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Buying books can get expensive. If you’re like me, you’ve got a collection surmounting that takes up more room than you should probably afford. So what are your options?

From Flickr by coteYou could use the library, but then you’re fairly limited in readings. Many of the classic timeless books will be around, but the latest and greatest will be a long time from hitting the shelf, if at all. You could do book trading, if you live in the heart of a thriving technical community. But, we don’t all have that sort of availability, and we also don’t all have that passion for social interaction either.

So what about eBooks? I’m not talking about those ones that you got off torrents of FTPs that your mother’s been telling you you’ll go to jail for, I’m talking legal eBooks that you pay for and have the right to use. Well, even eBooks can get expensive, costly a small amount less than buying the hard copy, which if you’re like me you’d rather the hard copy to begin with, if it weren’t threatening to evict you from your home forcefully as your collection grows.

Well, nowadays there are newer options. eBook subscription services! Notably, we’re talking about Safari Books Online this time around. As a member of GeekWithBlogs I was grateful to receive an extended trial and want to give my impressions on the service.

First impressions are lasting ones

Altogether, I have to say I’m genuinely impressed with Safari Books Online. The service is easy to use and provides instant access to so many books, you’ll be busy for years. When I logged on I was welcomed by a well designed home page. Everything was in an understandable location, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by a cluttered Visit SBOnightmare. I immediately had my bearings and went straight for a book to test the whole thing out.

My worst complaint about reading books online is that I hate html based books. I think you lose readability in the generic formatting that applies to every book, instead of the intended formatting the print version has. That’s a nonissue with Safari Books because of the ability to view at “Print Fidelity”, which is the same as viewing the PDF version of a book. At work I was experiencing a slight delay in the loading of pages (which load in square segments, and important squares were taking their sweet time) but this was quashed when I looked from home.

Searching for the right book

When I searched for the book I wanted in Safari Books, I found it. In particular, my searches were for the Head First series from O’Reilly and also Don’t Make Me Think search suggestions, woo! from Steve Krug. Had I looked for the Gang of Four instead, that’d be another story, but understandably the Safari Books archive is huge but can’t have everything.

The search has optional suggestions for searches. As you can see here, I get the book I want easily by searching. There are quirks however, if I put an apostrophe in don’t then I won’t get any suggestions. The suggestions can really help steer a general search as well. Putting in “web” will list suggestions of web design, web services, web 2.0, and even websphere. I could see it being helpful in a time when I know a genre I’m interested in, but not sure exactly what about it I currently want to read through.

And what about when you find that perfect book? You then can easily make notes in it, save it as a favorite (depending on membership), or even save out chapters or the entire book (by a paid token system). By far, virtual notes is my favorite of these features. It makes reviewing a book a snap, and helps you remember where you were and what you liked without a torrential amount of post-its.

Let’s make a deal

So what about pricing? This is where I’m iffy about the service.

I’m a poor and cheap man. I can justify purchasing a book every once and a while, but I’m not 100% sure I’m willing to pay for an eBook service for a collection that is easily fleeting depending on my income. And these days income can be fleeting. Starting at just $10, you can have limited access to the book collection, where you are forced to shelve books you want, in which those books must remain shelved for 30 days. Five books per month is what you get. For an arm more, you get 10 books at a time. Then, for over $400 a year, you get unlimited read access, and some free tokens per month for download.


My first impressions of Safari Books online are very positive, the service is great, and caters to how you want to read your content (unless of course you want to read it in a real book, but you can still make purchases through the service). The site is intuitive, and helps you easily get to the information you want. However, since I’m cheap and would rather buy certain books and have them forever over buying a subscription that I can’t ever truly call my own, I’m not certain if I’ll bite the bullet and pay for the service after my trial is up.

Some good news!

For a limited time, Safari Books Online is offering GeekswithBlogs readers a 15 day free trial, plus a 15% discount on a monthly subscription for a full year. Learn more and start your free trial at:


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Posted on Saturday, April 4, 2009 11:20 AM Subjective , Other | Back to top

Comments on this post: Safari Books Online – A First Look

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Blog post telling you how to save html books files off safari online.

Warning: requires an iPad.
Left by someone on Aug 17, 2011 2:45 AM

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