Suppose I wasn't the CEO of the iText Software Group. Suppose I didn't have to attend meetings. Suppose I wouldn't have to tell people what to do. Suppose I didn't have any responsibility. What would I do? I'd do the things I like! I'd do the things I'm good at! Three things jump to mind: write code, write documentation, answer questions. I've also gotten a taste for building business models.
But that's not what this blog is about.
Thirteen years ago, on February 14th of the magical year 2000, I published version 0.30 of a library I had been writing in my spare time. This library allowed developers to enhance their applications with simple PDF generation functionality without having to know anything about PDF syntax.
Being a fan of Donald Knuth, I was looking for a name that sounded like TeX, but that was different enough for people not to confuse it with TeX. As the first versions of my library were only able to process text —images weren't supported until the summer of 2000—, I experimented with variations on the words TeX or TeXt. At that time, everything was "e-": e-mail, e-marketing, e-Business,... My first idea was to call my library "eTeXt", but I didn't like the sound of that word, so I changed it into iText.
I often get the question if I was inspired by Apple's product line, but I've never been a Mac-user, so I didn't think of the iMac (1998), and the other devices that made the "i-" popular are from a much later date: the iPod (2001), iPhone (2007) and iPad (2010).
Tomorrow, exactly 13 years after the first use of the name iText and the first official iText release, I'm releasing iText 5.4.0.
Last year I gave a couple of interviews and journalists are now sending me what they made of it. Last friday I tweeted: Ouch... I'm reading a transcript of an interview taken a couple of months ago. The complete text needs to be rewritten. I didn't say that! The copy I received today is more accurate:
I only needed 6 sticky notes and 4 other annotations to add corrections and remarks ;-)
Last year was fabulous: 750,000 unique visitors to itextpdf.com, almost 4,000 people filling out the sales form and 1,000 customers! Now we're starting a new, exciting year. Metrics will be different, because we're planning to start a new site next to itextpdf.com. More news about that new site will follow later this year. Let's take a look at the results of the first month:
Last week I received the sales reports for 12Q3 from Manning Publications. My first book is over 6 years old now (for sale for 25 quarters), and 12Q3 was the first quarter with a negative result: there were more books returned than sold. This brings the total number of copies sold to 11,540. My second book has been for sale for 8 quarters and has been sold 6,741 times. I think the paper version is about to go "out of print".
No matter which business you run —a large corporation with thousands of employees and ditto clientele, or an SMB with only a handful of employees and a hundred customers—, there’s one thing all companies have in common: they all implement business processes, and every business process involves data as well as documents.
The following figure shows an example how iText can automate such processes, combining machine-readable XML with human-readable PDF documents:
We've been very successful in 2012: in 2011, our goal was to double the revenue, and we succeeded. Compared to 2009 —our first year in business— our revenue increased with a factor 15. Contrary to most of the other companies I know, we've been profitable from year one. We didn't need any external money to bootstrap our business.
This doesn't mean we're starting to get lazy. On the contrary, it makes us very excited to work on new business models!
This is what happens if Christmas and New Year's Day are on a weekday instead of in a weekend: