I don't buy computer books either

I'm with Clinton Forbes: I don't buy computer books either. Almost never. In fact, I can count the number of computing books I've bought in the last five years on my fingers. If I need information on a technical topic, I go to the web, not the bookstore.

It's not that I don't like books. I love books. My Saturday morning routine is to drop my wife off at work and then spend an hour or two sitting in the café at the local Barnes & Noble, reading and drinking coffee. (There are actually about a half-dozen regulars in the café on Saturday mornings, and I'm the only one under 40. I'm not sure what that says about me.)

It's just that technical books, like those 800 page volumes on C++ or VB.NET, are generally a huge waste of time, space, and money. They're almost universally boring, often poorly written, and usually cost upwards of $40 a copy. On top of that, the information they contain will be usually be outdated in five years and most of it is available for free on the web.

There's also the space issue. I have never in my life had enough shelf space for all my books. And if it comes down to choosing between my leather-bound volumes of Nietzsche and Plato or Teach Yourself C++ in 21 Days, it's easy to pick the winner. Heck, even my 30-year-old, second-hand Bertrand Russell paperbacks, which I bought for $1.50 each in 1998, would beat that out.

But ultimately, the real reason is that I'm a competent professional. I can read online documentation, apply concepts acquired from past experience, and follow articles and blogs written by the experts. I don't need the hand-holding, walk-through kind of books you see in the stores. If I'm going to buy a book, I want it to open my mind to new ideas, not show me yet another iteration on "Hello, world."

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