PacktLib Hit or Miss

**PLEASE NOTE**

Since writing this review the service has changed dramatically. I currently have no experience of the current service as I cancelled some time ago. I was faced with a situation where my debit card would be blocked as soon as payment for the service was taken. I alerted Packtpub however received little support.

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Anyone who is familiar with programming books have probably come across Packt Publishing even if they have not bought any of their books.

As well as allowing people to buy books and e-books from their website they also provide another intriguing service. This service is called PacktLib. PacktLib enables you to purchase a monthly subscription to their complete library

The subscription (which is currently £15 a month) allows you to read any book that Packt have ever published (new or old). This month I decided that I would take the plunge and purchase a subscription to the service to see how it is.

On mentioning this to a work colleague he sounded far from impressed with the offering but here are my thought on the service so far.

Instead of allowing you to check out and download an e-book Packt allow you to read the book in a web interface. This has some positive and negative side effects. On the plus side the books are easily searchable and are laid out well. Sometimes the images in the books can have a tendency to be a bit small (you can click on them to have them display in an overlaid pop-up but they can still be too small). The downside however is that to read the book you have to be connected up to the internet so that you can continue reading past the current page you are on (I have not located any offline reading mode). 1 way that could ease this apart from an offline mode would maybe for them to create an app for the android and iPhone (as well as other platforms of course).

The library also has some other great features such as the ability to search the content of all of their books and to jump directly to where in the books the result is for. This also works well when using the similar content tab.

You can also download any associated code that the book has directly from the library without the usual hassle of trying to locate the correct page on their website, entering your email address etc.

1 other great feature that the site has is that you can bookmark a page from within a book. Although this is a great feature this appears to store the bookmark on your PC rather than on their servers. This is fine if you use the same device for accessing the library from anywhere but if you use more than 1 it can be a pain to locate where you previously left off.

An added bonus of the subscription is that every month you receive a credit for a free downloadable e-book that is added to your Packt account just like any other purchased e-book. There appears to be no limitation on what book you can get from this. The token is immediately available as soon as you sign up. The e-book that I chose was actually of higher value than the monthly subscription.

On the whole this is a great service but does have room for improvement. My personal improvement wish list would include:

  • Enable an offline reading mode.
  • Enable cross device bookmarks.
  • Release a smart phone app. This will work better than trying to use a browser.
  • Add a feature to mark a book as read.
  • Link books by authors.

Overall I am very happy with the subscription that I have taken out but the above enhancements would make the site so much better.

For those of you that are tempted to try out the service you can sign up and try it out on the free e-books that they do offer. This will give you a good understanding on how the system works.

Sign up for PacktLib here.

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