Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ask Slashdot: Prioritizing Saleable Used Computer Books?

timothy posted 1 year,28 days | from the books-are-heavy-man dept.

Books 219

g01d4 writes "I volunteer at a used bookstore that supports the local library. One of my tasks is to sort book donations. For > 5-year-old computer books the choices typically are to save it for sale (fifty cents soft cover, one dollar hardback), pack it, e.g. for another library's bookstore, put it on the free cart, or toss it in the recycle bin. I occasionally dumpster dive the recycle bin to 'rescue' books that I don't think should be pulped. Recently I found a copy of PostgresSQL Essential Reference (2002) and Programming Perl (1996). Would you have left them to RIP? Obviously we have very limited space, 20 shelf feet (storage + sale) for STEM. What criteria would you use when sorting these types of books?"

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Windows Phone 8 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44920857)

I have been skeptical of Windows Phone over the years. As a former iPhone user, I was afraid of vendor lock-in that happens with all of Apple's products, and I wanted something robust that was more than a toy. I switched to Android phones but I am getting tired of the fragmentation and slow interface. I am currently dealing with tons of spyware on my Android phone. The phone was top of the line with my carrier just eighteen months ago, but it no longer receives updates. Worse, it is littered with malware and spyware, a common occurrence in the Android world per the testimony of my acquaintances.

Luckily I am due for an upgrade soon. I have been to a local phone store to try out all of the phones, and the ones that really impressed me were the Lumia Windows Phones. Not only were they built with the highest quality materials, but the interface is phenominally clean and quick. There are live tiles which allow information to flow to my home screen without wasting space or causing clutter. Sure, the Microsoft Application Store is young and may not have 500,000 apps, but it's quality, not quantity that I'm worried about. I just need about a dozen or so well written programs to conduct my daily business. Windows Phone is the fastest growing smartphone percentage wise, so the app store will only get better. Plus, I look forward to being able to edit my documents on the fly with Microsoft Office on the way in to work.

I can't wait to join the growing number of smartphone users who are making the switch to Windows Phone. Windows Phone 8 is a great OS that provides excellent value for money. I would recommend this phone to everyone.

Re:Windows Phone 8 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44920905)

Good to hear. I've been using Windows Phone 8 for about 3 months now, after switching from Android.

Can't really say I'm missing much. A lot more thought has been put into the user experience and my Lumia 920 just got an update that includes Data Sense and call/text blocking functionality as part of the system. On Android, I needed 3rd party apps for both of these features.

By Year... (5, Interesting)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920867)

Although there are many good, reliable books that are several years old (on computer principles, logical logic and whatnot), you'll probably be better off sorting by year.

You'll end up putting a few great books farther down the line than you otherwise would, but sorting by publication date will ensure that the vast majority of the books are still relevant.

If you've got time, sort by quality. You're the expert, though, and your time is limited. Would you prefer something that is good enough - and done, or something that's perfect ... but not available.

Re:By Year... (5, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920929)

I might add, for the questionable books, put them in a box and list them on one of the online auctions for cheep or something- buyer pays shipping. There might be an admin out there that inherited something old and needs reference material or perhaps a kid getting a hand me down system and wants to make use of it.

Try to make the same cash as you would selling it in store, but make sure your supervisor or someone else in charge knows about it so it doesn't appear like you are taking books and selling them on the side.

Re:By Year... (3, Informative)

anubi (640541) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921189)

Maybe these people would be interested... []

What is one man's junk is sometimes another man's treasure, but you are probably not interested in holding onto what may or may not be junk forever. These guys seem to be in the business of warehousing old stuff and may gladly pay the shipping before you dumpster it all.

You will be doing somebody a great service by slipping your discards to someone who has the resources to remarket these old treasures. Its not so much emsps, but the bloke who is dying for some documentation for some old dinosaur that wandered into his life.

Re:By Year... (5, Informative)

Darinbob (1142669) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921079)

I don't know, Programming Perl would be more relevant to more people than anything written in the last couple of years.

Re:By Year... (5, Informative)

Anrego (830717) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921091)

That book is great and has aged really damn well. I still dig out my second edition copy from time to time. The "gory details" section is great when you are trying to figure out some obscure incantation that some sadistic bastard left as a present for you in a legacy script.

I'd still recommend reading that book cover to cover to anyone that wants to learn perl. You won't be a guru, but you'll have a pretty solid foundation.

Re:By Year... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921615)

Ooh, ooh, I love having been "that sadistic bastard". I'll make meself a merit badge, and even drink to that. :)
The Perl books are almost timeless, even with the esoteric new features.

Re:By Year... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921081)

So this guy is incompetent at his job and hopes we will help him for free. Wow I'm there dude!

It's sad what Ask Slashdot has become. This is something friends normally help you with. Normally. Friends.

