Safari Books WTF

  • I have an hour and a half commute to and from work every day, luckily enough I am able to use mass transit for all but 5 minutes of the commute.  Suffice to say I have a lot of idle time on my hands.  I normally try to consume this time with something intelligent, like reading.

    Browsing around my company's list of resources one day, I notice that we have a subscription to Safari Books.  Oh cool, I have heard of them, technical e-books, sounds perfect!  I'll just download a few of these and learn a new programming language or two.

    So I request an account through my company, and I am granted one within a few minutes, wow, good service.  Quick, responsive!  Oh, wait, my company normally is about these things....

    Logging into Safari, I take a look around.  Hey, lots of big name publishers here, and I am able to find a book I want to read right away.  I figure I'll go for the classic " The Mythical Man-Month".



    Wow, this is taking awhile to load.  Oh look, the front cover.  Hey is there a download PDF button anywhere?  No?  Well that is strange... So I keep looking around.  Nothing.  I decide I'll keep browsing through the book, then resume my search for the PDF file later (there has to be a PDF file right?).

    Next Page.  Click.


    About 5 to 6 seconds later, the next page loads.  Umm, this is not going well.

    Next Page.  Click.

    About 30 seconds later I am past the index and at the actual first page of the book.

    By now I have realized that they are dynamically generating each page in the background.  (Most likely from a PDF file!)

    Hey, a resize text button.  At least they implemented CSS styles.  "Increase Text Size" Click.

    The page reloads.  5 to 6 seconds later, it comes back with slightly larger text.

    Ok enough of this, time to find the actual PDF file.  Off to the FAQ.

    "Organizations may choose from a variety of subscription levels,"

    That doesn't sound good...

    "The highest subscription level allows each user to download a limited number of chapters each month".

    Wait, chapters?  Not even whole books?  My organization doesn't even have the chapter download option.  Nope, instead I am supposed to stay tethered to an Internet connection to read books on a website that takes longer to load pages than the pages take to read!

    The most annoying thing about all of this is that it is on a page full of programming books.  Programming books such as books on Perl.  Suddenly, I became very tempted to throw together a Perl script that given the first page of a book, proceeds to download the entirety of that book, and then shove it through html2pdf.

    Or I could use wget.  Or I could use an appropriate combination of FireFox plugins.

    The question is, what PHB decided to treat programmers like they are incompetent idiots?  Even more so, what incompetent idiot decided that loading static text dynamically was a good idea?  How often do books change, once every 4 or 5 years?  What type of algorithm takes 6 seconds to convert a few paragraphs of text?

    So far I have resisted the urge to convert the stupidity of Safari Books to PDF.  For now, I just read the old fashion paper kind.  There, the stupidity is limited by the medium.

  • Sounds like they want to make it as difficult/inconvenient as possible to get all of the pages in one shot, so that they have less chance of people downloading the entire book, then posting in on usenet, or whatever.  Obviously things like this bug the hell out of people like us, but for them, if directly affects their bottom line. They are an online library, meaning that the book is on loan to you.  If they just gave you the entire PDF, their business model would fall apart.

    At least you know that you have lots of time to perfect that script on your commutes to/from work.

  • If they just gave you the entire PDF, their business model would fall apart.

    Their business model is "Sell insanely expensive subscriptions to corporations"

    It is rather independent of if I can download the books online or not.  I could pirate any almost any technical book that I want to, but I want to stay legal and I figure if my company already pays for me to have access to them, why shouldn't I take advantage of it?

    Heck, if someone takes every book they have up there, rips them, and puts them online as PDF, it will not affect their revenue one bit at all.

    Hehe, though I would love to see an internal memo (from any corporation) that read

    Due to the wide availability of pirated e-books online, we no longer feel the need to continue our subscription with Safari Books.  From now on it is requested that all employees pirate their technical materials.  To begin, please go to ""





  • Their business model may not fall apart that way, but it screams "PIRATE ME!".

  • Assuming the long delay really is due to Safari and not to your download speed. The usual fix for very slow sites is to have multiple browsers open and download later pages whilst you are reading the first. I often do this when browsing slower shopping sites.  If you have enough pages for five minutes reading loading at once, and request a new page whenever you finish one then you should get a pretty much continuous experience.

    It would seem sensible for Safari to support this mode of working as it still means you can only download pages at reading speed. 

  • I've used safari in the past and never experienced the performance problems you mention.  It was always zippy for me.

    The other problem is you were expecting e-books whereas safari is really just a reference website.  I guess the problem there is you expected it to be something it's not.



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