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Exploring eBook Offerings

With all the recent attention on eBooks at the Web site, I decided to finally look at a service that has tempted me for some time—O'Reilly's Safari service. O'Reilly is well known for its IT "animal books," which display a different and often exotic animal on each cover. I've heard that any IT professional worth his or her salt has at least one O'Reilly book stashed somewhere in the office.

I moved recently and discovered just how many technical books I'd purchased over the years. What I considered to be a collection was, in fact, a small library. And my wife has seen this library, so convincing her that I need to go out and buy more books isn't easy. So I revisited O'Reilly's Safari. Here's the deal: For a monthly fee, you gain access to a certain portion of O'Reilly's catalogue in an online format. The portion of the catalogue you get to see is directly proportional to the amount you pay. A few other publishers, including Wrox Press, offer similar services.

Initially, I was dubious. Most people still seem to prefer technical books in "dead-tree" format. However, getting five books a month for the price of one dead-tree technical book is tempting. I eventually gave in and was pleasantly surprised.

Safari doesn't offer books from just one publisher—you can choose from titles from Cisco Press to New Riders. The real benefit to anyone pursuing certification studies is that the service offers many books for the MCSE and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) exams as well as for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) exams. If you're a self-starter with a limited budget, this service is definitely worth considering. You can even print pages, as long as you agree to destroy them when you remove the book from your "virtual bookshelf." This feature gives the books portability (taking 20 printed pages with you on the train is certainly easier than hauling around several kilograms of certification text).

If you're facing a multiple-exam certification that will require a significant outlay on books, check out online services such as Safari. As you move from exam to exam, you can swap books in and out of your bookshelf as you need them. Such services can significantly reduce the costs of preparing for your next IT certification.

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