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Why are so many user guides or manuals you get in the product box already out-of-date?

At CES, I was talking with a publicist friend I have known for thiscloseto 20 years.In the context of a larger discussion, my friend Jim mentioned the disconnect between product manuals you find when you open the box of the gizmo you just bought, and the hardware/firmware included with the device.
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Written by Russell Shaw on

At CES, I was talking with a publicist friend I have known for thiscloseto 20 years.

In the context of a larger discussion, my friend Jim mentioned the disconnect between product manuals you find when you open the box of the gizmo you just bought, and the hardware/firmware included with the device. Sometimes, this indictment includes the installation CD as well.

Jim's observation was and is that companies often do not update the printed version of the product manual when the product and its peripherals are updated.

I responded with an enthusiastic "you've got something there."

Jim then mentioned a general, but true, scenario in which bug-solving firmware might have been added to a product's installation CD, but the manual that comes in the box is, like, three revs earlier.

The result is that a user judiciously following or consulting the manual for installation procedures or even post-install bug fixes can't find the helping hand within the manual.

Of course, such readers could go online and retrieve an updated manual PDF-but availablity of that PDF is by no means certain. And phone tech support? Let's not go there.

So why don't tech vendors update their manuals and user guides more often? It's not that expensive to do. In an age of just-in-time shipping- where products can be shipped direct to customers or retailers within days- updating manuals should not involve all that much "manual labor."

Just add or revise five or six pages, or whatever is necessary to point out and explain the new features and bug fixes in the latest rev.

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