Microsoft

Site-ings: Go buy the book

If you're looking to add another boat anchor of a text to your IT library, you don't have to wait in line. Sure, you know about Amazon.com, but what about your other options? Lauren Willoughby has some suggestions.


Are you missing the definitive volume on Visual C++? Lacking a soup-to-nuts Windows NT reference? Looking for a Sun encyclopedia? Get ready for a tour of online bookstores, from polished retail sites to bargain basements.

Let's get clicking!

Bestsellers
Amazon.com is probably the first site that comes to mind when you're browsing for books. And with good reason. It's a blockbuster. Amazon stocks almost everything on its shelves, at somewhat discounted prices, and it offers one of the most streamlined purchasing experiences you'll find online. Plus, there are extra goodies like the reader reviews and the wish list, which helps you keep track of the books you're interested in buying before you actually buy them. Tech shopping? Check the umbrella heading, Computers & Internet, under which books are further divided by topic.

Barnes & Noble, the click-and-mortar alternative, matches Amazon.com nearly feature-for-feature in book sales. It also goes off on its own with the nifty Magazine Store, which stocks plenty of computer titles.

Fatbrain.com targets more serious tech types. Hey, ERP/Enterprise gets its own heading here! Fatbrain also lets you drill down to specific book topics. For example, you can start at the Computing & Internet topic, click on Programming, and then find yourself with a selection of more than 32 languages to choose from, which range from the usual to the esoteric (Smalltalk, Lisp and Rexx, to name a few).

The bargain bin
If you want books costing a fraction of what you thought you'd have to spend, point your Web browser toward AllBooks4Less.com , whose claim to fame is that it beats Amazon.com's prices on every title. In fact, next to every book there's a button you can click to look up prices at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

AllBooks4Less.com specializes in slightly older, liquidated, and "out of print" books. Where older books disappear from the shelves of Amazon.com, becoming "special orders" and retaining their original price forever, the same books often show up at AllBooks4Less.com with much more reasonable price tags. I'm a satisfied customer. Through the site, I was able to buy Que's 10 Minute Guide to HTML Style Sheets for $5.95. The cover price is $14.99, and that's what Amazon.com lists it for, though the availability is at four to six weeks.

If you're an IT manager who's inherited a workgroup dependent on yesterday's software, this site is a good place to turn for yesterday's tech books. Haven't upgraded to Office 2000 yet? Check out Access 97 Exam Prep with CDROM. It's listed as out of print at Amazon.com, but the $29.95 book is selling for $9.95 here.

The Computers & Internet category includes hundreds of titles, from "Dummies" series offerings to books with intimidating technical titles, such as Administering Sap R/3: SD-Sales & Distribution Module.

Here are a few head-to-head price comparisons with Amazon.com:
  • Lotus Notes & Domino Server 4.5 Unleashed: $19.95 at AllBooks4Less.com; $44 at Amazon.com.
  • Web Publishing Unleashed: $9.99 at AllBooks4Less.com; $39.99 at Amazon.com
  • Windows NT Server 4.0 Enterprise Exam Guide: $19.99 at AllBooks4Less.com, $99.99 at Amazon.com

On the downside, the navigation is kind of primitive. In addition, there are no categories for tech references deeper than "Computers & Internet," so you'll be browsing a page of titles at a time unless your keyword search proves fruitful.

And one final caveat: AllBooks4Less.com omits edition notes and publication dates. But I've found that by matching up covers at Amazon.com, I can tell how old the book is.

Chapters of note
  • Bookstore Discount Books , an affiliate of Barnes & Noble, claims prices of up to 90 percent off.
  • half.com lists more than two million book titles, some used, priced at least 50 percent off. More than 14,000 titles are listed in the Networking category.
  • Book Buyers Outlet is another source for discounted titles.
  • PriceSCAN serves as a "shopping bot" to help you find lowest prices on books as well as electronics.
  • The Open Directory Project has a couple of dozen options in its Technical Books section.
  • And let's not forget the publishers. You can buy books directly from O'Reilly & Associates, the source for code gods everywhere.

And that's what I've seen worth citing this week.

Lauren Willoughby is a Web editor at The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville, KY, where she also writes the weekly "Technophobe" column. At night, she turns into an online auction junkie. When she's not spotting deals on refurbished 486s, she's reading science fiction novels.

If you'd like to share your opinion, please post a comment below or send the editor an e-mail.

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