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Books Education Programming

Ask Slashdot: Prioritizing Saleable Used Computer Books? 219

g01d4 writes "I volunteer at a used bookstore that supports the local library. One of my tasks is to sort book donations. For > 5-year-old computer books the choices typically are to save it for sale (fifty cents soft cover, one dollar hardback), pack it, e.g. for another library's bookstore, put it on the free cart, or toss it in the recycle bin. I occasionally dumpster dive the recycle bin to 'rescue' books that I don't think should be pulped. Recently I found a copy of PostgresSQL Essential Reference (2002) and Programming Perl (1996). Would you have left them to RIP? Obviously we have very limited space, 20 shelf feet (storage + sale) for STEM. What criteria would you use when sorting these types of books?"
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Ask Slashdot: Prioritizing Saleable Used Computer Books?

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  • By Year... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DavidClarkeHR ( 2769805 ) <(david.clarke) (at) (hrgeneralist.ca)> on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:08PM (#44920867)
    Although there are many good, reliable books that are several years old (on computer principles, logical logic and whatnot), you'll probably be better off sorting by year.

    You'll end up putting a few great books farther down the line than you otherwise would, but sorting by publication date will ensure that the vast majority of the books are still relevant.

    If you've got time, sort by quality. You're the expert, though, and your time is limited. Would you prefer something that is good enough - and done, or something that's perfect ... but not available.
    • Re:By Year... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:23PM (#44920929) Journal

      I might add, for the questionable books, put them in a box and list them on one of the online auctions for cheep or something- buyer pays shipping. There might be an admin out there that inherited something old and needs reference material or perhaps a kid getting a hand me down system and wants to make use of it.

      Try to make the same cash as you would selling it in store, but make sure your supervisor or someone else in charge knows about it so it doesn't appear like you are taking books and selling them on the side.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by anubi ( 640541 )
        Maybe these people would be interested...

        http://www.emsps.com/oldtools/ [emsps.com]

        What is one man's junk is sometimes another man's treasure, but you are probably not interested in holding onto what may or may not be junk forever. These guys seem to be in the business of warehousing old stuff and may gladly pay the shipping before you dumpster it all.

        You will be doing somebody a great service by slipping your discards to someone who has the resources to remarket these old treasures. Its not so much emsps, b
    • Re:By Year... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @10:02PM (#44921079)

      I don't know, Programming Perl would be more relevant to more people than anything written in the last couple of years.

      • Re:By Year... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Sunday September 22, 2013 @10:06PM (#44921091)

        That book is great and has aged really damn well. I still dig out my second edition copy from time to time. The "gory details" section is great when you are trying to figure out some obscure incantation that some sadistic bastard left as a present for you in a legacy script.

        I'd still recommend reading that book cover to cover to anyone that wants to learn perl. You won't be a guru, but you'll have a pretty solid foundation.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, sort by year, but for the computer languages you'll still want at least one per language, and if the latest in the library is 1996, then keep it.
        I guess you could also rank by Amazon Customer Rating if pushed.
        Hopefully the library isn't in the habit of buying references on faddish technologies, because they pass so quickly yet they could end up taking significant shelf space in a purely ordered by date system.

    • Re:By Year... (Score:5, Informative)

      by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Monday September 23, 2013 @02:22AM (#44921809) Homepage

      I'd add a bit of rough categorization here based on my own buying patterns.

      Applications (Office, Photoshop, etc) have a very short shelve life. Anything over a couple of years old is useless.
      Languages (Perl, PHP, Ruby); throw away after a decade or so. It differs though; old C books may still apply, old Java books less so.
      Theory (algorithms, methodologies); should be good for a long, long time.

      • by rioki ( 1328185 )


        Pure age is not the wisest. For example "The Mythical Man-Month" is still relevant as it was 1975 or "Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code" as of 1999. Certain things never change and that are the things that transcend specific technologies. You want to keep these. As GP said, specific technologies slowly die out and you should take his/her advice...

    • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday September 23, 2013 @05:45AM (#44922327) Homepage

      I scan all my old books page by page. That way I always have a copy.

      • by fa2k ( 881632 )

        It's modded funny, but it seems like a fine way to get DRM-free ebooks, just like you can get superior quality music by ripping CDs vs. downloading MP3s. OCR software has advanced recently, and if you have an automatic book scanner it may not be that much of a hassle. Not only do you get a DRM-free copy in any format, you also bypass the legal hassles with downloaded goods (often can't legally give away, sell or pass on as inheritance).

