February 3, 2001
6:43 PM   Subscribe

Safari is a new service from O'Reilly which allows you online access to a number of their books for a monthly fee. While the concept isn't entirely new, (books24x7 comes to mind), the use of O'Reilly books and the monthly rate has promising potential. [Via Cam]
posted by alan (5 comments total)
I was wondering when they'd get around to this. Now how do I convince my employer to buy me a subscription?
posted by sudama at 9:48 PM on February 3, 2001

Can't say I'm particularly impressed by the selection. For example, their HTML and JavaScript definitive guides, which would be particularly useful in a subscription format because both are somewhat moving targets, aren't included. (Nice to see the XML book is, though.) Their ASP and VBScript books, which I've been using heavily lately, aren't there either. Hopefully the selection will be expanded.
posted by kindall at 10:13 PM on February 3, 2001

I can't help but think this ought to come free with the purchase of a book. I would love to be able to use this service to do quick searches for topics in many of the O'Reilly books I own, but I'm sure not going to pay 10 bucks a month for that. And I would not want to have to keep paying 10 bucks a month for access to a book that I didn't own a hard copy of. I really think it's too expensive.
posted by Nicotine Nolan at 11:12 PM on February 3, 2001

Tim's discussed the economics of doing this for free at some length in an old Ask Tim. Short version: someone's gotta pay the writers.

My only problem with the FAQ was this:
"Session over because Safari detected possible spidering of this account." What does this mean?

Safari issues this message when it appears that your account is being spidered. If you encounter the message during normal interactive use, you may restart your browser to continue using Safari.

Am I the only one here who thinks that the thrust of that *question* was "what the hell does 'being spidered' *mean*?"

Me, I'd just set up squid in the middle, with persistent caching turned on for that site.

Which probably demonstrates in and of itself why this is such a hard way to make a living.

What's the "service" in providing written documentation?
posted by baylink at 12:14 PM on February 4, 2001

baylink - I was the designer on Safari, lemme see if I can throw an answer or two .. .

"being spidered" means that there are folks who've tried to crawl and spider Safari for the sake of getting the books and distributing them, by using beta accounts or whatever else and trying to siphon everything they can before being noticed. There's ways to curb and disable this kind of stuff embedded into the service, in ways that don't affect the user unless they trip one of several gates that suggest they're a 'bot.

Your squid plan wouldn't be a big deal, as long as you're caching your actual activity and don't think of distributing the text. The terms of service includes an understanding of the user's rights to what they've purchased, and explains proper usage and the rational behind what behavior's excluded.

As for expense, you can preview every section of every book and purchase print copies right through Safari, using it like a book catalog, or you can subscribe at 5 books for $10/month, and swap books you're done with for new ones for no extra cost. Considering a typical print book can range from $25-$40, I think it's pretty cheap.

And for the selection, the entire O'Reilly back catalog should be up (at an average of 2-3 new books a week) within a year.
posted by billpena at 6:21 PM on February 4, 2001

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