By Robi Sen
Have you ever wished you had your favorite reference book at your fingertips at work or school? Well, now you can with O’Reilly’s Safari. O’Reilly’s Safari is a novel online library where O’Reilly has digitized, stored, and made available online thousands of technical books. To use Safari all you need is an account, a web browser, and a connection to the internet. When you log on to Safari you can browse books by topics or search terms and select books to add to your bookshelf.
The number of books that are in the O’Reilly Safari is much greater than just the number of O’Reilly titles. It includes books from Macromedia Press, Sun press, New Riders, Addison Wesley, Prentice Hall and many more other publishers.
The system is very intuitive and easy to use. When you create your account you get access to the full Safari library. You can select titles by a wide range of criteria and browse through selected parts of their content, but for most titles you do not have full access to their content until you add them to your book shelf. The basic bookshelf comes with 10 book slots on it, and depending on the type of account you have selected, you may have a number of credits from which to select books. Each title has an associated number of credits or spaces it takes in your book shelf. Once a book is in your book shelf you can page through it, search its content, and go directly to the page that has the information you are looking for. You can also print out entire chapters, subject to a monthly limit. If you decide to purchase a book you get a discount on the paper copy.
One of the things that makes Safari so powerful is how it easily it makes a selection of books available to a group. Companies can create and maintain book lists for their technical staff, and never worry about people taking the book homes or losing them. And you don’t have to cart all those books around if you move your office.
My only complaint about Safari is its search system. Most of the time I found it useful, but occasionally I couldn't find terms or text that I knew where in a specific title. Also, the display and categorization of the returned search is awkward and not very clear. One of the most powerful features of Safari is the ability to search a book for specific information rapidly, and I'm sure that O’Reilly will eventually make this function more powerful and easier to use.
So check out Safari at http://safari.oreilly.com/, and sign up for a free 14-day trial.