OK, there, I've said it. O'Reilly's Safari Bookshelf is great.
I'd been thinking about giving Safari a go for a while, but it wasn't until Slashdot ran a review of it that I gave in and signed up for a 14-day trial.
I had some intial misgivings. I'm an avid technical book reader; I have a large library that dates back to the days of 8-bit microprocessors. I read myself to sleep every night with a book, often an O'Reilly one. How would the feeling of reading books on a computer compare to reading a paper book?
The feeling is different, but quite a good one. I sit there scrolling through the pages and listening to music; I discovered that listening to music distracts me from the slight whir and click of my notebook's hard disk.
When the trial ended, I certainly didn't want to give it up – I was hooked. I've been using it for a couple of months now, and so far I've only bought one dead-tree book. The strange thing is I often feel more drawn to pop open the Safari page and start reading than to crack open a real book.
From a cost point of view, I'd say that a 10-slot Safari subscription is cheaper than the equivalent number of bought books. Granted, I can't go back and refer to the books on my physical bookshelf, but if I need to look something up, I can take up one of my 10 slots to check out a book again; you can rotate books through a slot once a month.
But the clincher is the liberating feeling of just being able to browse around and pick a book to try, without the big commitment of time and money that you make when trolling around a bookshop (physical or virtual). Not that I don't love the bookshop process, it's just that it puts a hidden spin on the book choosing process, at least for me. One thing I hadn't realized before I tried it is that it's not just O'Reilly books, but includes books from a number of other publishers: Addison Wesley, Prentice Hall, Microsoft Press and New Riders to name a few.
If you read or refer to a lot of tech. books, I'd really recommend it.