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Welcome to the Safari Jungle

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the please-reread-the-right-to-read dept.

Programming 211

Robby Russell writes "Paper books have a tendency to accumulate dust, take up large amounts of shelf space and be a painful reminder that you need to get rid of stuff when moving time comes and you find yourself packing up the same Pascal book for an eighth time. Granted, the book provides a level of self-accomplishment and it's always great to have your best books out in direct sight of anyone who may come over to your home or office. You know the type; the ones who are observant and notice the books that you want the world to know that you've read, as if you were to say, 'Been there, done that.' You can't tell me that you don't put some of them up intentionally. ;-)" Russell is taken with O'Reilly's floating-rental system called Safari; read on for his review of the system.

O'Reilly has come up with an interesting solution to your lack of physical shelf space: a virtual bookshelf. Safari Bookshelf is a great resource for all things technical. They recently went over 1,000 titles available online, 24/7. Several publishers have joined forces with O'Reilly to provide so many titles. Que, Alpha, Sams, Microsoft Press (and O'Reilly itself) are a few of the big-name publishers that are part of Safari. Currently, 75% of all O'Reilly books are available through Safari. (With plans for adding 10+ books per month, the selection is growing rapidly, too.)

Safari subscriptions can be had in 10-, 20- or 30-slot varieties, depending on how much you care to read (and spend). Prices end up close to $1.50 per slot each month, with slight discounts if you buy annually rather than by the month. (A $9.99/month 5-slot shelf is available too, if you just want to test the waters.)

Recently, I had the privilege of giving Safari a test-run thanks to the generous offer made to user groups.

The website's navigation was fairly easy to grasp, and I was able to start searching for books as soon as I logged into the system. O'Reilly's made browsing pleasant, by listing the main categories and allowing you to branch down into subcategories to find the book you may or may not be looking for.

I was given a 10-book shelf to start my trial of Safari. This account would typically go at $14.99/month (or $159.99/year). The bookshelf is great. You can add a book to your bookshelf and you keep it there for 30 days, after which you can remove the book and replace it with a different one. So, you can have 10 books in your "shelf" at any given time, and switch no more than 10 books a month under this account level. That is 120 books a year for roughly $1.33/book. That's impressive.

It just so happened that I was currently working on migrating from Sendmail to Postfix recently and wanted to read up more on Postfix to see if there was more I could do to keep my server running happily. I typed in "postfix" in the search, and voila! 109 books were found with that word in the title or description. The search results allowed me to View by Book and/or View by Section (which I found really helpful by showing me a section of the book that contained the word "postfix"). I scanned a few more books in greater depth, looking at the Table of Contents of various books and even looking at the books' chapter previews. A lot of text to look at before I even decide on checking out a book. Being in a bookstore wouldn't have been this good: you can't search through a bookstore for a specific keyword in all texts and get back these kinds of results.

After reviewing a small handful of books, I felt comfortable with my decision and checked out the appropriately-titled book by Sams, "Postfix" by Richard Blum and added it to my bookshelf. The book will be on my bookshelf for the next 30 days. Immediately, I went over to My Bookshelf and found myself looking through the same text you would find in the paper version of this book (but in the font face and size that I set in my browser preferences). It lets me print a page, send the page as an email to someone, etc. I was reading about open relays, and added a bookmark to the page which shows up on the "My Safari" personal page listing all the books I have currently checked out. That page also shows recent searches, newly available books, public notes, etc. With a few clicks, I can go from my computer desktop to page 152 of The Perl Cookbook which is quicker than me looking through my library of paper books and finding my place.

I have since added six more books and visit My Safari page roughly 5+ times throughout my day to read more on various topics. All this content available anytime I need it, and I still have spaces left in my bookshelf. They do offer 5-slot Safari Bookshelf for those who don't need 10 books a month, which is probably where I would fall. The great thing is that this is very affordable. (After calculating the costs of all the books I had bought in the past year, I could have paid for and viewed roughly 232 books plus the 8 technical books I bought last year.)

On the downside, colleagues who come by my home or office won't see my new copy of MySQL Cookbook because it is online rather than on my shelf showing another O'Reilly animal. I might have to print out the covers and tape them to my old school books to deal with that for the time being, but I am sure that Safari Bookshelf is how I plan to spend money on technical documentation from now on.

If it were a Tom Robbins book however, I couldn't see myself sitting in a cozy chair reading it on a laptop; this idea only makes sense to me for technical information because I am sitting at my computer anyways -- and where else would I need technical documentation?

If this idea intrigues you, visit O'Reilly's Safari Bookshelf page. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Confusion! (1)

Nikk Name (649179) | more than 11 years ago | (#5395979)

Isn't Safari the name of Apple's new browser? I predict legal clashes if both of these expand in the tech world.

Re:Confusion! (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396064)

As the reader is a standard browser, you should be able to read Safari with Safari!

What confusion?

Re:Confusion! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396219)

Fred Rogers, television's "Mister Rogers", was found dead in his Pittsburgh home this morning at age 74.

He will be missed. Truly an American cultural icon.

Re:Confusion! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396401)

Isn't Safari the name of Apple's new browser? I predict legal clashes if both of these expand in the tech world.

Four words: O'Reilly was there first. Fuck Apple.

If this isn't the first post... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5395991)

I will eat my own shit and tell you all what it looks like when it comes out again.

As always, links to pictures will be posted.

finally a viable business plan for ebooks (2, Interesting)

gazoombo (650701) | more than 11 years ago | (#5395995)

finally a viable business plan for ebooks! this will be soooo handy!

