It seems to me that buying and reading books is one of the most important investments a developer can make, and one of the most important investment a company can spend on a developer. There were a lot of times when I was confronted with a tricky problem, and what I did was to flip through an algorithm book and I would stumble upon an answer. And there were a lot of times when I tackled a problem head-on without first doing a literature search, only to find out later that my solution sucked and a proper solution had already been written down elsewhere.

But it also seems to me that a lot of companies view books as an expense and thus must be cut down and "budgeted". Sad, but true.

How much your company spends on books?

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    Nothing - i buy all my training out of pocket. Apr 7, 2011 at 1:18
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    Then again, it matters little on the books a company byes if no-one reads them !!! Our company has some great books in it`s library, stuff like code complete and the GoF pattern book... Looking at the code they produce however I am certain nobody read them.
    – Newtopian
    Apr 7, 2011 at 3:43
  • 3
    This guy ChrisF, likes to close questions that are indeed constructive as "non constructive", and click on his profile and see. I think the way he is closing questions, and that he can close any question just by his own single vote, he does seem like he has superiority on top of most other people in the world Oct 19, 2011 at 21:57
  • 1
    At the very least there should be a comment saying WHY the question is not constructive and pointers to make it constructive instead of just closing it immediately without seeing the community reaction... Oct 20, 2011 at 16:09

10 Answers 10


Not a single one that I have requested over 3 years has been approved. And I work in a well known Multinational

  • Here's some more empathy factor. I paid a visit to the company library last week after a loooooooong time. Didn't find a book on the .Net Framework but guess what: there were two books on Hindu Succession Law!!!! Go figure!
    – DPD
    Apr 8, 2011 at 7:25

Not enough. They are such a good cheap long term investment.

But we do have a basic subscription to Safari book online for all the developers. That is one subscription that all the developers share. Luckily (sadly) I am the only one that uses it so I get to pick all 10 of the books on the book shelf.

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    Online books really suck as far as reading is concerned. I can't absorb much when I am reading online.
    – Graviton
    Apr 7, 2011 at 2:48
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    Safari becomes a lot more useful in combination with a kindle. There are some issues related to the small screen here and there, but generally I've found it easier to read safari books with my kindle than with my PC. (This is with the kindle's browser, accessing mobile safari.) Apr 7, 2011 at 9:26
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    We too have a Safari subscription with a 10-book shelf; and I too seem to be the only person that uses it, so I can read whatever I like! Apr 7, 2011 at 11:47
  • I agree that a kindle (or some other tablet/e-reader type thingy) makes safari much more useful. Apr 7, 2011 at 13:21

For the two startups I worked for recently (one of them funded by Sequoia), the feel is that the CEO and/or managers want us to buy ZERO books.

When I first got hired, the CEO knew I didn't know PHP at that time (I knew C, Java, Python, and Ruby), and I asked him what might be good books to read up on PHP when I first started, and he mentioned, "what is it... [pause for a few seconds] it is http://www.php.net" At the same time, when he tried to persuade people to join our company, on the phone, he will say, "We are funded by Sequoia; we are given unlimited amount of money to succeed." But none of the developers I knew at the company buy any book and/or expense it to the company. So I bought close to 20 books that year, on PHP, CSS, Javascript, Prototype.js, jQuery, all out of my own pocket.

At the same time, the CEO will talk about working long hours, having us work from Monday to Friday and come back on Sunday for a "strategy meeting", and give us free $5 food for lunch so that we can work at the desk for extra 45 minutes and not walk outside the building for sunshine, for fresh air, or for a little exercise (our wage was probably about $45 to $75 per hour), and give us free $7 dinners two days out of the week at 8pm, so we would all stay till 8pm and would feel embarrassed to "eat and leave" and so after eating, put in 30 to 45 minutes or more for the company.

And all that, with the other founder, the CTO addicted to the Transformer, and a plastic truck that can transform to a robot, and all the plastic shooting he likes even when we are fixing bugs to release in the next 2 hours, hiring college buddy as the database guy (and storing all the millions of users' passwords in plain text in the DB), the girlfriend as the senior program manager, the girlfriend's brother as head of tech support when he had no tech support experience, and so that they can all be the "royalties" and have an attitude and look down on us, with all that, the allowed money to buy books for us, was zero.

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    The unlimited money to succeed part would have sent me running for the hills
    – MattyD
    Oct 19, 2011 at 21:48
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    Everything you mentioned are classic startup "red flags" that indicate a "get rich quick" scheme and not a serious business. I hope your resume is in circulation. Oct 20, 2011 at 16:11

When requested I can get the company to buy a book. So far I requested 2 books in 4 years. But most books (pocket references, career or skill-growth related) I buy myself because I like to own them myself.

Although I'm sure nobody would miss the books if I'd take them home :-).


My current employer, The Motley Fool, has a Safari Library account. Also, each developer can buy any programming-related book for work and have it expensed.


Our company allows us to buy any book that is related to work but I find books to be a bit personal. I stick "post it" notes or do a note here there so I buy all my books out of my own pocket.

Normally for reference checks I use google and I also seem to have less and less time to read through a whole book, often I just skim through it or jump directly to a chapter or two when looking for something.

I also use the Safari books and find that a good source as well since its rather convenient plus you sometimes get updates of the books you got.


Most of the companies I've worked so far bought (at least some) books when we requested. Although, in all fairness, in my early years I haven't read much. Until I met a senior developer who had a full shelf of professional books - it was a major turning point for me to realize that one can invest into his own professional development this way. So I started to build up my own little library, which (or at least the relevant parts) I bring with myself to every new workplace. In most places, I get surprised reactions, or even weird glances - most of my coworkers up to now have never read, much less owned a single professional book since school days :-( Those rare teams with at least some such fellow developers stand out, and I remember them fondly.

Since then this (i.e. whether the company buys professional books/journals) has been one of my selection criteria for prospective employers, although AFAIR I haven't received negative answers from interviewers. (Of course, I can well imagine that answering straight "no" to such a question would sound bad, so everyday reality may be different from what the interviewer tells... but their reaction to the question and body language tells a lot too :-)

My current company is perfect from this point of view, we can order practically any books, and our two-person team does order about a dozen per year. As other answerers, I also like to have my own copy of the most foundational books though, so sometimes I order from my own budget too.


We're free to request any books we can use for work.

Even so, most developers rarely buy books.


I prefer a book or a training class when you may learn things you would never had known and wouldn't think to do a search for it. Otherwise, you can find a lot online.

Our firm covers books, training or college courses up to a few thousand dollars.


My previous employer have collection of books (maybe 40 books) on the shelf. And I don't think they add more (at least they didn't when I still work with them).

Currently, they have a huge library, 16k of books. Because it's a University. haha, So, I think it depends on the company nature.

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