I used to read a lot of tech books, like a an hour or two a day. Several years, several promotions, two kids, and one deteriorating eye later, I realized I wasn’t reading much anymore. The combination of work commutes / Audible.com / iPod helped me keep up with novels and non-techy non-fiction, but I still had trouble keeping up with tech books.

Luckily, tech publishers are starting to publish more and more ebooks. Here’s some of the good and bad points of reading tech ebooks.

Tech Ebooks: The Good

  • My Macbook Pro‘s multi-touch trackpad makes it very easy to zoom and scroll so I end up with huge font that I can read without glasses from several feet away.
  • I can carry all of my ebooks on both my computer and iPhone.
  • Publishers like O’Reilly and Pragprog have relatively mature ebook stories; DRM-free, mobile integration, and available in both computer-friendly (PDF) and mobile-friendly (EPUB) versions and notification for free updates of new printings.
  • I can quickly search across all ebook content using Spotlight and quickly open ebooks using Quicksilver and Preview.
  • They’re significantly less expensive than their dead tree counterparts and you can acquire them instantly vs. a trip to the bookstore or, more likely, a two day wait for an Amazon Prime delivery.
  • Using Dropbox you can easily replicate your ebooks across all of your computers while easily staying under Dropbox’s 2GB free account max.

Tech Ebooks: The Bad

  • Can’t (ethically) lend to friends; can’t give away when done with a book.
  • I have a 1st gen Kindle I never use. While I love the selection, price, and integration with Amazon.com, I hate the hardware design, the user experience, the $@#! DRM, and the fact that I can’t (easily/legally) view the books on my computer. Don’t buy a Kindle.
  • The selection of ebooks is relatively small vs. all books I’d want to buy. For instance, no How Buildings Learn ebook (though I’ve sent the publisher an email on this).
  • Many ebook-selling publishers still insist on using DRM. This is stupid. As the argument goes, honest people like me will gladly pay for quality IP and a good user experience. DRM-selling publishers: please learn from O’Reilly and Pragprog.
  • You need a different account for each publisher. Luckily password management apps like KeePassX simplify this, but it’s still a pain.

Tech Ebooks I’ve Recently Bought

Now, for your reading pleasure, are the ebooks I’ve bought in the past few months (updated 25 Oct. 2009).