Collecting Books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396000)

Most men that I know (me included) tend to collect books, or store them until we can get a book shelf to fill them up with. Why do we just collect books?

Perhaps so we have something to do while eating our double batch of tofu? ;)


guilty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396015)

I haven't read 25% of the books on my shelf yet.

Re:guilty (1)

Erebus (13033) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396331)

Me, either, especially the reference books. How many people read a spec cover-to-cover, like a story, anyway?

At least I'll have the books, should I wish to read them later, lend them to a friend or colleague, or sell them for cold, hard cash at half-price books.

It's funny how we rail against the loss of fair use when others do it, and rally behind the flag when one of our own steps into the ring...

moron welcomes you to see far into (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396021)

the Godless greed/fear based fraudulent payper liesense stock markup ?pr? bullshipping 'industry'.

ask your grandma about her pension. then say you don't care about such stuff. keep your heads up your .asps a while longer, & we could lose A LOT more than some stinking phonIE monIE crap shoot.

Speaking for myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396029)

I don't put books on a shelf to impress people. I put trophies or cool decorative things on shelves to impress people. Books go on shelves to either provide entertainment or a useful reference. Why spend 50 bucks on a tome just to impress people? Nobody assumes you've read the whole thing, they assume you use it to look things up.

Re:Speaking for myself (3, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396090)

Why spend 50 bucks on a tome just to impress people?

I just buy the bindings and glue them to pieces of 2x4. No one actually takes the books from the shelves.

Re:Speaking for myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396144)

I like that idea! Then I can buy the remainder of the book cheap and without the cover, like all those publishers' warnings in the front of books mentions.

Re:Speaking for myself (2, Insightful)

Bull999999 (652264) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396135)

Go to a computer book store and get some old books on clearance for a couple of bucks for a cheap way to fill that bookshelf.

Paper books still useful for display (5, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396037)

Like the first part of the article mentions, paper books are useful for display, and not just in the showing off sense.

When I walk into my professors office, they have two walls of metal bookshelves stacked to the wall with books. It's like walking into their mind.

With a cursory glance, you can roughly tell what schools of thought they subscribe to, who they've read, their area of expertise, what subjects they're familiar with. It's really nifty.

Re:Paper books still useful for display (2, Insightful)

binaryDigit (557647) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396086)

When I walk into my professors office, they have two walls of metal bookshelves stacked to the wall with books. It's like walking into their mind.

Right, but what the article poster alluded to and what others are mentioning is that often times the majority of books that one owns are not ones that they have read. In many ways ones bookshelf is like ones online persona, you are free to appear to be whoever you want. So if I wanted to look like a c/c++ god, I'd have things like K&R and Stroustroup, and NOT some "dummies guide", even if I don't know how to properly format a 'for' statement. I always take one's bookshelf with a grain of salt, esp if it's full of books that look like my old college text books did (i.e. more pristine than the ones on the bookstore shelf).

Re:Paper books still useful for display (2, Insightful)

Geopoliticus (126152) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396155)

I'm proud to say my books are trashed. You should see my copy of the camel book, it's cover is mangled and held on with tape. The pages are dog eared and wrinkled. Not to mention the book is about twice it's original thickness packed with printed programs and post-it note book marks. One can defiantly tell if a book has been read by it's condition.

Re:Paper books still useful for display (2, Interesting)

eXtro (258933) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396358)

I disagree, you can only tell if a book has been used by it's condition. I'm currently reading the following two books to refresh my knowledge:

Once I'm done with them they will look relatively unused, other than a couple of post-its I've added either with my personal notes or as book marks to interesting concepts. I just won't need much of the book as a daily or even occasional reference. I'm reading the books from cover to cover and doing most of the problems, sort of like doing a course without a professer haranguing me to do stuff. This is the way it is with most of my texts, I read them, I learn what's in them and then they sit on my shelves for occasional reference.

Re:Paper books still useful for display (1)

LemurShop (585831) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396102)

Show me your bookshelf and i'll tell you who you are eh? Or quite possibly, show me your safari bookshelf and ill tell you what kind of geek you are. :)

Re:Paper books still useful for display (0)

lwbecker2 (530894) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396336)

With a cursory glance, you can roughly tell what schools of thought they subscribe to, who they've read, their area of expertise, what subjects they're familiar with.

reminds me of this scene from Good Will Hunting [un-official.com] :

WILL : Did you buy all these books retail, or do you send away for like a "shrink kit" that comes with all these volumes included?

SEAN : Have you read all these books, Will?

WILL : Probably not.

SEAN : (indicating a shelf) How about the ones on that shelf?

Will's eyes flicker up to the shelf for an instant.

WILL : Yeah, I read those.

SEAN : What did you think?

WILL : I'm not here for a fuckin' book report. They're your books, why don't you read'em?

SEAN : I did.

WILL : That must have taken you a long time.

SEAN : Yeah, it did take me a long time.

Sean says this with pride. His determined stare and confident manner catch Will a bit off guard. Will rises from his chair and goes to the shelf.

WILL : (looking at book) "A History of the United States, Volume I." If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." That book will knock you on your ass.

SEAN : How about Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent?"

WILL : You people baffle me. You spend all this money on beautiful, fancy books-- and they're the wrong fuckin' books.

Libraries (5, Insightful)

SlayerDave (555409) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396038)

I'm sorry, but reading a book on a computer just doesn't cut it for me. If I'm serious about a book, then I'll shell out the bucks and buy the damn thing. Otherwise, I'll hoof it down to the library and check it out. Libraries are cheaper than this Safari system and have the added benefit of not ruining your eyes and/or fraying your nerves by making you read a friggin book on your computer screen. Maybe one day I'll be more convinced by the concept of e-books, but until then, I'll stick to the dead-tree variety.

Re:Libraries (2, Insightful)

kjd (41294) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396075)

I agree and prefer dead-tree format, but it's useful to have an online copy for reference while you're actually doing the work. There is a "search code snippets" option that lets you search for code to copy/paste/modify, which is naturally more helpful in an electronic format.

Also it makes for cheap reviews of books you're interested in purchasing, if you're the type who buys a lot of tech books from the publishers included.

Re:Libraries (4, Insightful)

maddboyy (32850) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396113)

Yes, dead trees and libraries are great. However, you seem to miss out on some of the benefits from the Safari/e-book system. eBooks are great for technical areas because you can cut and paste code examples while you're working on your project. Also, it's much easier to use a computer to search for terms in a book than to try to scan them by eye/hand. Furthermore, one of the great benefits of Safari is that errata/updates are linked directly on the pages. Paper books are great, but you shouldn't underestimate the convenience of ebooks.

Re:Libraries (2, Insightful)

Rudeboy777 (214749) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396137)

I agree, but perhaps Safari's niche won't be replacing their dead tree counterparts, but acting as a try-before-you-buy library. Your local library probably doesn't buy a copy of every new tech book that comes out, and even if it did you can't perform a search against a shelf of books.

The monthly fee isn't peanuts, but if I'm starting a new project using a language I haven't used yet, I can fork over the 20 bucks for 5 books and find the best Python book out there, then try a few others as well.

If this takes off, hopefully it will raise eyebrows at the MPAA and RIAA as to how an online service should be run (printing allowed, emailing content to friends, etc)

Re:Libraries (1)

Library Spoff (582122) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396208)

>> and even if it did you can't perform a search against a shelf of books.

err. most libraries have opacs nowadays. A lot of which are on the web. plus there's the Library of Congress/Bibliosource etc etc

Re:Libraries (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396146)

What library do you go to that has all the latest technical books? I'm lucky if my local library has a "How-to learn MS-DOS in 24 hours".

Re:Libraries (1)

Library Spoff (582122) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396156)

Libraries can't afford to keep up to date with every technical book out there. We had just got the Photoshop 6 book in/processed/out on the shelf and back from an overdue borrower when photoshop 7 wa released.

This at least lets you keep with it. of course your local library might have a bigger bookfund than we do :)

Re:Libraries (4, Interesting)

eyeball (17206) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396212)

In my 15 years of professional software engineering, I might've read one or two computer books, while the other few hundred were used strictly for reference.

Since safari, I haven't bought a single paper-book. As a matter of fact, I gave most of my books away to my staff. Safari is the first link on my browser's toolbar, and have almost 20 books in my bookshelf, all for reference. There's the added bonus that the books are searchable, which dead tree technology lacks.

Another advantage is you have access to you books anywhere. I program at the office, at home, on the road, and even from coffee shops sometimes. Shlepping books to and from is not an option.

My only complaint is the site is a bit slow, but understandable considering the complexity of the site. With any luck this will improve someday.

Re:Libraries (1)

etcpasswd (641551) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396265)

I agree for the most part, but what about new versions releasing every few months? I have a couple of fat books on Java, just a couple years old. Now I can't throw them out, nor have the motivation to follow those.

Re:Libraries (1)

ichard (170694) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396386)

I couldn't agree more. Books are inherently more pleasant to read than monitors because they reflect light rather than emit it, and because you can read them in any position you like (rather than trying to hold a 21" monitor above your head while lying on the sofa).

decent (4, Interesting)

kjd (41294) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396051)

I've been using this for a bit, and it's a decent tool. There's a free 2-week trial (auto-rollover to 10-slot subscription) available on the site mentioned.

Interesting to note that many books authored in troff are not available (currently including the Sendmail book from O'Reilly, not mentioned in the review though Sendmail was). Books authored in FrameMaker (and books eventually converted to it) are more easily converted to their online format.

News? (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396065)

I was a member of Safari about two years ago. I know I wasn't the first. Is something that happened two years ago generally considered "news"?

Re:News? (1)

rudiger (35571) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396305)

a lot of things magically turn in to 'news' on a slow news day.

this just in: the sandwich i just had for lunch tasted great...film @ 11, and slashdot story to follow.

It's likely a reasonable tool, but... (1)

jgerman (106518) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396080)

... until there is e-paper that is easy on the eyes with a reader that I can stretch out on the couch with, forget it. As a tool a work maybe. But I also prefer to own my books, rather than pay money over and over for them, in the long run, it does turn out cheaper to buy them.

Re:It's likely a reasonable tool, but... (1)

jamesangel (621361) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396349)

What O'Reilly say though is that this is a complement to real books rather than a replacement. I'm sure all sysadmins/programmers regularly come across subjects they are likely to look at once and never again - perhaps the regular [insert obscure programming language] expert is on vacation or whatever. The idea of this is that if you need to use a book regularly, you buy it; but if it is a one-off or you just want to see whats available you can check it out online.

I wouldn't spend $50 on a book when I only need one chapter on one day; this is a compromise.

Re:It's likely a reasonable tool, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396421)

... until there is e-paper that is easy on the eyes with a reader that I can stretch out on the couch with, forget it. As a tool a work maybe. But I also prefer to own my books, rather than pay money over and over for them, in the long run, it does turn out cheaper to buy them.

