One of the things that I like to do is to read books on programming. I guess given my day job and other activities, I don’t get enough time in the day to write code as much as I’d like. (I can’t just jump in and out of code, like I can in a book.) I tend to have books in multiple formats, and wanted to spend a few minutes thinking thru the pros and cons of each format. (Note that when I say Kindle format, I really mean general ebook formats).
This is my preferred format for reading technical books. The main reason is I can have access to the same book, across so many platforms that I always have the book with me. I can read it on my phone or tablet, I can read it on my Mac or Windows PC and I can read it on my Kindle. The graphics aren’t always the best, but the various readers all do a really good job of getting me to my highlights or my notes. Additionally, I get visibility of how others are highlighting the book.
While I really like the iBook format, it has great highlighting and notes capabilities, there are some books that really take advantage of embedded media to help explain concepts, the biggest complaint I have is that I can only really take advantage of technical books on my iPad. Yes, some of them can be read on the iPhone, but if they are using all the cool features of iBooks, then they only install on the iPad. A great example of this is the series by Kevin J McNeish. The author has done a great job of integrating content but I can only view it on the iPad.
Let’s face it, paper is by far the easiest to deal with. The problem is, you can’t always have all your books with you. You need to plan ahead and ensure that if you are traveling you have the right books with you for the projects you may be learning. Also, I eventually run out of shelf space in my office, and I hate throwing out old books. I still have books on HTML programming from 1996. The O’Reily team does deal with this nicely, in that they allow you free or cheap access to ebook formats for any book you buy.
Perhaps the publishers will all get together one day and allow for digital downloads of books you buy. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath, since easy ripping of CD’s and DVD’s helped drive the digital download of those media, and ripping a book to digital format is a bit harder. I have a decent sheet feeder on my scanner. I’ve tried scanning in some back issue magazines so I could read them on the plane when traveling. The amount of effort it took to do that encouraged me to just re-buy the issues electronically.