June 28, 2010
Don't you love it (or hate it) when someone says something that makes you question your grip on reality because it challenges your assumptions?
This morning, I got such an email from a gentleman who works in the publishing industry. He saw my article in ;login: about sysadmin training, and basically asked me why sysadmins aren't buying books anymore.
Well, I can tell you that I nearly dropped my bagel and coffee coolata. Sysadmins not buying books? Hogwash. Poppycock. (inserts monocle)
Then, of course, I thought about it. The last paper book that I bought was Pulling Strings with Puppet...and before that? I'm honestly not sure. In fact, the only reason that I bought Pulling Strings was because it wasn't available on O'Reilly's Safari...OK, there might be something to this...
I considered the reasons that I haven't been buying books all the way to the office this morning, and I came up with what I think are some possible reasons. I'm going to share them, but I would really like to hear what your stance on this is. Aside from the fact that I'm writing a book, and thus have a very direct interest in this subject, I think it also has ramifications on the larger community, because for a long time, books have been our go-to source of information. If that truly is changing, then it's a not-insignificant alteration, and everyone is going to have to deal with the ramifications of that.
Personally, I haven't bought books lately because I currently own books on the core utilities that I referenced when I was originally learning them, and now refer to them almost exclusively in odd corner cases (or more frequently, refer to online forums or sources).
I also feel like the existing books on the techniques that I'm using (Enterprise Storage and Virtualization) are written for people with the budget to leverage the full strengths of the platforms, rather than the limited subset that I'm using because I've got the free (or low end) solutions in place.
In addition, from a 10,000ft view, I suspect (and this is pure conjecture) that the profession of system administration is probably maturing. The older sysadmins already have copies of "Essential Systems Administration" and "The Practice of System and Network Administration". Younger sysadmins either "grow up" in an environment where they have elders to learn from (and thus, probably access to the same books) or they're on their own in small shops which won't pay for books, so if they don't buy it personally, they don't have it.
Those are my suggestions, but I really do want to hear yours. Please visit the site and comment. You have a voice in this discussion, too.
This is also a Slashdot submission. Please vote it up if you're interested in the subject!