There is "e-paper"; it's called an iBook with Mozilla :-)

About Safari (5, Informative)

LemurShop (585831) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396083)

I have been a subscriber (basic) for about three months and found it extremely helpful. One of my pleasant surprises and very commendable on the Safari guys is that they didn't fall into the drm/encrypted crap I'm sure most publishing houses would fall into in a similar undertaking. You can save a page as html, print it up, do what you want to without having to go through draconian security measures. I still would like to see more New Riders Publishing books; some of the best usability and macromedia books come from them.

Re:About Safari (1)

binaryDigit (557647) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396126)

One of my pleasant surprises and very commendable on the Safari guys is that they didn't fall into the drm/encrypted crap

Not to take anything away from your good vibes towards O'Reilly, but since html is their delivery format, there really isn't much they CAN do about DRM. Once it's in your browser, you can do whatever you want and they can't stop it even if they wanted to. Forgive (and ignore) me if they are using something else to display the content (e.g. java applet, etc). In which case I agree, kudos.

Re:Of course they could have done something ! (1)

makapuf (412290) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396312)

of course they can do someting with HTML: use something else.

What they are laudable for is precisely that they used a simple, user friendly, straightforward HTML instead of a bizarre plugin.

Re:Of course they could have done something ! (1)

binaryDigit (557647) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396383)

What they are laudable for is precisely that they used a simple, user friendly, straightforward HTML instead of a bizarre plugin.

I guess I'm not convinced that their decision on using HTML is based on economic reasons vs any good will on their part. Given their audience, they can't just simply assume Windoze and IE, so any proprietary solution they come up with would have to support multiple OS's and browsers, which we all know is a monumental PITA. Again given their audience and it's predilection towards being against such technologies, they would have a tough row to hoe to get their intended targets to actually even buy in.

Not to say I'm not glad they made that choice, I am, I'm just not convinced that their intentions were necessarily, "pure".

O'Reilly Going Downhill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396085)

It seems to me this would have been much more useful in the days when O'Reilly published a number of really great, definitive technical reference books. They used to get authoritative people in the community who knew the stuff to write the books.

No longer. A lot of more recent O'Reilly books are more like, "Using obscureFTPdaemon on Linux-2.1.37," and seem to be written by people who don't have experience with any of those things.

Their editing quality has also gone downhill; there are now many more spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as sentences and even paragraphs that are completely ambiguous or just plain don't make sense. Have the Slashdot editors taken on the night shift at O'Reilly?

Safari is wonderful! (1)

Geopoliticus (126152) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396099)

Nice to see a review on this. I have been using Safari for about 5 months now and I am in love with this service. I use it more as a trial service before I buy the actual book. I go to the site, do my search, browse the books and then choose which ones to add to my subscription. Then if I really like the book, I go ahead and order it. I too have the "hey look at how cool I am because I have these books" disease. ;-) The only problem is no one I work with thinks that animal books are cool... *sigh*

Re:Safari is wonderful! (2, Interesting)

arkanes (521690) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396201)

I'm in the middle of evaluating it for a coporate membership and I love it. Hardcopy is still great, but being able to search across the content of hundreds of books is really handy.

Re:Safari is wonderful!-Bibliophile paradise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396203)

I would like to see more technical documentation on CD or DVD. Books, catalogs, manuals, etc. As a bibliophile space can quickly run out.

Company subscription? (2, Interesting)

prs_013 (639348) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396109)

You told us how the system works and that it seems to be a great way to be up to date and not waste space.

do they have any company subscription plans which a major company can subscribe to.. so that its employees dont have to pay for it? This might be helpful to even start a virtual technical library similar to the public libraries out there... except that they you wont find Clive Cussler out there.

Coming to think of it, if that occurs, companies can cram more employees into the same amount of space.. cos hey... your cube space just got smaller as you dont need to maintain any printed material at all !! One chair and desk would do... with wireless access and laptops. You would get up only to switch batteries or go to the restroom!!

Re:Company subscription? (0)

jamesangel (621361) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396409)

They do corporate licenses with a free 30-day trial. You have to contact them for it though, I would guess it costs quite a bit.

Old News I`m Afraid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396114)

I used Safari eons ago - it`s been around for ages and ages - this isn`t recent news. Anyway, the key point about Safari (at least when I used it) is that it`s really designed to allow viewing only; don`t expect to download PDF versions of the chapters you look at, only rather dodgy HTML.

not news, but lame advertising attempt (1)

Erebus (13033) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396445)

for a failing service that attempts to reap profits from restrictive IP covenants. Nice try, O'Reilly.

Ahh the old surrepticiously placed book trick... (1, Funny)

Space Coyote (413320) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396120)

Works wonders, until you bring home that extra-observant super smart girl you've been trying to impress so hard. You thought you had it perfectly planned. Then she points out that the spine on your Complete Works of Shakespere collection is unbent.

Online Books, and somewhat offline. (1)

glalonde (653888) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396133)

I have used the service for about one month now. You can print the chapters of the books, they even have a special link to assist in this, but not save the content to your machine(as per user policy not by force). I use my laptop to read the online content a lot of the time, since as indicated by others, having to be stuck to the computer is not fun. As least with a laptop you an bring the content in bed with you :-) Glen

How does it cost to advertise on Slashdot? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396134)

This was interesting article submitted by O'Reilly, er, sorry, I mean "Robby Russell". Was this really an article submission or a stealth advertisement? If so, did O'Reilly catch a break? Did he pay you in Animal books? What is your CPM? Do your lips get chapped kissing his ass?

