The Safari Bookshelf portal has been re-launched as O'Reilly Safari Library, providing a major shift in pricing and packaging for the technology and scientific books and reference materials offered by the service. As announced by Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing, which has provided the platform for Safari Library, the Safari Library dispenses with the "bookshelf" concept that limited the number of titles and sections of books that a subscriber could have access to in the plan. Now for a flat fee - USD 39.95 a month for a limited time - Safari subscribers can get their pick of any of Safari's titles for online access, including content from pre-release "Rough Cuts" versions of books under development. There is still a throttle of five chapter downloads a month from online content offerings, so there is still an additional premium factor in the picture, but the big picture is that they are treating their entire range of offerings as a true library instead of a pickup window for a private library.
Why flatten out the access fee structure? Well, it's great for individuals who are then encouraged to make maximum use of the service instead of worrying about licensing details (which book do I throw off my shelf now?). But there's an enterprise aspect to this move as well. Certainly last week's announcement of an enterprise-wide deal with Sun Microsystems for access to Safari points the way to a simpler sales methodology that allows maximum exposure for reference book materials in enterprises. People outside of particular specialties may not make maximum use of titles in their collection but when book collections become a searchable collection for a wide audience the "long tail" of content exposed in those searches begins to create a greater value statement - much as newspapers benefit from archives being exposed in public search engines.
This move also sets up a simpler licensing framework through which Safari content from O'Reilly and partner Pearson Education can be integrated in time into search engines such as Google Books as they begin to provide controls that allow access to subscription book content. The Safari portal is well-designed and effective at serving up book content in various formats but at the end of the day readers want to access their content through whatever interface suits them best in a given moment. The Safari Library is a great move to accelerate the value of technical and scientific books in an online environment for both individuals and institutions that want to find effective reference and education materials where it suits them most - without having to hassle with arcane licensing details that are more about publishers' fears than about increasing revenues and value delivered to clients.