My wife and I love our little 1.5 story Cape Cod here in quaint little Apex. So much so that we have decided to stay in that house for as long as possible. This is leading to a few changes since we’re hoping to have more kiddos in the future. I apologize in advance for the length of this post. I have been amazed at how much I started to consider as I proceeded down this path
- Change 1. We are fixing up and remodeling some bits before any more people occupy this house.
- Change 2. We have really filled up this place with stuff. We need to add more storage
- Change 3. We have too much crap (refer to change 2). We’re in purge mode!
This post is about change #3. Being in tech means continuous learning. Being in Datacenter Virtualization means many thick books that occupy my time, my book case, and what I now clearly understand as valuable real estate a future son or daughter may need for unnecessary toys. I try to be a good father and good person so I’m going to practice what I preach and get rid of lots of books and tech gear.
I’ll concentrate the bulk of this in how I’m managing my digital literature although I’m sure I could have full posts on how my home filing and old printed photos are going all digital. I’ll start this out with the problems I see or have with my printed literature and hopefully break down how going digital is solving them (or making it worse). Can the cloud save me?
Tech Book Problems
Books take up a ton of space which I don’t have
Not cheap to replace if damaged, lost, stolen (or borrowed indefinitely)
It is not practical to carry each book of value that I have. I want access everywhere when I need them.
I can’t quickly search for what I want although most books have great indexes at least!
To the Cloud(ish)!
The average tech book is large and in charge and takes up sizable space on the bookshelves in my home office and at work as well as my backpack. While some of the books are outdated and easily disposed of (donated or passed on) I still have several books that are very relevant. Here’s a couple I own and have used most recently:
Mastering VMware vSphere 4 | Scott Lowe | 9.2 x 7.4 x 1.4 inches | 2.2 lb
Managing VMware Infrastructure with Windows PowerShell TFM | Hal Rottenberg | 9.7 x 6.9 x 1.3 inches | 1.4 lb
HA/DRS Deep Technical Dive | Duncan Epping & Frank Denneman | 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches | 0.1 lb
VMware vSphere 5 Clustering Deep Dive | Duncan Epping & Frank Denneman | 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 | 1.2 lb [Update: Picked this up on Kindle @ release 2011/07/12 for an amazing price! $10]
In total I’m looking at 6.1lb! and 4.8” thick. Kindle/digital editions weight is not a factor and fits on the iPad which is still around the 9x7 size and sitting @ 1.5lb. In all it’s considerably lighter and thinner even with our massive Otterbox Defender Case adding an extra 2 lb. Unfortunately only 2 of the books listed above have Kindle editions but fortunately the trend is definitely showing that more future books will be available as digital as they are released. (Just heard from Alan Renouf and the PowerCLI Reference should be back on Kindle again after an issue is resolved. 3 for 4 is great!)
[Update] The PowerCLI book is now available on Kindle again! Purchase
So far I have been able to grab HA/DRS deep dive for the Kindle on iPad and found the experience excellent. It was extremely easy to take notes and highlight parts. I was also surprised that you are able to see sections that other people commonly highlight. I thought this feature had some weight and also lent to possible opportunities where the author/publisher could include notes on minor updates and changes. Furthermore it was seamless for me to transition from my wife’s iPad to my iPhone, and to the computer. While not all text is stellar on the iPhone the Kindle for iPad app gets the job done well and allowed me to finish a book that my toddler didn’t want me to read. He either liked the orange cover too much or wanted to read what I was reading. Either way I was able to carry my purchase everywhere, not take up additional space and since the book purchases are also available for download again from Amazon there is little risk of losing my investment. Kindle FTW!
Wait! No Kindle version?