" 5693 bytes in body"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396136)

5693 bytes.

How is that ever going to be useful?

Surely a word-count would be more informative.

Re:" 5693 bytes in body"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396262)

It'll tell you if you need to expand your VIC-20's memory to read it...

Good idea (1)

root 66 (72128) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396142)

This digital library is a very good idea. For technical reference it's way better to have a online version of the book than having a paper book besides your keyboard (makes my neck hurt very quickly).

Because of that I usually even search the net for some scanned version of books I have the paper version of.

Reading a whole book from beginning to end is much more comfortable with paper versions, though. I also woudln't want to read (for example) philosophical or lyrical text online: these types of books just need paper versions, they're not the same otherwise.

Despite that, nothing beats the beauty of a well filled (real world) book shelf.

Reference vs. Discovery (1)

borkus (179118) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396255)

I think a digital reference is great. However, I spend a lot of time actually reading technical books both to pass time and expand by job skills. Often, I'll read about some feature, tool or technique, then a couple of months later, a need for it will crop up.

My first experience doing this was with the print documentation for MS Office (10 years ago). MS Office used to come with a shelf's worth of books. I was doing end-user training back then and thumbing through those manuals gave me tons of tips and tricks for my classes. Now, all of that documentation is in the on-line help, which I believe has actually gotten worse.

I like dead trees. (4, Interesting)

silvakow (91320) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396148)

I've known about this service for quite a while, and I figure that it's just for people without a lot of book space. I'd much rather have a paper copy of the book than switch between screens on the computer. Besides that, books last forever. Online access to a book for $1.33 may be nice your first time through it, but what if I drop that book from my Safari shelf after a few months and want to take one more look at that sample code? Besides that, I probably wouldn't go through a technical book every two months, and the money for a subscription to the 10 book plan would buy me a paper book every two months. If I want an online reference, I will look for official documentation online. If I want a good walk through, I will buy an O'Reilly book on paper instead of switching screens.

Re:I like dead trees. (1)

lordpixel (22352) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396449)

Books obviously don't last forever. I have a lot of first editions lying around that are painfully out of date.

To see your sample code again, you put the book back on your shelf again. Evidently you need access to it for another month... so you pay another $1.33. If you never look at book again, you've saved $38.66 by finding its not really useful for $1.33. Sounds reasonable to me. The only real risk is opportunity cost - the slot's not there for some other new book you might want to read, but as you say yourself how many new technical books do you read in a month.

I'm not disagreeing with you completely - there's a whole lot of books I appreciate owning on paper. There are also some I wish I'd never bought, because I almost never look at them. This might be worthwhile as a screening process. I mean, if you find you really never take a book off your virtual bookshelf, you might as well buy a paper copy. If you read it through once and never look at it again, you've saved a lot of money.

Then again, there's always the chance of a second edition... and searchable technical books looks like a real plus to me (sometimes I can't even remember which book a code example is in, much less find it in the index!).

I can stand reading documentation onscreen. A good eBook reader would be better though.

Re:I like dead trees. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396453)

Besides that, books last forever.

Oh really? Can you show me some books that were printed 100 years ago? 200? Maybe you have a copy of some books from the Renaissance? At least with Safari, you can copy the files to your hard drive and back them up to CD. I'll admit that CDs don't last forever, but you can easily make backups and keep moving to more reliable media until we get something that "lasts forever".

Tried it, too slow, poor indexing (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396149)

I tried Safari for a few months then cancelled. The servers were slow to unresponsive. And even when they were responsive, the books themselves seem poorly indexed. I especially found this true with reference books where you want to find specific info, rather than read from cover to cover. It might be OK for that (reading from cover to cover) but as other posters have pointer out, I'd rather do that with a physical book in my lap rather than on a computer screen. I think it IS a good idea -- and perhaps they can make it work, but it didn't appeal to me. BootedBear (singed in as a coward as ny account appears to be fu'd)

I played with this a while ago (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396150)

The most frustrating thing I found was that they block the sort of offline browser that'd make that content useful. Being able to make use of their books while you are on the road or on a slow or pay-per-minute net connection would be fantastic.

However I used the useful perl skills I learnt from the to write a proxy server which just happened to log the pages for future reference.

Re:I played with this a while ago (2, Interesting)

hughk (248126) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396411)

Could they block wget [gnu.org]? It can give any browser ID that you want, plus referrers. All they can do is to rate limit you.

Personally, I have my Perl bookshelf for on the road. I don't need Safari yet, but the breakeven isn't much considering the price of new books. (a 10 bookshelf is about the same cost as between 4 and 5 real books on your shelf). I guess the next time I need to extend my zoo or to get newer animals, I'll expect to go on safari.

Can you hold it though? (1)

unborracho (108756) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396153)

personally, I'm all for reading off of paper books. It gives me a chance to give my eyes a rest from the gleam of the monitor (I'm a poor college student who can't afford an LCD at the moment) and honestly, I can read books easier than I can read text on the screen.

What would be a nice feature of the website would be if you were able to print off a book in its entirety (Acrobat PDF format or Word document or something), buy a binder or something for it.

Although I would miss the softcover after a while, and miss out on the chance to build up a book collection.

Still a good service

Download not possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396167)

The biggest drawback that I can see, and the one that's kept me from joining, is you need to have an active network connection.

I travel, the books that I'm going to need go with me. I can read on the plane / train / etc. When I get to the customer site, where I have at best dialup access, they are still useable.

