In a recent blog post Antonio Cangiono (Technical Evangelist at IBM) reasons about whether programmers still buy printed books. This is a good question as coders are usually no more than a Google search away from the documentation they need. There is close to zero coding related knowledge in books that one could not find online. So the question is not about the content but rather if you are willing to pay for the medium.
I spend long hours working and staring at the computer screen. A printed book is a chance to take a break at night, and let my eyes rest a little. I find it refreshing. And let’s face it, for extensive reading, paper is much easier to read from than the screen.
Likewise, when I’m holding a book or have it open on my desk, I’m in “book reading mode”, which makes it far easier to immerse myself in it. This means that I’m focused on the task and can proceed quickly. The only context switch that happens is between the book and the editor/shell, if it’s the kind of book that warrants typing along. If you are reading a book in a browser tab, it’s very easy to think, “I’ll just check my email for a second”, or introduce similar distractions. I’m sure I’m not alone in this respect.
No, he is not alone. The PediaPress team is with him and so are most of the commenters on his post.