Today I’m thrilled to write this as the new CEO at Safari Books Online. As a Program Chair for all five of the Tools of Change for Publishing conferences, I’ve had a front-row seat during the most dynamic and tumultuous changes in publishing since the birth of the industry. And when the history of this period on publishing is written, Safari Books Online will be remembered as an important early innovator in digital and online reading.
A lot of attention today is rightfully directed at interesting startups like 24Symbols — which is bringing subscription access to digital books to a mainstream audience — and more recently at Amazon’s controversial move toward a lending model for Kindle. But Safari Books Online has successfully delivered books online by subscription for more than a decade to tens of thousands of individuals, thousands of businesses, and millions of public and academic library patrons around the world. It’s also a model for how to bring a diverse group of content providers together in a way that’s customer friendly and with a usage-based system that fairly rewards the best authors.
Safari Books Online began in 2001 as an online reference library — a digital bookshelf that was more portable and searchable than the physical equivalent. As Tim O’Reilly put it, “books are a user interface to information”, and for many years books were the best way to deliver comprehensive, well-organized information. And while the days of the 1,000-page reference tome are mostly over, clear demand remains for books that explain and introduce complex subjects in a way that helps people learn new skills and get things done more effectively, though those books are now mostly read electronically.
But there’s also growing interest in new “user interfaces to information,” new ways to learn like video tutorials and customized interactive exercises. Emerging environments like Khan Academy, Knewton (in which Pearson recently made a significant investment), Code School and Codecademy are showing just how powerful and useful new ways of learning by doing can be.
Although Safari Books Online has been an important early innovator in online reading and learning, we’re far from done changing the way people read and learn on the web — a web that’s now less of a destination than a constant companion wherever you happen to be.
As we look ahead to the next 10 years of Safari Books Online in an environment that’s changing faster than ever, we’ll be building on our strengths and developing new capabilities to remain the single best resource on the web for learning and developing skills in IT and software development. We also believe that as more people grow comfortable reading and learning on the web, we can bring those strengths to bear in many more areas of skill development.
I’m honored to step into this new role, and to lead an incredible team forward into a very bright future.
About the Author
Andrew Savikas, Chief Executive Officer
Andrew Savikas is the Chief Executive Officer at Safari Books Online. Prior to his appointment as CEO, he held the positions of VP of Digital Initiatives at O’Reilly Media Program Chair for O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference , and interim Chief Executive Officer of Safari Books Online. Andrew blogs at blog.safaribooksonline.com and toc.oreilly.com, and is also a regular contributor to the O’Reilly Radar blog and to “Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto,” a collection of essays on the future of publishing, http://book.pressbooks.com. Andrew previously led the digital publishing and ebook program and strategy for O’Reilly Media, including both print and digital production of all O’Reilly books. He sits on the board for the Book Industry Study Group and is on advisory boards for Bookshare and the University of Michigan Press. He frequently speaks at technology and publishing conferences all over the world and is also the author of “Word Hacks: Tips & Tools for Taming your Text“.
Andrew holds a B.S. in Media Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MBA from Northeastern University in Boston.