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An Introduction to Safari Books Online

By  Jul 8, 2008

Topics: Certification

Full disclosure: although I am an employee of Pearson Technology Group, I was a paid subscriber of Safari Books Online for a number of years prior to my full-time appointment with PTG. Therefore, the introduction to Safari Books Online that I am about to give you is derived from my true enthusiasm for the service and not from a desire to stuff from marketing copy down your throats. Now, then...

What is Safari Books Online? In a nutshell, SBO represents the fruit of a joint venture begun in 2001 between O'Reilly Media, Inc. (publisher of the brilliantly branded "animal books") and Pearson Technology Group. The founding principles behind SBO were to provide customers with timely, on-demand access to a wealth of information technology media materials:

  • e-books: Solve problems
  • e-reference: Research
  • e-learning: Develop skills

An example of an SBO e-book would be Secrets of Podcasting by Bart Farkas. An example of an e-reference work would be Cisco 802.11 Wireless Networking Quick Reference by Toby Velte. An example of multimedia e-learning would be Windows Vista Essential Training by Jeff Van West.

SBO targets its content at three distinct user populations:

  • Corporations
  • Individuals
  • Academia

From my perspective, SBO represents an absolutely terrific value. Let me give you a nutshell summary of how I used the service at my last job.

A few years ago I worked at a local private high school in Nashville (my city of residence) as a technology director. On several occasions when I needed to make configuration changes to Cisco router, switch, firewall, and wireless access point (WAP) equipment, I would query Safari Books Online for background information and syntactical help with Cisco IOS commands and whatnot.

What is especially cool about SBO products for network administrators and software developers is that you can copy code snippets directly from your browser window and paste 'em into your live development environment.

Think of it this way, friends: when you visit Borders or Barnes and Noble, you flip through a handful of books and glean perhaps a bit of information here, a bit of information there, and so forth.

On the other hand, with Safari Books Online you can run a keyword search across thousands of volumes, aggregating search results by relevance, by date, or by some other criterion of your choosing.

Another real-world example of my benefiting from Safari Books Online was when I needed to learn Adobe Flash in short order for a job assignment. I simply watched the wonderful Flash CS3 Professional Essential Training title from Lynda.com (and conveniently hosted on SBO),and before you know it, I had another multimedia development technology under my belt--no muss, fuss, or greasy aftertaste.

The salient question for you, the individual, is "Yeah, the service sounds great. How much does it cost?!?"

I'm glad you asked. Individuals can subscribe to Safari Books Online at one of two levels:

  • Professional Library ($42.99/month or $472.89/year)
  • Professional Bookshelf ($22.99/month or $252.99/year)

The short answer is that you have a wider scope of publications available to you with the Professional Library option. I would suggest that you visit the SBO Web site to learn the particulars with regard to subscription fees.

If you just can't get accustomed to reading on-screen text, you receive, depending upon your subscription level, a predefined number of download tokens that you can cash in to download and print PDF versions of book chapters (yes, you read that correctly: it is one token per chapter, and not one token per book. Better luck next time!).

Moreover, your membership to Safari Books Online affords you a discount of to 35 percent percent off the list price of publishers' print books. You will rarely, if ever, visit Amazon.com again!

Over time I plan to write more on the Safari service. In fact, I have it on my "to do" list to put together a screencast demonstrating to you how you can prepare for your next certification exam by using SBO.

Happy studying!

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