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A new dynamic in e-publishing?
January 29, 2002 8:32 PM   Subscribe

A new dynamic in e-publishing? While at work today, I stumbled on Safari, an online book library of sorts from O'Reilly & Associates, Addison Wesley Professional, New Riders and about 4 other companies (as previously mentioned here). It allows to select from upwards of 1000 books, fully searchable and bookmarkable, online for a flat monthly subscription rate.

Safari is just for tech books, but wouldn't it be interesting to see the technology and business plan adapted for other uses?
posted by SweetJesus (13 comments total)

 
For 23 bucks a month, I get the following books -

Core Python Programming
Learning to Program in C++
Core SWING advanced programming
Core C++ A Software Engineering Approach
Building Web Applications with UML
Programming Perl, 3rd Edition
Java Cookbook
Java Thread Programming
Perl Cookbook
Developing Java Beans
Webmaster in a Nutshell, Second Edition
Running Linux, 3rd Edition
Java 2D Graphics
Java I/O
vi Editor Pocket Reference
Python Pocket Reference
Apache: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition
Perl for Web Site Management
MP3: The Definitive Guide
Programming the Perl DBI
SQL in a Nutshell

I also get to switch books (if I want) every 30 days or so. Purchased alone, this would have cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars. As a computer programmer I find this service just so fucking useful.

I can have a Linux and Apache guide anywhere there is internet access. It's just amazing to me that I haven't heard about this from other e-commerce and publishing companies.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:37 PM on January 29, 2002


It not quite new, but still it's still pretty cool.
posted by alan at 8:46 PM on January 29, 2002


Preview, what's that?
posted by alan at 8:50 PM on January 29, 2002


That thread is just under a year old (which, if you noticed, I put a link to in the topic), and when it was posted, the service was in it's infancy. It is now pretty robust, with thousands of books.

Some people may be unaware of it, as I was. It wasn't posted last week, so lay off the DP comments Alan. I know what the preview button is for.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:55 PM on January 29, 2002


Heh, maybe I don't :-)
posted by SweetJesus at 8:57 PM on January 29, 2002


I know what the preview button is for.

The "preview" snark was aimed at himself, i think, since he f'd up the wording of the comment. I'm bookmarking safari, in case this thread gets the axe.
posted by jpoulos at 8:58 PM on January 29, 2002


Yeah, I glanced at the thread before posting, and I thought they were two different comments, from two different posters. I thought the preview comment was directed towards me, and I got pissed off.

Oh well, no hard feelings.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:04 PM on January 29, 2002


It's funnier this way.
posted by techgnollogic at 11:09 PM on January 29, 2002


Anyway.

I wonder what format the books are in. It looks like HTML, from the preview section. I guess that bring up the ole' question: what keeps me from saving the book and cancelling the subscription? (and giving it to my friend Joe?)
posted by thijsk at 12:34 AM on January 30, 2002


what keeps me from saving the book and cancelling the subscription? (and giving it to my friend Joe?)

Morals?

You also agree not to do that when you sign up-- it's part of the terms of service. That includes agreeing to destroy any saved/printed copies of a book once you no longer subscribe to that book or to Safari in general.

There is something built into it to prevent spidering the content. I tried to flip forward through a book several pages at a time, using the "next page" links and it flagged my session for spidering. I had to wait a while before I could regain access. I guess the better thing to do would be to use the tree navigation they have on the left side of the page.

Personally, I have no problems abiding by the licensing-- the service is great. Searching all my subscribed content (10 books worth) is very fast and effective. And while some people prefer to read from a printed page, I don't mind reading the content right from the web site.

I estimate I've saved about $250 in the last 3 months, since I usually buy a couple of computer books a month. With Safari, all my tech book needs are met for a mere $14.95 a month. Quite a bargain if you ask me.

I suppose some people will steal the content anyway, but Safari can still be a viable service for O'Reilly. People are generally honest and will pay for things they need. My local grocery store leaves their firewood bundles ($4 a cord) outside the store. There's nothing to prevent people from walking off with it, but it must not be a problem because every year it's put outside the store.
posted by bschoate at 5:17 AM on January 30, 2002


Well, we were certainly aware that people could spider the whole damn thing ... in fact, several tried in the beta months (oh, by the way, I designed Safari ... UI/IA, not technical arch.). The real fear was not "oh no, our individual subscribers will have an HTML copy!" but "and if they were unscrupulous, they could post them to Gnutella or on a web site, like warez." So, there's a variety of security features, some quite imaginative, that foil any sort of automated attempts to collect the pages of a book or distribute it anonymously without affecting the normal user at all.

But the whole point of Safari is that, yes, it's HTML, readable even with Lynx (no, I'm not kidding, this site is compatible with text-based browsers, most screen-reader software, and Netscape/IE 6, thanks to the wonders of CSS), as opposed to being in a proprietary and comparatively alienating format like MS Reader or other e-book format.

It's a platform. Oh yeah.

(how psyched am I to have something to actually contribute? ;) )
posted by billpena at 5:16 PM on January 30, 2002


Of course, for $23/month you could have all of those "books" (the vi pocket reference is _not_ a book) for the rest of your life and after the first 16 months you could stop paying and not even lose access!

Sounds too good to be true? Well, it's ABSOLUTELY TRUE!
posted by djfiander at 6:46 PM on January 30, 2002


Most of the tech books I own are worthless 16 months after their press date. Either a new edition comes out or the technology changes dramatically enough that the material is no longer effective. Example? Any book on Java that was printed more than a couple of years ago.

Would I subscribe to a service like Safari for regular literature? Of course not. But with tech books, where the subject matter is so incredibly fluid, and the books cost $40 - $50 a pop, Safari is just what the doctor ordered.
posted by bschoate at 12:21 AM on January 31, 2002


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