Reminds me of the old people who hold up the checkout line to chat up the cashier because they refuse to find real friends. Sad but annoying for a good reason. How to make a sad situation (that i'd normally have compassion for) much worse: apply wrong solutions.

Re:By Year... (4, Insightful)

kcitren (72383) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921095)

What part of volunteer didn't you understand?

Too late (4, Informative)

djupedal (584558) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920871)

You've already put more into it than it's worth, but if you really want to know, find the local big book store's buyback locale and walk it in there. They have estimates for everything, and for what they don't have, they can speculate, but at that point it's usually due another trip to the dumpster/recycler.

Re:Too late (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921067)

You might be right.

Google a sentence out the the beginning of some chapter that looks kind of unique. Google it in quotes.

If the book shows up somewhere on the web, trash it.
You are not doing humanity any favors by keeping those fibers out of the recycle chain.

(If you are worried about the apocalypse start saving gardening books, not computer books.)

Re:Too late (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921143)

Shhhh... if people could use Google all by their widdle lonesome, then there'd be no Ask Slashdot.

Re:Too late (1, Informative)

justthinkit (954982) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921345)

It's ok, icebike is giving incorrect advice -- you don't need to use quotes any more (they are ignored/invisible now).

Re:Too late (3, Interesting)

game kid (805301) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921351)

Don't get me started about their + operator change either...

Use Amazon (3, Informative)

ranton (36917) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921493)

It is even easier than that. Just go to Amazon and check the used book price for each book. If the book is selling for a dollar or less, there probably isn't any demand. Set whatever threshold is worth your time, whether that is $2 or $20, and toss the rest.

Let the market decide... (3, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920883)

Keep anything you think might sell. Track by acquisition date. If it's not gone in X months, throw it on the free cart. Another month, toss it.

"X" depends on your turnover, space, and how many books are coming in. Since you're space limited, get rid of the oldest ones first.

Re:Let the market decide... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44920911)

Problem is that some clever people might wait for it to hit the free cart...

Re:Let the market decide... (3, Insightful)

Dr. Zim (21278) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920939)

Not sure that's a problem, the books would at least be avoiding the dumpster or recycler.

Re:Let the market decide... (3, Interesting)

msauve (701917) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921075)

"Problem is that some clever people might wait for it to hit the free cart..."

Well, no. That only works if there's only one clever person (per book). Otherwise, they'll find out "snooze, you lose."

Re:Let the market decide... (3, Insightful)

greg1104 (461138) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920941)

I let the market decide by seeing what Amazon is selling used copies for. If it's 1 cent plus shipping, it gets tossed. "PostgreSQL Essential Reference"? Trash. "Programming Perl" 1st edition? Gone! This has worked quite well for helping cull my personal old book collection. It's easier to get rid of something if I know I can always replace it, should there come an improbable day I would need that ancient book again.

Re:Let the market decide... (5, Informative)

SQLGuru (980662) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921227) is a quick and easy search that covers Amazon as well as several other used book sources. It's got an ISBN search so you can see how well a particular version is doing on the market. My wife and kids have used it to pick up college text books.

Re:Let the market decide... (2)

arth1 (260657) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921395)

It wouldn't surprise me if some of the older O'Reilly first edition books have started to become valuable.

And if not valuable as first editions, at least valuable to the guy who inherited a boatload of perl 4 apps and need to read about it to find out what the differences are to perl 5.

Sometimes I wish there were a bookdiff that would go through editions and highlight the differences only...

Give older editions to beginners, the curious ... (5, Interesting)

perpenso (1613749) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920897)

Recently I found a copy of PostgresSQL Essential Reference (2002) and Programming Perl (1996). Would you have left them to RIP?

When I replace a book with a newer edition I set aside the older edition. Sooner or later a relative, friend, co-worker, someone will express an interest in learning to program or learning some new area. My old K&R The C Programming Language, Foley and van Dam Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics, etc all found new homes this way. Why toss out a book that someone curious might want to take a look at?

Re:Give older editions to beginners, the curious . (2)

greg1104 (461138) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920985)

K&R C and the Folley/van Dam book are classics of computing. Those represent a tiny chunk of the used book market though, not really representative of the average old book. Books that have later editions at all are generally a good sign of quality. It's reasonable to bin those separately from the one-shot books and prefer keeping them around. By that standard, an old "Programming Perl" *might* still be useful to someone who just doesn't want to spring for a newer version, while "PostgreSQL Essential Reference" heads for recycling. Having read each, those would both be reasonable calls.