I think this is cool from a "I'd like to learn about" perspective without shelling out lots of money. But for a day to day tool, it does not cut it.

No real ebooks (2, Informative)

javatips (66293) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396176)

I've checked their website, and it looks like your stuck with reading your books on the Web.

They do not seem to have any option to be able to read your book offline or download it on your PDA (Palm OS or Pocket PC).

When I read a book, I usually use the time I have in public transit. So unless they provide a way to read the books offline (I would prefer on my Tungsten T) it of little use for me (and I'm probably not the only one in that situation).

The service is still neat and a step in a good direction.

Automated book download (3, Informative)

etcpasswd (641551) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396181)

As a recent Safari member, I concur with the reviewer about the advantages. It is a commendable effort to pool and convince so many publishers to have their books online at a fractional price of the hardcopy edition. This definitely is an advantage in the world of ever changing language/technology versions, where the new versions make the old obsolete. However, the Terms of Serivce are't as flexible as the book version.

When I was put up with dialup modem, I wrote a script to download the pages of the book I had in my shelf (I hated waiting for a while before the next page downloaded). Not only did Safari prevent me from accessing the content, but also I received automated emails (one for each attempt) stating that this is unacceptable according to TOS (Obviously, I clicked on "I agree" without reading). Maybe I could have figured out how to fool their detection mechanism in a few more attempts, but low bandwidth isn't enough reason for me to violate the TOS.

Love safari. Wish you could download books. (1)

spid (41738) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396192)

I've been using Safari for a few months now. Although I still like having paper books, Safari is great in that I always have acccess to my bookshelf. No more lugging books between home and the office! One feature I wish they offered, however (are you listening O'Reilly?) would be a way to download a book for offline reading. Having used a variety of the CD bookshelf products for many years, one thing I miss with the online versions is the speed -- going over the web for every page just feels sluggish sometimes. My guess is that the reason they don't offer offline content is because it would be too easy to pirate-from/share-with friends and coworkers. Fair enough. But it seems to me that it wouldn't be too hard to come up with a way to distribute offline content (maybe in a webapp or something) such that it couldn't be shared...

Re:Love safari. Wish you could download books. (1)

Erebus (13033) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396412)

My guess is that the reason they don't offer offline content is because it would be too easy to pirate-from/share-with friends and coworkers. Fair enough.

"Fair Use" is the phrase that comes to mind.

pda friendly? (1)

perlstar (245756) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396223)

Is it possible to get these books onto my pda.
I like learning new languages on the subway...

Depth, usability and reference material (3, Informative)

jj_johny (626460) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396247)

I looked at possibly using the Safari system but had a number of problems with it. Instead of Safari I used the Barnes and Noble method - get a cup of coffee at their in-store coffee bar and look at all the books I want. So here are my pet peeves about the whole idea.

1. The books are generally fire and forget arrangements. Not to say the author didn't write a good book but by the time they finish it, the book is somewhat out of date. Thus you get lots almost up to date material.

2. There is no real linkage between the online book and the online resources. So the book, whether in print or on line, just floats out there as a standalone entity.

3. The point of view/writing style/aim of the author really makes some of the books good to read but not good for reference (online or off).

That said I think that it is great that the service is offered but to me the need for good web based documentation is not fufilled by just putting the books online. It would be great to see an paid online reference that was high quality and well organized. For those of us in the tech world taht have to surf through lots of different disciples, the current crop of books, web sites and vendor support leaves a lot to be desired.

Could be so much more useful (3, Insightful)

mcgroarty (633843) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396250)

Safari could be so much more useful if it'd focus more on acting like an electronic book and less like acting like a website.

Could we please please please have a way of freely adjusting the font size when reading Safari books?

Please please please? I'm sure these are the webmasters' favorites, but they're not in line with other sites, so we have to adjust our fonts on visiting and leaving Safari.

And could we please please please have a way of reading just the book, no banners, side columns, etc... just the content? I know you can collapse the side content, but that saves vertical space where horizontal space is the problem.

Safari's layout sucks extra bandwidth and is pretty painful to navigate on a wireless PDA or a small tablet, where both the metered bandwidth and the small display space are at a premium. This kills all the joy of Safari for those of us who like to read electronic books on the bus and in bed.

Cool, and tempting (1)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396253)

Understand that this opinion is coming from a stalwart 'real books forever!' type. I've never liked reading documentation on a computer, when a book is available. (and don't even get me started on proofreading onscreen vs. a red pen and a cup of coffee.)

This sounds like a cool idea for tech books. There are too many books I've spent LOTS of money on that I use for six months, and then dump. The StarOffice 5.2 book (at $80) was a fine example, except that I gave up on the whole damned program after about six weeks. (and wanted to after six days).

Tech moves ahead, and too many books get obsolete fast. Just go to a used bookstore and look at the useless old crap books (50 copies of DOS 5.0 for dummies) that consumed trees. This is clearly a Better Way, and it sounds like they've done a good job of implementing it.

like Netflix? (-1, Offtopic)

AssFace (118098) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396267)

So it is essentially like a Netflix type system, but with books?

I'm curious what length of time they need you to hold the book in order for them to remain profitable with shipping and whatnot.
Netflix has stated what that time period is and the person needs to keep movies longer than 7 days or something like that to remain profitable on that user.

doh! I'm still a moron (1)

AssFace (118098) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396287)

It is all web based.

nice - no physical delivery costs, but the cost instead of maintaining servers and bandwidth.

there are those that will still complain that they prefer the feel of it in their hands - but online and searchable is very nice.

