Are Books Old-Fashioned?
In times of everything-online it might sound old-fashioned to favor printed books over online sources: They are usually more expensive, cannot directly be forwarded via email and there's no chance to get free updates.
I very often research (technical) topics online, which is great to get a quick overview. But where to dive in? Even to minor topics you easily find hundreds of sources, blog-posts, reports, rants and forum discussions…
Books have Higher Quality in Content and Structure
My argument pro-books is quite simple: Usually the authors have intensively thought about two issues:
- the topic itself and
- ways of describing content to their readers.
Furthermore, reviewers and publishers have provided feedback - which invariably leads to higher quality in content and structure.
Arguments are easier to follow, language more concise (and not restricted to 140 characters), overly long sentences are (often) replaced by understandable "lightweigt" alternatives…
Others Have Read for You
Amazon-reviews often help me to find appropriate books on a topic. Enthusiastic reviews are no guarantee, but an indicator.
E-Books as Compromise
Searchable pdf's (or other e-book formats) provide a great compromise - at least when they've been proofread and copyedited. I tried quite a number of self-published e-books, with mixed results.
Let me give you only a few of the great examples I encountered recently:
- Al Sweigart: Hacking Secret Ciphers with Python. One of the best programming books I've read (believie me, I read many…). Even if you don't like Python - Al's way of teaching a language is awesome.
- Venkat Subramaniam: Programming Groovy-2. Great for everybody working on the Java platform.
- Steve Freeman, Nat Pryce: Growing Object-Oriented Software guided by Tests. Very interesting approach to software design - based upon feedback through tests.
- Learn You Some (Erlang or Haskell) for Great Good. Two extraordinary programming books for two off-the-mainstream languages.
These are only a few examples where you immediately recognize the amount of blood, sweat, tears (and, of course, love for the topic) these authors invested.
Disclaimer: I write books myself. I spend hours thinking about details, asking colleagues and friends for feedback. I write "prototypes" and later replace them away with complete re-writes.