Re:Give older editions to beginners, the curious . (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921399)

If they really can't afford it, that's cool, but if the book is significantly outdated you could do more harm than good by having someone learn from it. For example, I would never give someone a book on Flash 3 development, since Flash has had a few major version bumps since then and anything they do in Flash nowadays will be in the new version of Flash/ActionScript, so they'd more than likely be wasting their time reading it compared to reading a modern edition. Programming Perl on the other hand is still quite relevant and useful today so it is a judgment call.

I actually don't even look for tech books in used bookstores anymore because it's next to impossible to find anything recent and relevant. However, if a used bookstore had them sorted by publish date that would DEFINITELY help!

Donate to Goodwill (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44920899)

A lot of technical books end up being sold on ebay or through Amazon's used book dealer network. If you give stuff to Goodwill, chances are it will end up in one of those places if it has any resale value.

Re:Donate to Goodwill (2)

anubi (640541) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921213)

Thanks... Now that you mention it, I have seen a lot of stuff on Amazon marketed by Goodwill. They have the time and resources to warehouse stuff like this and wait it out until the guy who needs it finds it, and what money is made sure goes to a good cause. I would have modded you up if I had modpoints, but being I do not, I'll have to settle for a thankful reply to your post.

References become dated (5, Insightful)

Maow (620678) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920901)

I'd say the reference book has likely become outdated and current info is easily found on the internet.

But books like the Perl Camel book - much more than merely a reference - those are valuable for long after their topic is upgraded.

My 2 cents. Good luck...

Re:References become dated (4, Interesting)

i.r.id10t (595143) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921109)

Of course, depending on when it was bought it may have come with all of the "animal books" about Perl on CD with it (mine did anyway). And, your local library may have a Safari subscription - mine does. No need for paper in the majority of cases. As a teacher its great because I can assign just a few great chapters from various books and not cost the student $250 in books for a 3 credit class.

Re:References become dated (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921235)

Yes... but the 4th edition of Programming Perl is easily found online for free, so there's not much point in storing the book or giving it to someone who can't afford it. What I would do is take the book to the library of a college or community school with a CS-related course for them to put it in their free cart.

learn Fortran (1)

grantspassalan (2531078) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920907)

I have a real cool book on "Fortran for Dummies". Does anybody want to buy it? I used to have another one about learning COBOL, but I forgot what happened to that.

Re:learn Fortran (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921527)

I think I picked it up at your garage sale.

It looks great on my shelf next to the UCSD p-System reference.

What To Keep, What To Pitch (3, Informative)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920917)

This is my opinion.
Java--anything that doesn't say Java2 keep.
Spring -- anything
Application servers--keep anything.
Anything Windows--pitch. Anybody buying used books won't be able to afford Visual Studio.
Anything A+ -- pitch. Don't encourage that dead end.
Anything Networking--pitch, another dead end.
Anything design related--keep.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44920977)

>Anything Windows--pitch. Anybody buying used books won't be able to afford Visual Studio.

Microsoft has several methods to get Visual Studio into the hands of the broke, not the least of which is their admittance they turn a blind eye to piracy in those cases. Throw in "school editions" and "work editions" and other such giveaways and frankly just about anybody could use those books.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (0)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921025)

Yeah, but the entire Microsoft stack is expensive. It's not the basis for learning. If you need to learn stuff, you should go Java where every damn last thing is free. Eclipse, app servers, everything.

And frankly--I just cannot take seriously anything said by someone who comments as AC.... Ballmer, you're retiring.Give it up. Move along. These are not the droids you're looking for.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921103)

Yeah, but the entire Microsoft stack is expensive. It's not the basis for learning. If you need to learn stuff, you should go Java where every damn last thing is free. Eclipse, app servers, everything.

A virtual machine in the Windows Azure cloud costs $15 per month. It can run Java and .NET, providing a cheap opportunity to learn stuff about both.

Quit trying to dictate what everyone should learn according to your own personal bias.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921153)

Ah, .NET. Yeah, let's all learn to program in a dying language tied to a dying operating system.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921183)

1. .net isnt a language
2. the operating system isnt dying, anybody who doesnt live in their mom's basement reading nothing but LKML can see that
3. .net isnt tied to one operating system

for learning basic programming it doesnt matter what language you use, for most actual development you use a low-level language that can be compiled natively to run just about anywhere and then use a platform specific UI (.Net on Windows, Android's Java API on Android, iOS's objective-c SDK on iOS). its not like you learn java or .net or whatever and then suddenly cant apply any of that to any other platform or toolkit.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (1)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921355)

Dude, nobody gets hired anymore for knowing "basic programming". Also, in most enterprises that I have worked in, mobile apps are novelties. Nobody really bets the farm on a mobile app unless that's their entire business. Enterprises have bigger fish to fry than making another Angry Birds.
In NYC, having .NET on your resume was considered a black mark--because it meant you were a button pusher who didn't understand what was actually happening. It meant you were akin to a script kiddy: Why we don't hire .NET coders []

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921455)

just because somebody wants to learn programming doesnt mean they want to do it as a job and further to that not everybody that wants to learn programming that does want to do it as a job wants to be some corporate drone working on boring line-of-business applications, in fact i cant imagine anybody wants to do that, that's for people with no imagination.

