For those of you who haven’t heard of it Safari is a service ran by O’Reilly that allows you to access books online. The basic premise is that you rent either a bookshelf or a library where you can place technical books provided by a number of book companies.
If you choose the bookshelf option you will end up getting a number of slots that you can fill with books. Books have different point values assigned to them with most being 1 point but a few being 2. I’ve never seen anything higher but they may exist. You also will get the ability to download book chapters in a PDF format. A 10 book slot will run you $20 USD/month.
The Library option is a bit more interesting. For $40 USD/month you have unlimited space on your book shelf AND you get access to Rough Cuts. Rough Cuts provides early access to books before they are released for publishing.
The one rule for both options is that a book has to stay on your bookshelf for a month. It appears from the docs that this applies even to Libraries. I assume this was part of the original licensing done with the book companies so it’s easier to keep it in place for library users then try and change the license.
Having used it for quite awhile now I’d recommend it with a very big caveat. The caveat being that if you are like me at all, you are still going to want to buy physical books. The service itself provides access to a ton of books with a very useful search ability. So if you are looking up a solution to a specific technical problem it works great. But if you want to sit down and read Pragmatic Programmer (available on Safari) or Domain-Driven Design (also available) you probably don’t want to be sitting in front of your machine. And while they do have the option of printing out PDFs you are restricted to 5 chapters a month. Most books have much more then that. But the nice thing is that if you have Safari you can take a peek at a book you plan on spending money on and verify it has value.
As I’ve already mentioned, Safari has a ton of content. The only book I’ve actually ran into that wasn’t available was the GoF Design Pattern book. But this book is considered such a seminal work I knew it was a safe purchase anyway so I wasn’t really missing out on anything. The content is not just programmer centric either. There are books for all the IT spheres, running the gambit from Cisco to Photoshop.
One thing I noticed is that they have a free demo setup where you get access for 10 days or up to 50 page views (whichever comes first). So if you are at all interested I recommend giving it a try. This is a tool that should be in every developers toolbox.