals are made available for free download as PDFs (not some in browser nightmare technology like scribd). Perhaps the site covers its cost by selling printed manuals, or by offering product spares, or advertising.

4. The web site is designed to be usable with the minimum of fluff.

I'm sure that someone could build this pretty easily. Storage is cheap and technically it's not complex. All it would take is someone with the energy to explain to Miele, Sony, Phillips, Kenwood, etc. why they should release their manuals.

Surely there's a 'start-up idea' in there?


If you enjoyed this blog post, you might enjoy my travel book for people interested in science and technology: The Geek Atlas. Signed copies of The Geek Atlas are available.


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