In NYC, having .NET on your resume was considered a black mark--because it meant you were a button pusher who didn't understand what was actually happening.

and how is that any different from say Java? it isnt! that sort of bullshit is just parroted by morons.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921537)

It meant you were akin to a script kiddy: Why we don't hire .NET coders []

So you advocate for Java and then link to a blog post you obviously have not read because all those points apply equally to Java and in the article itself it points that out and it also links to Joel Spolsky's post on why the Java path is a bad idea. Advocating for .Net over Java or Java over .Net in terms of 'what language should I learn' is largely just blatant fanboyism.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921195)

Pascal on MS-DOS it is, then!

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (1)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921335)

Dude, If you read my first post, I prefaced it with "My opinion".
Second, I've never had a job that expected anyone to know both Java and .NET. Java and .NET are such massive languages--with all the ancillary technologies you must know to be competent--that I wouldn't expect anyone to know both. But knock yourself out.
Third, I have never been asked to spend a dime on anything I was learning. Learning "stuff" does not seem that fruitful to me.

Lastly, where do you get off saying I'm fricking dictating to you--AC? Learn whatever the hell you learn. But I really can't understand why you would want to start learning .NET now since Metro is shit-canning it for HTML5 and Javascript. But it's your life. Enjoy your obsolescence.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921645) will be around for a while, metro or not, which means .net will be just fine.

and we all deserve to know what makes your myopic opinion in any way a valuable contribution? you derailed the discussion, dismissed a majority platform, and continue to reply with ignorance about stuff that is a simple search away. a defense is in order here, or at least next post ask yourself if you are helping at all.

like the guy below who hates books- you are not helping.

I have had two fortune 100 jobs that had no training budget, and I bought most of what I learned from. and the first of those, I inherited a java app on top of my normal .net duty. I learned enough ant to deploy a bug fix in a week, and whatever random ass UI toolkit. I would have appreciated an old java book, because enterprise upgrades at enterprise scale. and I just worked with java devs pinch hitting on .net code, at the second job.

now you know of two jobs that require .net and java. care to re-evaluate your answer?

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921137)

Yeah, but the entire Microsoft stack is expensive.

why do you need the entire Microsoft stack? if you have a Windows PC all you need is the free VS Express. Java is not a bad choice but it depends entirely on what your goal is, Java is good in some areas and poor in others. It *is* portable to a degree which is good but the WORA concept is a joke, WOTE is more like it, and while you *can* build a single codebase that runs (mostly) everywhere, which is another plus on the portability side, it also looks shit everywhere so you need to wrap it in a platform-specific container for which you do need things like Windows programming, OSX's Cocoa, Android, GTK, Qt Jambi (not bad) or whatever for whichever platform you are looking at.

And frankly--I just cannot take seriously anything said by someone who comments as AC

right because you use the name curmudgeon99 gives you so much credibility. A pro-java, anti-windows post that is ignorant of visual studio express simply reeks of an agenda, using a logged in user doesnt change that.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (1)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921361)

Okay, here's why. As soon as you're using .NET and ASP.NET, you're informed that you have to use IIS. Oh, and IIS really only works well with SQL Server. And then and then...

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921437)

Okay, here's why. As soon as you're using .NET and ASP.NET, you're informed that you have to use IIS. Oh, and IIS really only works well with SQL Server. And then and then...

you have to use IIS with .Net?! wtf? you don't really know a lot about this do you.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921051)

Anybody buying used books won't be able to afford Visual Studio.

Visual Studio Express is free.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (1)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921307)

Well, sounds like crippleware to me. On the Java side free gets you the best stuff--not crippleware.

Re:What To Keep, What To Pitch (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921371)

2010 seems to be crippleware, although I suspect it is unintentional. 2008 is fine.

Audacity [] officially uses 2008 still, because it won't build on 2010. But it does reference bugs (just the word bugs so I'm not sure which ones).

The wikipedia article is pretty good for listing the differences. Definitely crippleware in your sense of the word, but entirely functional. Most of the features are not used in daily life. []

Sounds like a job for Wikipedia (1)

justthinkit (954982) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921379)

Sounds like a job for Wikipedia []

Sell it to Intellectual Property Law Firms (5, Interesting)

speedplane (552872) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920919)

Patent lawyers trying to bust patents from the mid 1990s live on this stuff. Call your local friendly intellectual property law firm and see if you can unload the whole batch. They'd probably pay much more than $1.00/book.