    • Or you could just use http://bookscanner.us/ [bookscanner.us] and forget about loosing any book ever?
  • Too late (Score:5, Informative)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:09PM (#44920871)
    You've already put more into it than it's worth, but if you really want to know, find the local big book store's buyback locale and walk it in there. They have estimates for everything, and for what they don't have, they can speculate, but at that point it's usually due another trip to the dumpster/recycler.
    • Re:Too late (Score:5, Interesting)

      by icebike ( 68054 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:58PM (#44921067)

      You might be right.

      Google a sentence out the the beginning of some chapter that looks kind of unique. Google it in quotes.

      If the book shows up somewhere on the web, trash it.
      You are not doing humanity any favors by keeping those fibers out of the recycle chain.

      (If you are worried about the apocalypse start saving gardening books, not computer books.)

    • Use Amazon (Score:4, Informative)

      by ranton ( 36917 ) on Monday September 23, 2013 @12:18AM (#44921493)

      It is even easier than that. Just go to Amazon and check the used book price for each book. If the book is selling for a dollar or less, there probably isn't any demand. Set whatever threshold is worth your time, whether that is $2 or $20, and toss the rest.

      • by xaxa ( 988988 )

        I have a stack of graphic novels, left behind when I moved in to a rented house.

        I listed them on Amazon.co.uk, and sold a couple for (after fees + my costs to post) about £10. Then one sold for around £5 -- after fees and postage, I'd have made about £1. It wasn't worth the time it takes to carefully package the book. I don't know how the people selling things for £0.01+postage (£2.70?) make any money -- it's certainly not possible for an individual to compete. My colleague

      • Re:Use Amazon (Score:5, Informative)

        by cskrat ( 921721 ) on Monday September 23, 2013 @07:13AM (#44922573)
        Assuming you have a smartphone of some sort, Amazon actually has an app that does most of the work for you. Especially if you want help from co-workers/volunteers/etc. that might not know the difference between "Learn Excel 20xx in 24 Hours" and "Code Complete 2nd Ed.".


        If it sells for a penny, pulp it.
        If it sells for a dollar, give it away.
        If it sells for more, sell it.

        Or whatever thresholds you like.
  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:11PM (#44920883)
    Keep anything you think might sell. Track by acquisition date. If it's not gone in X months, throw it on the free cart. Another month, toss it.

    "X" depends on your turnover, space, and how many books are coming in. Since you're space limited, get rid of the oldest ones first.
    • by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:26PM (#44920941) Homepage

      I let the market decide by seeing what Amazon is selling used copies for. If it's 1 cent plus shipping, it gets tossed. "PostgreSQL Essential Reference"? Trash. "Programming Perl" 1st edition? Gone! This has worked quite well for helping cull my personal old book collection. It's easier to get rid of something if I know I can always replace it, should there come an improbable day I would need that ancient book again.

      • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @10:48PM (#44921227) Journal

        Bookfinder.com is a quick and easy search that covers Amazon as well as several other used book sources. It's got an ISBN search so you can see how well a particular version is doing on the market. My wife and kids have used it to pick up college text books.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        It wouldn't surprise me if some of the older O'Reilly first edition books have started to become valuable.

        And if not valuable as first editions, at least valuable to the guy who inherited a boatload of perl 4 apps and need to read about it to find out what the differences are to perl 5.

        Sometimes I wish there were a bookdiff that would go through editions and highlight the differences only...

    • by n7ytd ( 230708 )

      Keep anything you think might sell. Track by acquisition date. If it's not gone in X months, throw it on the free cart. Another month, toss it.
      "X" depends on your turnover, space, and how many books are coming in. Since you're space limited, get rid of the oldest ones first.

      This is the right answer. From the OP, the only options to him were:

      • save it for sale (fifty cents soft cover, one dollar hardback)
      • pack it, e.g. for another library's bookstore
      • put it on the free cart
      • toss it in the recycle bin

      One thing not explained: is there any financial consideration given by other libraries that they might send books to? I would take that option right off the list, or as a last option just before recycling. Other libraries probably have the same problem, and your unsellable books are

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:14PM (#44920897)

    Recently I found a copy of PostgresSQL Essential Reference (2002) and Programming Perl (1996). Would you have left them to RIP?

