Most people assume that since I am a bit of a conservative Libertarian I must be an axe-wielding tree faller. In actuality the opposite is true…though I wouldn’t consider myself a tree-hugger either.

More so, I would rather be practical when it comes to shelling out hard-earned money and valuable shelf space to tech tomes that age worse than Spanish wine. Now that my three year old has confiscated every square inch of storage space zero to 36 inches from the floor I’ve had to cloister most of the printed wisdom into cheap file boxes that also take up their own precious quarters, sans rent.

But O’Reilly has come to the rescue. Safari is O’Reilly’s virtual library whereby readers select any number of books (depending on their subscription level) to fill their own personal bookshelves. There are over 3700 books available from most of the top IT publishers and all of them are searchable by a robust engine. You can find out more about Safari’s details here.

For $20 a month I can check out 10 books at a time (per month). That’s quite a bargain considering that’s half the price of a new IT book anyway. Though that $20 spread over the course of the year may be more than my current yearly spending on such volumes, the hidden benefit is access to books I may have never purchased due to a low cost-to-value ratio. For example, I’ve been meaning to brush up on my OO programming skills while mastering RoR. But a lot of programming books are too language specific to give a broader view of OOP. However, Head First Java is an excellent intro to not only Java but also to the OO mindset. There was no way I was going to shell out $40+ just to enjoy $10 worth of knowledge. Hence, the Safari advantage: I read what I need and move on.

Finally, I love the fact that at any given time on my bookshelf there are several disparate titles that keep the old grey matter flexible and interested. When I grow tired of reading about SEO/SEM stuff I can shift my attention to usability practices or Photoshop hacks or even stuff on moral intelligence. That’s a desire I cannot fulfill from current dust-gathering library underneath the stairs.