Re:Sell it to Intellectual Property Law Firms (5, Interesting)

WillAdams (45638) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921029)

Interestingly, the last copy of the PenPoint Interface Guidelines I sold on Amazon was to such a law firm.

Re:Sell it to Intellectual Property Law Firms (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921123)

While I hate lawyers, this is a really good idea.

Fundamentals (5, Insightful)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920925)

Save anything that is foundational or fundamental to any particular field. Any book that continues to be cited academically or has increased in value on the used market should probably be kept.

My local public library system foolishly trashed some true classics in algorithms, graphics, and fractals simply because they were old. Now all you find in the stacks are books focused on instruction for specific software applications, books which are certain to be obsolete in a few years.

Re:Fundamentals (4, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921047)


Books on the theory of computing, physics, mathematics, and so on far outlive reference manuals. Keep texts that describe things like O(n) notation, matrix and vector math, graphics, simulations, and so on.

Non tool specifics. (2)

nxcho (754392) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920931)

My guess is that books not on specific tools or versions retain their value much longer. Titles like Design Patterns, Network programming, Computer Graphics are more likely to be useful after a couple of years. Also check if the editions are used in any university courses.

Re:Non tool specifics. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921039)

My guess is that books not on specific tools or versions retain their value much longer. Titles like Design Patterns, Network programming, Computer Graphics are more likely to be useful after a couple of years. Also check if the editions are used in any university courses.

The Art Of Computer Programming (AKA "TAOCP" or "The Holy Bible"): Keep
Compilers: Principles, Techniques, And Tools (AKA "The Dragon Book"): Keep
The C Programming Language (AKA "K&R" or "The C Bible"): Keep

Any of the animal books from O'Reilly: Maybe

Teach Yourself foo In 21 Days: Trash
bar For Dummies: Trash

TL;DR: If the book has a nickname, keep it.

Ya know... (3, Insightful)

rs79 (71822) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920959)

We worked really hard in the 70s on so you wouldn't need books. Everything I did was documented with roff/runoff. This begat, in a roundabout way SCRIBE which begat SGML which begat HTML.

I've programmed C since 1974 and still do, daily. I've bought K&R, twice (and have touched a mimeographed copy dmr made pencil notes in belonging to Jim Fleming) and the O'Reily MySql book to get a fucking update statement right in 1997. Fifty bucks for one page. Other than that I just haven't found a need for them. And I've done pretty much everything.

In the post-Internet era what is it exactly you can't learn about computers without a book. I don't even want to hear it's "easier". I'm used to not doing it and fins it much less efficient, especially for this kind of stuff where I'm one click away from a local file as opposed to go find the book, find the page...

Read K&R, Read Knuth. The rest you can easily live without.
(Skip the TeX stuff though, he went insane at some point)

Re:Ya know... (3, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921077)

Books can provide a nice "all inclusive" feeling for a broad topic, or even a specific one. There are lots of great online resources, but most are limited in scope, and learning that way can have a piecemeal feeling to it. Sometimes it's nice to have a topic covered from a starting point to an ending point by the same author(s) and in a consistent style.

Good example would be "Programming Perl". Sure, you can learn perl in pieces from the gazillion online resources (perlmonks is awesome), but if you read the book cover to cover, you get a kind of well thought out guided path through the language. Personally I've still got my (second edition) copy and occasionally dig it out... it's aged well and makes a great resource.

I'll admit I haven't read a book on anything computing related in a while, but I fear that's more because I haven't really learned anything thoroughly in a while, which kinda scares me...

Re:Ya know... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921203)

How much do you want for your old copy of Kids These Days?

Re:Ya know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921229)

Probably right around the time he wanted the garbage can in the middle of the kitchen.

Re:Ya know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921253)

What the hell does your rant have to do with anything?

Books are better than online documentation for learning how to program.. online documentation is great for quickly looking up syntax and quick info. Your 50 dollar MySql book to fix a statement simply shows that MySql's online documentation is crap.

These days I choose tools based on online documentation and community support. Although most community support for tools comes from StackOverflow these days.

Re:Ya know... (4, Insightful)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921447)

I'm not sure how helpful your anti-book rant is going to be for a volunteer at a bookstore which helps a library, which happens to be a subculture which is going to be immune to any argument you make, no matter how well presented. They rather like their books, you see, and some of the people they serve don't have computers. Should they come to the library to read the books online?

I will say that I bought an e-Ink device precisely so I could read stuff I got from the internet, in a book like format. I much prefer it, and I can't defend my preference any more than you can argue that I should prefer chocolate or vanilla. I just like it.

If I am one click away from a local file, I would open it instead of the book. But I rarely am. How many times a day are you one click away from the book you need? If your answer is anything other than "okay I was exaggerating" you are weird. Seriously, most people don't keep books on the desktop or in a folder that is always visible.