*note to self: read more of the articles before blabbering on like an idiot.

I prefer physical books (2, Informative)

lizzybarham (588992) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396278)

I used to have a Safari account and it was nice, but since I could only check out 5 or so books, when I was done with a book and it wasn't in my on-line book shelf, I could not go to it for reference later on, as where my physical books stay on the shelf and I may refer to them at a much later time, possibly even years.

Books as bandwidth (1)

LinearB (261523) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396281)

One of the key ideas behind Safari was the idea of "Books as Bandwidth."

You may own several hundred computer books, but how many do you read at a single time? How many during a 1 month period? 5? 10?

Although Safari is actually a joint venture between O'Rieilly and Pearson (who own Addison Wesley, Prentice Hall, Sams, Cisco Press, etc), the idea of books as bandwidth was Tim O'Reilly's.

Even though most of you would still want hard copies of books that you refer to continually, how many times do you have do learn something for work, and find yourself needing 5-10 tiles? Do you really want to buy 5 books on datamining, knowing that you'll only read a few pages of each, and be done with them in a few weeks? Next month you might need to be setting up a VPN. With Safari, you can subscribe to a half dozen datamining titles this month, and then next month, you can trade them in to subscribe to 5 books on VPNs. That's your bandwidth. Need more than 5 titles a month? Increase your bandwidth.

Sorry for sounding like an ad. I still buy computer books, but I've saved a fortune using Safari. The full text search through the entire catalog kicks ass. People are always coming to my desk to ask me to for something in Safari.

Lynn Bender aka Linear B
www.geekaustin.org [geekaustin.org]

Safari is ...a good supplement. (4, Interesting)

digerata (516939) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396291)

I started using O'Reilly's Safari service around April of last year, I believe. I was very excited when I first heard about it, immediately signing up.

But what I found was that it just doesn't replace the convenience of having the actual book on your shelf. I found navigating the site very slow at times. Searching for books was excellent, however, searching for text inside an individual book left much to be desired.

In the end, I canceled the service. Only to come back a few months later. It turns out, Safari is an excellent *supplement* to your existing library. How many times have you left a book at home or at work or at a friends house? How many times have you needed just that tiny bit of info that slipped your mind but is an hour away sitting on your night stand? With Safari, I now just check go and look up the book and find that tidbit I missed. Its defitely expensive when you buy the book anyway, but sometimes its invaluable.

What I would propose to O'Reilly is that when you buy the hardcopy, you get the electronic version on Safari as well. I would even pay a premium of a few dollars for this, as well.

Re:Safari is ...a good supplement. (1)

matchboy (519044) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396325)

That's an awesome idea. However, they might fear that you'd acccidently add it to your kazaa downloads folder... in pdf form.. but if you could access it through Safari, that'd be awesome.

Question for existing users (1)

binaryDigit (557647) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396316)

I just went over there to play around a little. Of course the book that I was looking for ("Mastering Regular Expressions") is NOT available, even though it is an O'Reilly title. Not a good sign. Anyway, I would have thought that there would be a simple and easy to find "submit a book request" button/link, but I couldn't find one. Is such a feature available to subscribers? Have current subscribers found any other "holes" in the library?

Poser Postcard from OReilly.. (1)

mvw (2916) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396338)

On the downside, colleagues who come by my home or office won't see my new copy of MySQL Cookbook because it is online rather than on my shelf showing another O'Reilly animal. I might have to print out the covers and tape them to my old school books to deal with that for the time being, but I am sure that Safari Bookshelf is how I plan to spend money on technical documentation from now on.

The solution to that problem is easy.We need

  • a show case box, e.g. some plexi glas holder that is able to hold a postcard with a flashy sign that reads "my selection of the month" that you can bolt to your wall
  • either O'reilly mails you a postcard with the covers of titles in color print on the back, or you print it out yourself and put it into the show holder to impress your friends.
  • an autogenerated PNG image with the titles on the oreilly site, that you can link on your web page to

This has some decoration value, still impresses your friends and you have some kind of documentation what you read, if you collect the cards.

Note: Please send me a subscription, if you steal that idea, Tim. :)


New look/layout (1)

digerata (516939) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396344)

Its interesting to note that it looks like in the past few months they have completely changed their look. Much better looking now!

Even more interesting, the site used to be written in ASP. Back then it was dead slow. Its much faster now. No clue what the code is now.

flaws inherent to any rental system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396348)

What prevents one from "checking out" a certain set of books, copying it wholesale, and "returning" it?

Is this the end for the CD bookshelves? (1)

stienman (51024) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396359)

I have two of the CD bookshelves sold by O'reilly, the Unix one and the Perl one. They include one real book, and five full books in an unrestricted/unencumbered PDF or HTML format on CD. I simply copy the CD to a directory on my computer and I have instant access to them.

They were reasonably priced (~$40 US, IIRC).

I can see benefits to having a subscription to Safari - In my position I am viewed as a problem solver first, and maintenance/upgrade/keep-current-with-technology guy second. Being able to add a book to my library for the few pages where it will aid in a specific problem without buying the entire thing is certianly advantageous in this respect. Knowing that the library that I can check books out from is large and up to date is also a distinct advantage.

But it's still overpriced and too restricted. I'm certian many will use it who find value in exactly this system. I'm hoping, however, that it becomes an open market - the copyright holder sells electronic rights at a given price and resellers are allowed to sell them at whatever the market will bear. Right now it's a monopoly with a set price.

They are turning this information resource into a service industry. Services typicially cost a lot until there is more competition.

