I'm a Safari Books subscriber and have been for years. I like having all the books available immediately. I was wondering if there was a better competing service. Does anyone know if there's another comparable service that maybe has a better search function (my frustration with which is what prompted me to ask this in the first place...)?
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I've been a subscriber to the unlimited version of Safari Books Online since it was first offered. Since Safari is owned by O'Reilly, virtually all of their books are available which is a big plus for me as I had been a fan of O'Reilly's print books. It comes as no big surprise that none of O'Reilly's books appear to be available on books24x7.
As Jeremy mentioned, doing searches on the same keyword on both sites returns roughly the same number of books, so books24x7 apparently has some additional publisher(s) to make up for the omission of the O'Reilly titles.
Another thing I like about Safari Books Online is their token system, which allows you to download either chapters or entire books as PDF files. A chapter typically costs one token. You get five free tokens each month as part of the unlimited and "10-slot" subscriptions. You can buy additional ones for two dollars apiece. I don't know if books24x7 has a similar system.
O'Reilly's unlimited subscription and books24x7 both cost about $500 a year, so that is a wash.
I've used books24x7.com for a long time, but I don't think its that great at searching either. I did searches of the same keywords in both sites and the search results look pretty similar.
There's also Creative Edge creativeedge.com, but searching wouldn't be any different from Safari Books because Creative Edge is also an O'Reily site. The main differences are the subscription rates and content. Depending on what you're programming, Creative Edge might be a cheaper solution, since the unlimited option is closer to $20/mo. There aren't any download tokens and it's geared toward Creative work, as the name implies. A search for something like "comptia a+" or pmap ps wouldn't get you very far, but more general topics like C++ coding, HTML and django will get you a number of hits.
As for the searching, one thing you can try would be to use a third party search engine to do a site search, i.e., plug site:safaribooksonline.com pmap ps into Google. Other search engines like Yahoo, Bing! or Yandex will give you far fewer results than Google for the O'Reily sites, so it's probably a promotional deal with Google to generate page previews to potential subscribers.
Plugging the ISBN into Google Books and doing a search from the book preview can also be helpful.
World Cat is good for locating other editions of books when you can't find them on Safari, but it's not so great for the whole reading instantly thing.