If I had to plug in an external drive or DVD, wait for it to spin up, browse to the folder, find the file, and wait for the PDF reader to open up, I would open the book. I can make things sound more complicated than they really are to make my point sound more convincing.

I'm also actually quite good at finding what I want to in a book - with practice it gets easier.

Some people agree with you - you are currently at +4. So you're not wrong. But others disagree with you, and we aren't wrong, either.

Comp Sci 20 years, applications 2-3 years (3, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920961)

I have some computer science / theory books that are twenty years old and still quite valuable. Those include Cod on relational database design theory. My Visual Basic 6 books are trash because they cover a specific, outdated version of the software.

Thinking about it further, not only are the good old books theory oriented, the ones that come to mind on authored by the originators of the topic - Cod & Date, K&R, etc. The thoughts of the founding fathers of a discipline are always relevant.

What my local library does with books donated (1)

Nyder (754090) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920981)

My Local library sells any books donated to them so they can use that money to buy more books.

Go figure. They got a book, so instead of loaning it out, they sell it for less then it costs to buy another book. Great system.

Re:What my local library does with books donated (2)

Camembert (2891457) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921131)

My Local library sells any books donated to them so they can use that money to buy more books.

Go figure. They got a book, so instead of loaning it out, they sell it for less then it costs to buy another book. Great system.

Because a good librarian will keep the collection alive with books that enough people will actually want to read. Usually libraries are not interested in just accumulating people's old junk books.

Re:What my local library does with books donated (1)

anubi (640541) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921277)

Our town library has a big bookshelf in the foyer. Ten cents each. I think every library patron knows exactly what is going on. We all bring our unwanted books and put them in this bookshelf. I got a really nice original Borland C++ for DOS manual set and a few other gems through this route, albeit I was probably the only one in town who wanted it. I get a lot of books from it. I also leave them there when its time for me to clean house.

The library goes through the shelf occasionally and culls the junk out when it becomes too messy.

Re:What my local library does with books donated (2)

damnbunni (1215350) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921167)

It is a great system. It's a fantastic system.

I used to work at a library ages ago, and that's generally the system we used. We might keep a donated book, if we thought there was demand for it, but it was rare.

Because we didn't want to waste shelf space on random books people didn't want any more. Libraries generally have a pretty good idea of what books are in demand by their patrons, and selling books that won't ever be leant out lets them get books people actually want.

Re:What my local library does with books donated (1)

Swave An deBwoner (907414) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921251)

Yeah, my local libraries don't in general even want book donations for them to sell for 10-cents anymore. I think that the problem is that library budgets have been cut to the bone and they just don't have the money to pay their staff to deal with all of this extra stuff. Here's what one NYC library system has to say about this:

Why does Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) no longer accept donations of books and other material from the public?
Donated books and other materials incur costs and additional time to process. Before they can be shelved with the larger collection, their condition must be evaluated, followed by cataloging, processing and transporting. These materials ultimately have a shorter shelf life. It is more cost-efficient to purchase new books and media, which are delivered "shelf-ready." []

Shocked! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44920993)

Information professionals train for this reason - they are the experts in managing library stocks, and if you are sending things to other libraries, this means you should be looking at this in more of a macro than micro environment. Engage a properly trained librarian, and stop trying to second guess what you should be doing, or go and invest and go get trained up yourself.

Older books can still be of use (1)

g01d4 (888748) | 1 year,28 days | (#44920995)

I should add the main criteria I use are 1) is it (programming language, operating system, application) still popular and 2) whether it has changed much over the years. I figure it's an inexpensive way for someone to teach themselves the basics w/o having to stare at a screen. If they're able to get up to speed with the book they should be able to handle the changes or new features in later versions.

Programming books are best (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44920999)

I used to work at a used bookstore, and I was in charge of our computer books section. My experience was that programming books would sell the best - I would put them on the shelf, no matter how old they were, and they would sell. You'd be surprised to see that some still look up for $10-20 on Amazon too, even at over 10 years old. Java & C/C++ sold the best, but they would all sell, I always had empty room on those shelves. The next best sellers were database/server books, then recent Windows OS/recentish OS X/any Linux books. Older OS books (especially older Windows books), most application books, and most how-to-use-a-computer/internet/laptop/etc books did not sell well unless they were less than a year old.

So I would have also rescued your two books - I think they were good choices, and are likely to sell even though they are old. I would use the above criteria for determining what to keep, and if space is an issue, I'd limit some of the OS/application/textbook sort of stuff to 2-3 years back instead of 5 rather than get rid of older programming & server/database books.