I'd rather see open source books made more available. The opendocs, various FAQs, etc make up a great knowledgebase (some of which is used as the sole basis for many books we now pay for). But writing well is a chore that requires a lot of work and planning. I wonder if there is a partially technical solution that could be married to an inexpensive organizational solution to facilitate the planning, writing, editing, publishing and distribution of good free electronic books. Publishing and distribution are pretty much taken care of, but we need an easy way to plan, write and edit (more formally than, say, a wiki) comprehensive documentation.

The organization could be supported with sales of paper and CD copies of the books. It would require a few editors and a few good project leaders who can guide (and push) volunteer writers, editors, and proof readers. It may not compete with 'real' books in terms of polish and marketting, but as long as it's correct, readable, and useful we technical types would likely support such an effort.


On books... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396360)

(Because I have some free time today)

I have books, lots of books. Granted, I get most of my technical information online, but I certainly don't put books up for anyone but myself. Don't you get the same elation when seeing shelf upon shelf of neatly categorized volumes? Can't you look at your library and remember when/where it was that you first read a book?

Every book in my library is special and dear to me. Over there is "Myths of China and Japan." I picked it up at a Books-a-Million when visiting Houston. It was in the discount section, marked down from $29 to $5. Great read. On the second shelf is Kipling's _Just so Stories_. Wonder how the elephant got its trunk? That will answer it. I got that one in a Barnes&Noble while in Ft. Meyers, FL. On the first shelf is Gleick's _Genius_, a biography of Richard Feynman, written of a master by a master. This was purchased at a corner bookstore, since then gobbled up by one of the superstores. It's part of my collection of Feynman references, including Six Easy Pieces, Not So Easy Pieces, Surely You're Joking, etc.. On the fifth shelf are some art and philosophy texts. One of my favorites is _Dear Theo_, an autobiography of Van Gogh from a series of letters sent to his brother. I read this front to back one evening while on a business trip in Little Rock, AK. It's scary, sometimes, that a diagnosed schizophrenic had many of the same thoughts as I do. I'm not saying I have any of Van Gogh's genius, only that his words resonate with me.

Your library reflects who and what you are. It's deeply personal, not for outsiders to gawk at, but for your personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

Is there any easy way to print the entire book? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396364)

Only in a few locations do I have high speed access. But, we have a 75ppm copier on our LAN

I would like to print the books I have subscribed to out. Is there an easy way to do this?

Re:Is there any easy way to print the entire book? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396396)

on a related matter, how come the 'print screen' button doesn't actually print out what's on the screen?

that'd be far more useful.

10 Slots != 10 Books (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396373)

From O'Reilly:
Most Safari books occupy a single slot on your bookshelf. In most cases, a 10-slot bookshelf equates to a 10-book bookshelf.
(emphasis added)
*Most*, not *all*. Just wanted to bring it up.

HELP!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5396404)

How do I get all this highlighter ink off my LCD screen?!?

"where else read documentation?" come on !!! (1)

vano2001 (617789) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396430)

"If it were a Tom Robbins book however, I couldn't see myself sitting in a cozy chair reading it on a laptop; this idea only makes sense to me for technical information because I am sitting at my computer anyways -- and where else would I need technical documentation?"

In the bathroom !!! Don't tell me the guy doesn't read technical stuff in the WC ? That is where Men read stuff. And yes, I have learned quite a lot in the bathroom, as I am sure have many of you.

(no jokes about shitty knowledge please... I have heard them already)

Dead trees are better (1)

Wintermancer (134128) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396432)

I tried Safari for awhile. Didn't particularly like it as:

1) It's a bitch balancing a monitor on your lap while your on the shitter.

2) Highlighter on the screen sucks. Especially when you scroll.

3) Higlighting a monitor while balancing it on your lap in the bathroom is just a a home safety accident nightmare.

4) Dragging a monitor into the bedroom will just get your ass divorced fast.

Safari has its place (1)

nyssa (250538) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396441)

I've been using Safari for about a year at the $9.95 for 5 slots level. Although I prefer to use physical books, it is frustrating to have to pay >$30 for a book and only use a small fraction of it. Safari has been great for those kinds of books. However, if I'm going to use the book extensively, or read it cover-to-cover, I prefer the old-fashioned kind.

I'd like to believe in ebooks... (1)

eXtro (258933) | more than 11 years ago | (#5396448)

I really would. I subscribe to 12 IEEE Journals, purchase at least 10 textbooks per year, Scientific American and National Geographic. For at least some of the IEEE journals I have the option for electronic only subscriptions but I've only ever used it as an additional feature, not the main mode of delivery. Why? Well, with a physical subscription I have permanent access (barring fire, floods, loss or theft I guess) to the volumes. I may cancel a subscription to a periodical because I permanently or temporarily lose interest in it, but I can still go back and look at issues that I received during my subscription period.

I've yet to see a subscription service for electronic anything, other than audible.com, that addresses this. There needs to be mechanisms for realizing that you've invested capital over time and so you should be entitled to some level of access. For Safari it's a little different because the nominal rate per book is quite low, but still, over years it will add up. If I were a subscriber I'd like some sort of benefit for being a long term subscriber who has quit, such as maybe for every full year I can add one of the titles to my permanent shelf (maybe locked to a particular revision, so if for instance a new camel comes out I only have access to the version when I opted out)

One other reason I have a problem with ebooks is the lack of a gloss, I can't easily add my own notes to books unless I print them out and archive them. Oddly enough, the PHP documentation is close to what I want, people can leave notes on each page. I just want a personalized version of it.

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