Safari Tech Books Online

Safari is an online computing book library. As of mid-2007 it features over 4500 books from OreillyAndAssociates, various PearsonEducation imprints (including AddisonWesley, PrenticeHall, QuePublishing?, and SamsPublishing?) and MicrosoftPress, as well as almost 100 training videos from LyndaDotCom? (which seems to be another limb of Pearson).

It is a subscription service. For a monthly fee, you get a number of "points" that you use to buy books for your online bookshelf, allowing you to read the books at your convenience. Most books cost one point; smaller books cost half a point and a few books cost more than one point. Every thirty days, you can swap out old books for new books.

This is an inexpensive way to get access to a lot of current technical books. The cost is less than US$2/month per book. Enterprise-level subscriptions are available for large organizations, and individuals can sign up for as little as US$10/month.

The tables of contents for all books in the library are available. There is also a Search feature that will search the entire library for specified keywords, to help you determine which books/chapters you might want to read. A Preview feature lets you read the first paragraph or two of each chapter of each book.

There is now (2006) a new individual subscription package called Safari Library which allows you access to all the books unrestricted by a "bookshelf". The price is currently $40/month.

For more information see:


I've been using SafariTechBooksOnline for a couple of months now and like it so far.

It's best for those books you think you'll need for reference or quick introduction to a subject that is peripheral to the current project. For US$2 or perhaps US$4 you can use the book long enough to get the gist of it and to answer any specific questions that arise while you're working. E.g., I'm currently renting the O'Reilly book on SAX (Simple API for XML) because I can't cost-justify buying the silly thing for just one little application I'm working on now.

The pricing scheme encourages a YAGNI approach. Why not rent the book super-cheaply if it's likely that YouArentGonnaReadIt or YouArentGonnaNeedIt more than a couple of months?

MarkSchumann May 27, 2002


I've found a few typos in the online books. I don't know whether the printed books have the same errors, or if it is some artifact of the conversion into online form. Also, many of the fine-print diagrams from the books are unreadable. But this is still a great resource.

Once you've "checked out" a book, you can't swap it for 30 days even if you don't read it, so don't subscribe until you are ready to read. You don't need to use all of your points--you can leave them unused until you are ready to use them. And before subscribing to a book on Safari, be sure to check whether there is already a free online version available, as is often the case for books about open-source/free software.

One minor annoyance is that you can only be logged into Safari from one machine at a time. This can be a problem if you routinely use multiple workstations in different locations. I understand the desire to keep multiple people from sharing an account, but it should be easier for individuals to access their books from wherever they happen to be. (VirtualNetworkComputing is your friend)

You can access Safari from either the O'Reilly site or the InformIT site. I prefer the InformIT site, because it uses my browser's font preference settings. The O'Reilly site uses a hard-to-read font and a weird mixture of font sizes, forcing me to change my browser settings to Large Text to make it all readable. -- KrisJohnson

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