O'Reilly Network Safari Bookshelf
Stay in the IT racket long enough, and eventually your bookshelves will sag from all the technical reference books collected along the way. Publisher O'Reilly Media Inc. of Sebastopol, Calif., working with Pearson Technology Group of New York, may have a better solution: Keep those books online.
O'Reilly's Safari service offers online access to about 2,300 technical books, not only from O'Reilly itself (many highly regarded by the hacker community) but also from other publishers such as Addison-Wesley and Microsoft Press.
The books are encoded in HTML and include the code sample, illustrations and screenshots found in the print editions. Users pay a monthly fee for access to a set number of books, ranging from five titles for $9.99 a month to 30 for $29.99. Group licenses are also available. For an extra $5 a month, you can download in Adobe Portable Document Format for printing. You can also print the HTML pages, though they aren't formatted as nicely.
Why is Safari useful? The average Unix sysadmin probably consults a well-thumbed copy of UNIX in a Nutshell month after month. But someone dealing with a shifting set of technologies could consult multiple new titles at a fraction of the cost of a new book.
Safari's bookshelf leans heavily toward networking, programming, security and database administration titles, with lots of virtual volumes on Java, Oracle and various open-source programs such as Apache.
A few management titles can be found, as well as a number on specific end-user applications such as Microsoft Office. While the software side of IT is thoroughly covered, I'd wish for more books on hardware, especially on electronics, fiber optics and chip design. Another wish: to swap books as frequently as I want. Now, once you 'purchase' a title, it stays in your collection for 30 days before you can exchange it.
The Safari site search feature lets you query either your own books or all the books in the catalogue. It can search only the code snippets included in many programming books, which is handy for finding a quick fix to a nagging problem.
The site provides a preview mode, where you can look at the first few paragraphs of each section of a book to decide if it meets your needs. And, perhaps best of all, since Safari is a Web service, you can access your collection from anywhere: no more lugging that 1,300 page Oracle manual home for weekend study.