Since not all of the books I want were available for Kindle I peaked around for other opportunities. I had been introduced to SafariBooksOnline by a coworker earlier this year and thought I’d see if they had an iPad/mobile app. At the time they did not but they do now! I have recently signed up for a trial and placed some books in my favorites folder for perusal. They had several excellent titles available on demand for a reasonable monthly price depending on the plan you get. If you consume lots of books or are short on shelf space the value goes way up. If you only need access to a few books a month then the $23/month plan should work fine for you.
I tried it first on the iPhone since that was the device on hand. Holding the phone in landscape view made reading the text significantly easier but all in all their mobile web app m.safaribooksonline.com worked quite well over 3G. Keep in mind that even though they make it easy to put their “web app” on your home screen it is simply a shortcut to their website so internet connectivity is required. I also tried the mobile web app on the iPad and that experience was much better as you would expect. The greater real estate made for a much better experience.
The SafariBooksOnline mobile web app allows you to bookmark sections and go to any point in the book quickly. Taking notes is also available which I am definitely pleased to see. Navigation isn’t as easy as on the iPad but no major complaints, different platforms after all. Searching really isn’t there for the mobile on iPhone since I was unable to find a section to search within the active book. The search option available searches throughout the text of ALL available books. Not always what I’m looking for but can be manageable as long as you know that is the case.
Safari on iPad
The iPad app for SafariBooksOnline, Safari to Go on iTunes, is a much richer experience. I initially had some login difficulties but once in it was very easy to move through a book and quickly swap to another in my favorites folder. It is also important to note that the current version is only supported with a Wi-Fi connection as explained on their blog. My bet is that this is primarily for the offline Bookbag option. I didn’t fork over the $130 for the 3G on the iPad so I have not tested any functionality over that network. I considered turning my iPhone into a mobile hotspot to test, but the iPad would simply see that as Wi-Fi so I didn’t see the point.
One nice feature is that with their iPad app you are able to keep a single book for offline consumption at a time. The previously mentioned Bookbag mode is fantastic since my family likes to spend weekends up amongst the Clouds (couldn’t resist) in the mountains of western NC. Functionality in Bookbag mode was excellent but I was unable to search within the book from the app when offline. Kindle does support offline searching within the text.
One negative with SafariBooksOnline is that it is a subscription service so if you’re not using the service then it is not worthwhile. Also if you cancel the service then of course you lose access to these titles (This reminds me of our gym membership). On the flip side you do have new titles available without any new unplanned upfront costs. I’m really considering this a cost of doing business just like Netflix and Hulu+ since the model is essentially the same. I have been told that you can purchase the books outright or earn tokens for downloads but I haven’t looked into that yet.
Diagrams and photos! So glad I didn’t’ forget to mention this. I am usually very pleased when the books provide diagrams, tables, illustrations, visual aids to help the reader understand complex topics. I am less than pleased when the said diagrams or visual aids are extremely small and valuable details are lost. Ever seen a pretty graph but couldn’t make out what the Y-axis represented? Digital versions fix this in a HUGE way. You’re able to click on the image and activate it like any other photo. You can zoom and pan and really dig in to it. Nothing Lost!
One key thing I find in each of these opportunities is the ability to search and place personal bookmarks and notes. I’m reminded of college when the only way to locate specific portions of the book were with strategically managed post-it notes. This can now be a thing of the past. Being able to quickly go back to a section that you found extremely valuable is a huge time saver. I’m also finding personalized notes and highlights to be huge in cert prep. Make your notation and both Kindle and Safari services offer the ability to access your notes and print them.
I never seem to have the book I need. When I’m at home and know there is a solution in one of my books it is at the office and vice versa when at the office. Keeping my tech books digital has shown the potential to solve this and simultaneously make room for MORE TOYS!. The ability to find, purchase, and download the book I want instantly without taking up extra space in my house is definitely a ‘cloud’ win. It’s on demand and with proper planning always available to me. Besides, what’s better than catching up on some valuable reading when you are “off the grid”, especially without having to lug large books out with you.
Note: Received confirmation from VMware Press that they expect they will launch their new titles through Safari just as most Pearson books have been.