Reading is Fundamental (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921003)

So, Fahrenheit 451 is reality, with a twist. Instead of paying firemen to burn books, we have people willing to volunteer to pulp books. Who could have predicted a mere sixty years ago that the people of the early 21st century would have such an intense hatred of knowledge to be eager to destroy it for free.

scan them (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921021)

The Internet Archive will scan them for you; see

Amazon Sales Rank? (4, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921037)

Could you whip up a little tool that would scan the barcode, query the item on Amazon, and see what the sales rank is? There you'd have market telling you what is in demand and what is not. I'd bet (not looking now) the Knuth books have a decent used sales rank while "Learning Filemaker 2.1" does not.

Find your threshold(s) and have the tool tell the clerk [shelve,sell,recycle].

Is there a PDF? (2)

quenda (644621) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921059)

These books are all just copies, not original manuscripts. And O'Reilly books were never a work of art as a medium. Be ruthless.
If you ever really do need an old edition of the Camel Book, it is available as a PDF download.

As for, K&R C and the Folley/van Dam book - well, some things are special cases. I still have mine. But as above, very few books are as important as those.

Things to dump or keep (3, Informative)

Darinbob (1142669) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921087)

Dump anything that is titled "for Dummies" or "Learn $X in $Y days!"

Keep anything, no matter how old, from O'Reilly books.

The Imposible Dream (3, Interesting)

martiniturbide (1203660) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921111)

I really want to see a way that old books (90's and early 2000) content get published for free under a license that allows derivative works like Creative Common Share Alike.

I contacted some author and almost everyone wants to release the content of their books for free, but this can not be possible since the copyright of the books belongs to the publishers.

The publishers are big companies and you don't even know to whom ask permission for this and some of them don't want to give anything from their IP. (I even tried once with MS Press by Twitter and never got an answer).

Do we have to wait a 100 (or something like that) years for the content to be public domain? or does anybody knows any trick on some publishers to open some of their content?

Re:The Imposible Dream (1)

greg1104 (461138) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921449)

There's nothing to be done about old books. What authors can do is work clauses like this into their publishing contract, now, for new books that are written. From practical experience trying that, it's extremely hard to do that if you're an unpublished author. But if you've had a successful book already, it's possible to leverage that into future books eventually being available under a free license.

Since quite a bit of the computing book market is constantly being rewritten to stay current, if enough authors did this eventually we'd be at a more useful place. There are some classics in the field that aren't going anywhere that would allow such a change, but it doesn't cost that much to pick up all of the major ones.

brown shirts (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921149)

Welcome to the brown shirt society. It doesn't matter what you do, you are irrelevant. They will keep getting rid of the best books because they don't conform to their agenda. They will eventually get rid of you because you don't conform to their agenda. This is one of the reasons I will never use a library again. You can't do ANYTHING at a library without being tracked. All of the best books have been filtered, sanitized, and removed. What's left, why go? Thanks brown shirts for destroying libraries across the nation.

Tough call (1) (245670) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921159)

On the one hand, RIP 'cause they're obsolete. On the other hand, there's a lot of obsolete stuff still in use that will be in use for a long time. The trick is getting those obsolete books to the people maintaining those obsolete systems. The chances of someone needing a 90s reference book that you have walking into your bookstore are pretty slim. Maybe you can list them on ebay.

Most old tech books are useless for STEM (0)

davidwr (791652) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921175)

Most old books about a specific short-lived or rapidly-evolving technology are useless for training purposes but they can be valuable as historical artifacts.

Anything over 10 years old or anything that is a "1.0-version" book for a product that is more than a few years old and a few versions newer should be looked at from that angle before pulping.

Re:Most old tech books are useless for STEM (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921317)

It all depends - an extreme is a book from the early 1950s I have on metal fatigue that is missing nothing in newer general texts on the subject apart from electron microscope images and has a lot more detail on case studies like the "liberty ships" than anything since. There's a lot of technologies that look as if they are cutting edge but instead really have fundamentals that have not moved in to long time, no matter what has happened in niches. Mathematics is another - you need to tackle stuff that hasn't changed in the last 50 years before you even think about reading about anything that has changed recently in that field. In engineering texts on thermodynamics, fluid flow, chemistry, metallurgy etc are not worn out after twenty years.
It's not everyone's choice of tools, but I've found texts on TeX, sed, awk and shell scripts have a very long shelf life so there are similar items in computing.

*Some* old ones are valuable (5, Insightful)

PapayaSF (721268) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921179)

The APPLE II BASIC programming manual by Jef Raskin currently goes for $52 and up on Amazon. A few years ago I found a late-'90s book on embedded systems programming that turned out to be in demand and later sold for about $100 on Amazon. So look up anything unusual, specific, or that might have nostalgia value there or on before you recycle them or sell them for a buck or two.

