Looking for a way to keep up with the latest technology without getting buried under a literal mountain of books? Check out Safari Books Online, a great way to keep you on top of your game without adding any weight to your bookshelves.
There are two basic pricing options for the individual user, which I will detail below. For the record, I was provided an unlimited, 30-day trial to the site for the purpose of writing this review.
The Ten-Slot Bookshelf
The first level is the ten-slot bookshelf, which is where your average user will probably end up.
In addition to having access to the full content of 10 books per month, you also get 5 free download tokens, which roll over each month.
Content tokens are a great feature of the site. Basically, one token (typically) equates to being able to download a chapter of a book in pdf format, which is great for those times that you really only need one part of a given book (I find myself in this situation all the time). If you need the entire book, never fear; you can get most books for around 10-15 tokens.
In addition, if you decide you want a print copy of a particular book, you can get a 35% discount on it with the plan.
Monthly subscription rates for the ten-slot are $22.95, with a discounted yearly rate of $252.99.
For the power user, Safari Library is the way to go, and is my personal favorite. My role at Developer Shed (and as a freelancer) dictates that I know a lot about a lot of technology. With Safari Library, I don't have to spend a ton of money each month purchasing books that I may only use once or twice. In fact, for the price of one book a month, I can have unlimited access to the entire Safari library.
The Library is also the only option that gives you access to the video training section, for those visual learners out there, and also the rough cuts section, which for me is key to staying ahead of the game.
Rough Cuts are basically digital copies of books that have yet to be published. So instead of waiting for the book to his the shelves, you can grab a copy of it as it is written.
You get the other features that the 10-slot bookshelf offers thrown in as well, including the mobile access, download tokens, book discounts, and short cuts (basically articles).
As you would expect, the price is a little higher, but as I said, if you purchase one tech book a month, it is worth it. You'll pay $42.99 per month, or $472.89 per year.
Perhaps the strongest feature is the ability to search text. In Bookshelf mode, you can search the text of any one book, very handy when you are in a pinch for time. Instead of checking out the index or scanning page after page of a paper book, you can just type in your word or phrase and get directed to the appropriate section.
Where this really becomes powerful is in Library mode, because then you can search every title in the collection.
Another cool feature is the ability to bookmark sections. If you need to go back and forth to a given section or just mark it for later use, this comes in real handy.
I was pretty impressed with Safari's collection of books and the easy learning curve. I really love the text searching capabilities and bookmarking feature and found that I was able to increase my productivity level while using the service. Of course, I use dual monitors, so that is a huge help if you are a writer or programmer. Have your reference material on one screen, your text editor on the other!
I wasn't able to try out the service on my phone or on a device like the iPad or Kindle, though other reviewers have said the service is good.
Overall, I would say it is well worth the monthly fee, even if you are a casual reader. And don't forget, if you are a freelancer, you can always write off the subscription when you do your taxes.
Most users will probably want to opt for the ten book option. I think that offers the best value for the average reader, and more than pays for itself without putting a huge recurring dent in your pocket.
DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.