    When I replace a book with a newer edition I set aside the older edition. Sooner or later a relative, friend, co-worker, someone will express an interest in learning to program or learning some new area. My old K&R The C Programming Language, Foley and van Dam Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics, etc all found new homes this way. Why toss out a book that someone curious might want to take a look at?

    • K&R C and the Folley/van Dam book are classics of computing. Those represent a tiny chunk of the used book market though, not really representative of the average old book. Books that have later editions at all are generally a good sign of quality. It's reasonable to bin those separately from the one-shot books and prefer keeping them around. By that standard, an old "Programming Perl" *might* still be useful to someone who just doesn't want to spring for a newer version, while "PostgreSQL Essential

  • Donate to Goodwill (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:14PM (#44920899)

    A lot of technical books end up being sold on ebay or through Amazon's used book dealer network. If you give stuff to Goodwill, chances are it will end up in one of those places if it has any resale value.

    • by anubi ( 640541 )
      Thanks... Now that you mention it, I have seen a lot of stuff on Amazon marketed by Goodwill. They have the time and resources to warehouse stuff like this and wait it out until the guy who needs it finds it, and what money is made sure goes to a good cause. I would have modded you up if I had modpoints, but being I do not, I'll have to settle for a thankful reply to your post.
  • by Maow ( 620678 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:16PM (#44920901) Journal

    I'd say the reference book has likely become outdated and current info is easily found on the internet.

    But books like the Perl Camel book - much more than merely a reference - those are valuable for long after their topic is upgraded.

    My 2 cents. Good luck...

    • by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @10:14PM (#44921109)

      Of course, depending on when it was bought it may have come with all of the "animal books" about Perl on CD with it (mine did anyway). And, your local library may have a Safari subscription - mine does. No need for paper in the majority of cases. As a teacher its great because I can assign just a few great chapters from various books and not cost the student $250 in books for a 3 credit class.

  • by curmudgeon99 ( 1040054 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:21PM (#44920917)
    This is my opinion.
    Java--anything that doesn't say Java2 keep.
    Spring -- anything
    Application servers--keep anything.
    Anything Windows--pitch. Anybody buying used books won't be able to afford Visual Studio.
    Anything A+ -- pitch. Don't encourage that dead end.
    Anything Networking--pitch, another dead end.
    Anything design related--keep.
    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

      Anything Networking--pitch, another dead end.

      So say people that don't know what a network is.

  • by speedplane ( 552872 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:22PM (#44920919) Homepage
    Patent lawyers trying to bust patents from the mid 1990s live on this stuff. Call your local friendly intellectual property law firm and see if you can unload the whole batch. They'd probably pay much more than $1.00/book.
  • Fundamentals (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Purity Of Essence ( 1007601 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:22PM (#44920925)

    Save anything that is foundational or fundamental to any particular field. Any book that continues to be cited academically or has increased in value on the used market should probably be kept.

    My local public library system foolishly trashed some true classics in algorithms, graphics, and fractals simply because they were old. Now all you find in the stacks are books focused on instruction for specific software applications, books which are certain to be obsolete in a few years.

    • Re:Fundamentals (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:52PM (#44921047) Homepage Journal


      Books on the theory of computing, physics, mathematics, and so on far outlive reference manuals. Keep texts that describe things like O(n) notation, matrix and vector math, graphics, simulations, and so on.

      • Try to explain that to your average library worker, for whom a computer is a mere tool, and all they know about computing that in a few years a computer is considered old and obsolete, is replaced, and they have to relearn the applications all over again - hence all books about computing must be obsolete in a similar timespan...

      • Some of them even increase in value.

        To give examples that are not computer-related, I have been trying to find an affordable copy of Fishburn's classic Utility Theory for Decision Making from 1970 and it costs more than 100 Euro now. (Well, on Amazon.com it lists as $2,396.90 new and $1,899.33 used but I think we can safely ignore this offer. Amazon just sucks.) Or, try to find a copy of the classic (and IMHO best) text about communicating with aliens, Freudenthal's Lincos - Design of a Language for Cosmic

  • by nxcho ( 754392 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:23PM (#44920931)
    My guess is that books not on specific tools or versions retain their value much longer. Titles like Design Patterns, Network programming, Computer Graphics are more likely to be useful after a couple of years. Also check if the editions are used in any university courses.
  • Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rs79 ( 71822 ) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:29PM (#44920959) Homepage

    We worked really hard in the 70s on so you wouldn't need books. Everything I did was documented with roff/runoff. This begat, in a roundabout way SCRIBE which begat SGML which begat HTML.

    I've programmed C since 1974 and still do, daily. I've bought K&R, twice (and have touched a mimeographed copy dmr made pencil notes in belonging to Jim Fleming) and the O'Reily MySql book to get a fucking update statement right in 1997. Fifty bucks for one page. Other than that I just haven't found a need for them. And I've done pretty much everything.

    In the post-Internet era what is it exactly you can't learn about computers without a book. I don't even want to hear it's "easier". I'm used to not doing it and fins it much less efficient, especially for this kind of stuff where I'm one click away from a local file as opposed to go find the book, find the page...

    Read K&R, Read Knuth. The rest you can easily live without.
    (Skip the TeX stuff though, he went insane at some point)

    • Re:Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Sunday September 22, 2013 @10:02PM (#44921077)

      Books can provide a nice "all inclusive" feeling for a broad topic, or even a specific one. There are lots of great online resources, but most are limited in scope, and learning that way can have a piecemeal feeling to it. Sometimes it's nice to have a topic covered from a starting point to an ending point by the same author(s) and in a consistent style.

      Good example would be "Programming Perl". Sure, you can learn perl in pieces from the gazillion online resources (perlmonks is awesome), but if you read the book cover to cover, you get a kind of well thought out guided path through the language. Personally I've still got my (second edition) copy and occasionally dig it out... it's aged well and makes a great resource.

      I'll admit I haven't read a book on anything computing related in a while, but I fear that's more because I haven't really learned anything thoroughly in a while, which kinda scares me...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How much do you want for your old copy of Kids These Days?

    • Re:Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bite The Pillow ( 3087109 ) on Monday September 23, 2013 @12:00AM (#44921447)

      I'm not sure how helpful your anti-book rant is going to be for a volunteer at a bookstore which helps a library, which happens to be a subculture which is going to be immune to any argument you make, no matter how well presented. They rather like their books, you see, and some of the people they serve don't have computers. Should they come to the library to read the books online?

      I will say that I bought an e-Ink device precisely so I could read stuff I got from the internet, in a book like format. I much prefer it, and I can't defend my preference any more than you can argue that I should prefer chocolate or vanilla. I just like it.

      If I am one click away from a local file, I would open it instead of the book. But I rarely am. How many times a day are you one click away from the book you need? If your answer is anything other than "okay I was exaggerating" you are weird. Seriously, most people don't keep books on the desktop or in a folder that is always visible.

      If I had to plug in an external drive or DVD, wait for it to spin up, browse to the folder, find the file, and wait for the PDF reader to open up, I would open the book. I can make things sound more complicated than they really are to make my point sound more convincing.

      I'm also actually quite good at finding what I want to in a book - with practice it gets easier.

      Some people agree with you - you are currently at +4. So you're not wrong. But others disagree with you, and we aren't wrong, either.

    • Re:Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pkhs ( 127051 ) on Monday September 23, 2013 @06:23AM (#44922409)

      What do you mean by "Skip the TeX stuff though, he went insane at some point"? Is there anything better for producing readable math with both ease and at low cost (that can be used for high quality print publishing if desired)?

      • by tepples ( 727027 )
        Perhaps rs79 meant "skip TeX unless you're writing a book about a subject that uses a lot of equations."
  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:29PM (#44920961) Journal

    I have some computer science / theory books that are twenty years old and still quite valuable. Those include Cod on relational database design theory. My Visual Basic 6 books are trash because they cover a specific, outdated version of the software.

    Thinking about it further, not only are the good old books theory oriented, the ones that come to mind on authored by the originators of the topic - Cod & Date, K&R, etc. The thoughts of the founding fathers of a discipline are always relevant.

  • My Local library sells any books donated to them so they can use that money to buy more books.

    Go figure. They got a book, so instead of loaning it out, they sell it for less then it costs to buy another book. Great system.

    • My Local library sells any books donated to them so they can use that money to buy more books.

      Go figure. They got a book, so instead of loaning it out, they sell it for less then it costs to buy another book. Great system.

      Because a good librarian will keep the collection alive with books that enough people will actually want to read. Usually libraries are not interested in just accumulating people's old junk books.

    • It is a great system. It's a fantastic system.

      I used to work at a library ages ago, and that's generally the system we used. We might keep a donated book, if we thought there was demand for it, but it was rare.

      Because we didn't want to waste shelf space on random books people didn't want any more. Libraries generally have a pretty good idea of what books are in demand by their patrons, and selling books that won't ever be leant out lets them get books people actually want.

    • Yeah, my local libraries don't in general even want book donations for them to sell for 10-cents anymore. I think that the problem is that library budgets have been cut to the bone and they just don't have the money to pay their staff to deal with all of this extra stuff. Here's what one NYC library system has to say about this:

      Why does Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) no longer accept donations of books and other material from the public?
      Donated books and other materials incur costs and additional time to p

  • I should add the main criteria I use are 1) is it (programming language, operating system, application) still popular and 2) whether it has changed much over the years. I figure it's an inexpensive way for someone to teach themselves the basics w/o having to stare at a screen. If they're able to get up to speed with the book they should be able to handle the changes or new features in later versions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:36PM (#44920999)

    I used to work at a used bookstore, and I was in charge of our computer books section. My experience was that programming books would sell the best - I would put them on the shelf, no matter how old they were, and they would sell. You'd be surprised to see that some still look up for $10-20 on Amazon too, even at over 10 years old. Java & C/C++ sold the best, but they would all sell, I always had empty room on those shelves. The next best sellers were database/server books, then recent Windows OS/recentish OS X/any Linux books. Older OS books (especially older Windows books), most application books, and most how-to-use-a-computer/internet/laptop/etc books did not sell well unless they were less than a year old.

    So I would have also rescued your two books - I think they were good choices, and are likely to sell even though they are old. I would use the above criteria for determining what to keep, and if space is an issue, I'd limit some of the OS/application/textbook sort of stuff to 2-3 years back instead of 5 rather than get rid of older programming & server/database books.

  • Amazon Sales Rank? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:50PM (#44921037) Homepage Journal

    Could you whip up a little tool that would scan the barcode, query the item on Amazon, and see what the sales rank is? There you'd have market telling you what is in demand and what is not. I'd bet (not looking now) the Knuth books have a decent used sales rank while "Learning Filemaker 2.1" does not.

    Find your threshold(s) and have the tool tell the clerk [shelve,sell,recycle].

  • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @09:56PM (#44921059)

    These books are all just copies, not original manuscripts. And O'Reilly books were never a work of art as a medium. Be ruthless.
    If you ever really do need an old edition of the Camel Book, it is available as a PDF download.

    As for, K&R C and the Folley/van Dam book - well, some things are special cases. I still have mine. But as above, very few books are as important as those.

  • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @10:04PM (#44921087)

    Dump anything that is titled "for Dummies" or "Learn $X in $Y days!"

    Keep anything, no matter how old, from O'Reilly books.

  • The Imposible Dream (Score:3, Interesting)

    by martiniturbide ( 1203660 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @10:14PM (#44921111) Homepage Journal
    I really want to see a way that old books (90's and early 2000) content get published for free under a license that allows derivative works like Creative Common Share Alike.

    I contacted some author and almost everyone wants to release the content of their books for free, but this can not be possible since the copyright of the books belongs to the publishers.

    The publishers are big companies and you don't even know to whom ask permission for this and some of them don't want to give anything from their IP. (I even tried once with MS Press by Twitter and never got an answer).

    Do we have to wait a 100 (or something like that) years for the content to be public domain? or does anybody knows any trick on some publishers to open some of their content?
    • There's nothing to be done about old books. What authors can do is work clauses like this into their publishing contract, now, for new books that are written. From practical experience trying that, it's extremely hard to do that if you're an unpublished author. But if you've had a successful book already, it's possible to leverage that into future books eventually being available under a free license.

      Since quite a bit of the computing book market is constantly being rewritten to stay current, if enough a

  • On the one hand, RIP 'cause they're obsolete. On the other hand, there's a lot of obsolete stuff still in use that will be in use for a long time. The trick is getting those obsolete books to the people maintaining those obsolete systems. The chances of someone needing a 90s reference book that you have walking into your bookstore are pretty slim. Maybe you can list them on ebay.

  • by PapayaSF ( 721268 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @10:38PM (#44921179) Journal

    The APPLE II BASIC programming manual by Jef Raskin currently goes for $52 and up on Amazon. A few years ago I found a late-'90s book on embedded systems programming that turned out to be in demand and later sold for about $100 on Amazon. So look up anything unusual, specific, or that might have nostalgia value there or on Bookfinder.com before you recycle them or sell them for a buck or two.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      There's someone in my workplace still using the copy of the "Fortran cookbook" that I picked up second hand in 1987.
    • by Pfil2 ( 88340 )
      Also keep an eye out for BIOS Disassembly Ninjutsu Uncovered by Darmawan Salihun. People are asking $1500 for it on Amazon since it's out of print. I guess it's a collector's item. The company I used to work for paid $700 for it on amazon 6 months ago and as soon as I heard that I googled the book to see why it was in such demand and discovered it was out of print and the author had even posted a PDF of the book on his blog. So, there was no reason to even buy it for the information; it's only worthwhile bu
      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        Despite what you think, all of what you say is funny.

        Some of it is funny ha-ha, and the rest is funny-queer.

        Funny's a funny word.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          and the rest is funny-queer.

          Funny-preferring intimate relationships with people of the same sex?

    • As the number of books for a title go down some software, be it amazon or the sellers, automaticcly increases the prices. So for that book there could just not be many people selling it.
      When you get a book like that the best place to check is ebay. When I was recently throwing out my old books I had a few books that amazon placed in the $100 range and ebay had a bunch at $.10; did not think that a 3rd edition of a management book that was currently near edition 20 would be of that much value.
  • If it's for either the current version of a technology or is for a technology that is version free - keep it. e.g. The Data compression book [amazon.co.uk], and The Pragmatic Programmer are both 15 years old but are still great books that people could learn a lot from.

    If it's for a technology that has had a newer version (or versions) released - probably bin it. Even a book a couple of years old will be massively out of for technologies that are advancing rapidly. e.g. a book on how to develop for iPhones that was release

  • In the desert in Tucson, there's a massive airplane graveyard, where you can always go to find a part. I collect these used books in my business, and it's very frustrating. You can't afford to keep them in a rent-paying, heated building. But they always eventually go up in value. The solution is "speculative accumulation". Find a place in the desert, where they won't mold (they will anywhere else, unfortunately). And dig them up in 100 years. Look at what Kaypros and IBM 85 series monitors are sel
  • Hi g01d4,
    Have a look at any good bookshop with a 'computing' section. Computer graphics and fundamental CS/math education books seem to have a few extra years in them.
    Programming languages, mobile related, tax, product guides seem to have a life under a year with massive version drift.
  • Get some mushroom spores for a couple of quid/dollars off the intarwebs. Soak your book in water for a day and seedit with spores. 2 or 3 weeks later and you have some yummy mushrooms to cook with. There are you tube vids if you need em.
  • My system.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by nbritton ( 823086 ) on Monday September 23, 2013 @03:36AM (#44921981)

    1. I keep most programming books, in fact I still have 8086 assembly and qbasic on my shelf. My rational is they are as useable today as they were twenty years ago. However, books like HTML3 were recycled years ago.

    2. Technical books get recycled after ten years. I.e. Windows 95 for retards, Ethernet the definitive guide, Astrisk, CNE study guide, Master Fedora 3, Absolute FreeBSD. However, a book like "The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System" would be kept as it is a reference book ooperating system design... which fundamentally hasn't changed in thirty years.

    3. I unconditionally keep all math, chem, electronics, science type reference books. It's not as if the laws do the universe are going to change anytime soon.

    Basically, open the book up to a random section, if it is still relevant (I.e. calculus, electronics principles, x86 assembly programming, c programming, perl cookbook, etc.) keep it.

  • I think the less than 5 years is good for a useful computer book for the most part. There are a few folks who may want the older stuff for legacy systems, or things that are institutions (such as vi or EMACS) that will likely be around forever that it gives a good baseline on.

    However, there are a few cases where the book may be more of interest from a collectable/historical perspective. I have a battered copy of Programming Perl, with a copyright date of 1991--it has the pink spine. About ten years ago, I

  • Like "The art of software testing" from 1976. Or the C programming language by Kerningham and Richie. I would certainly save the classics.
  • By year is probably the most efficient way to filter. I would however split the lot between Theory, Syntax, and Technology. The former will have far longer relevance and the latter will have the least with the passing of time. Theory can last for decades, but technology is constantly overturning and starts to become irrelevant even a couple years after print.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27