Re:*Some* old ones are valuable (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921329)

There's someone in my workplace still using the copy of the "Fortran cookbook" that I picked up second hand in 1987.

Re:*Some* old ones are valuable (2)

Pfil2 (88340) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921559)

Also keep an eye out for BIOS Disassembly Ninjutsu Uncovered by Darmawan Salihun. People are asking $1500 for it on Amazon since it's out of print. I guess it's a collector's item. The company I used to work for paid $700 for it on amazon 6 months ago and as soon as I heard that I googled the book to see why it was in such demand and discovered it was out of print and the author had even posted a PDF of the book on his blog. So, there was no reason to even buy it for the information; it's only worthwhile buying it as a collectible. The funny thing is they didn't know any of this and wrote their name all over it with a sharpie thus destroying its collectible value. What's not funny is they probably just billed the government for the price of a book they could've read for free...

Pretty simple rules (1)

dackroyd (468778) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921217)

If it's for either the current version of a technology or is for a technology that is version free - keep it. e.g. The Data compression book [] , and The Pragmatic Programmer are both 15 years old but are still great books that people could learn a lot from.

If it's for a technology that has had a newer version (or versions) released - probably bin it. Even a book a couple of years old will be massively out of for technologies that are advancing rapidly. e.g. a book on how to develop for iPhones that was released in say, late 2009, would be almost completely irrelevant now.

Re:Pretty simple rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921625)

If it's for either the current version of a technology or is for a technology that is version free - keep it. e.g. The Data compression book [] , and The Pragmatic Programmer are both 15 years old but are still great books that people could learn a lot from.

You mean the pragmatic time wasting old man with the stories of when he was a little boy? Read the Amazon reviews.

Programming books by the inventors (1)

StewBaby2005 (883886) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921381)

I collect books by the inventors of languades e.g. C++ by Stroustrop, C by Kernigan and Richie Pascal by (I forget the Swiss dude)... I feel these are worth while keeping just as references

The Swiss dude (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921435)

Although not (major) language inventors, I still see value in the writings of the Dutch dude and the Scandinavian-American dude . . .

Re:Programming books by the inventors (4, Funny)

zjbs14 (549864) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921441)

Pascal? I'm not sure it's Wirth it.

Richie Pascal? (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921473)

C by Kernigan and Richie Pascal

Never heard of Richie Pascal? Wasn't he the one who sang La Bamba?

Free shelf (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921423)

These books have readership value, even if they are slightly obsolete. Caveat lector if they are on the free shelf. They are free advertisements for the products.

Old CS books (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921443)

Bassic may not be taught. But if you go under MS Visual basic, the code is still QBasic code. Also, when an author writes a book, if he or she is a PHD, then the chapters related to their thesis topic will be well written and rest are thrash. So, it becomes necessary to collect several books from different authors/publsihers and collect relevant information and make up your own booklet. This is very crucial for teaching and learning. So, instead of collecting junk, book library at home will be very useful for a long time to come. Also, most developing countries still use old editions and I found out that some Assian universities just copy (xerox) a old book and distribute it to its students. There is a definite market for the books we throw away. An entrepprenuer can create a good business.It is unfortunate we discard good food, books etc., without understanding the long term consequences. Most say the industry does not care, but some of the old programs can be rewritten in a new language as the underlying algorithms and procedures do not change. Ignorance is not bliss.

Solution is Speculative Accumulation (1)

retroworks (652802) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921459)

In the desert in Tucson, there's a massive airplane graveyard, where you can always go to find a part. I collect these used books in my business, and it's very frustrating. You can't afford to keep them in a rent-paying, heated building. But they always eventually go up in value. The solution is "speculative accumulation". Find a place in the desert, where they won't mold (they will anywhere else, unfortunately). And dig them up in 100 years. Look at what Kaypros and IBM 85 series monitors are selling for on ebay.

Two categories: Theory - About Some technology (1)

Gabriel Rea Velasco (3172895) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921465)

I would order them by Theoretical ones, because this books tend to long more years. For example: The books of Knuth and the books of Cormen. The books that talk about some technology, "expire" faster, most of people don't want to read a book about some programming language/Operative System of the 90's or before. After this big categories, you can follow the sugerence of other slashdotters.

Keep art, edu (1)

AHuxley (892839) | 1 year,28 days | (#44921485)

Hi g01d4,
Have a look at any good bookshop with a 'computing' section. Computer graphics and fundamental CS/math education books seem to have a few extra years in them.
Programming languages, mobile related, tax, product guides seem to have a life under a year with massive version drift.

there is an app for that (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44921599)

Use your smart phone and a price check app to get the latest prices from the internet. 5 seconds per book job done... use the date stamp they have at the front counter of the library to mark the date it was put one the shelf. Recycle the oldest as needed.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?