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Review: Safari Bookshelf

Safari Bookshelf (not to be confused with Apple’s Safari web browser) is an online service that gives access to more than 1,300 technology books. Publishers that participate in Safari Bookshelf include O’Reilly, New Riders, Peachpit Press, Adobe Press, Macromedia Press, SAMS, QUE, Prentice Hall PTR, Java, Alpha, Sun Microsystems, Cisco and Microsoft Press.

Not all books from all publishers are available, but new books are being added weekly. Titles of interest to Mac users include the Adobe Classroom in a Book series, O’Reilly’s Mac OS X in a Nutshell and many of the O’Reilly Pocket References, and several (though not all) of Peachpit's Visual QuickStart Guides. Notably missing at present are the Pogue/O’Reilly Missing Manual titles, although there are plans to add them in the future. To find out what books are currently available, go to http://safari.oreilly.com/

A monthly fee of $14.95 allows you to search across the entire library, and gives you full text access to up to ten books at a time. You manage the titles you select by adding them to your virtual bookshelf. The basic subscription fee gives you a bookshelf of ten “slots” (one book generally equals one slot). More slots can be added for additional fees. A book must stay on your shelf for at least 30 days before it can be exchanged for another book.

One of the most exciting features of Safari Bookshelf is its amazing search capability. You can search through the contents of all 1,300+ books by keywords or, for the programmers among you, by code samples. Imagine having all those resources at your command! Books can be also be browsed by category, by date added to the library, and by popularity. This week’s top choice is O’Reilly’s brand new best-seller Google Hacks.

Browsing the collection is one of the real treats of using Safari Bookshelf. For most of us in this part of upstate New York, the nearest bookstore with a fully stocked technology section is at least an hour’s drive away. Safari Bookshelf gives text samples for each book, and includes interesting offerings from some less widely distributed publishers. One title that recently caught my eye: The 60 Second Commute: A Guide to Your 24/7 Home Office Life.

The Safari Bookshelf website allows you to maintain your own personal collection of notes, previous searches and bookmarks, making it refreshingly easy to stay organized. More times than I’d like to admit I find myself pulling book after book from my physical bookshelf in search of the answer to a problem I researched six months ago. Saving searches online sure beats festooning your books with Post-It notes, and allows you to put virtual Post-Its throughout the entire collection.

Want to find out if a Safari Bookshelf subscription makes sense for you? Register for a 14 day free trial by clicking the Safari Bookshelf link on the MUG ONE home page, http://www.mugone.com.
– Elsa Travisano

Copyright ©2003 by Elsa Travisano. This article appeared in the April 2003 issue of Newsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY.