Probably most developers already know about O’Reilly’s Safari service, which, for a monthly fee, enables you to have a set number of books checked out of an online library and use them in electronic format. I had known about it for ages, but hadn’t ever subscribed until I recently started using PHP and JavaScript a lot more than I had been. I had never been attracted to it as a Java developer, because between experience, the books I own, JavaDoc, and source code, I can pretty much find the answers I need without additional reference material. In areas where I’m less experienced, though, Safari is incredibly helpful. I don’t want to go out and buy a shelf full of books for things that, hopefully, I’ll never have to use again, so Safar is a great deal. Just throw a few relevant books onto your bookshelf and go. Like I said, everyone but me probably already knew this, but if you didn’t, then go check it out.

One other thing I had wondered about was the Safari business model. I had assumed that there was enough reference material freely available online for most things that Safari wouldn’t provide a significant marginal benefit. As I wade into the PHP world, though, I find that the online reference material is generally lacking. The PHP manual is pretty uneven, and most of the developer resource sites run by third parties are advertising-laden crapfests. Safari really hits the sweet spot there. I wonder how many subscribers they have? Any money they do make must be almost pure profit since O’Reilly already owns the rights to the books and the site must not be horribly difficult to maintain.