Being a bit of a book nut, in an average month I devour about 3 software development titles. I do a great deal of my learning via the printed page. So I’ve never questioned the value of buying books for developers even encouraging them to order books on any development topic they’re interested in.
I remember quite a few years I had a compatriot who was given a $2000/year to spend on training and that one of his options. I remember being just a bit jealous. Anyway I vowed whenever I got the chance that I would implement a book budget for my employees. The benefits are just too obvious:
- Say an average developer orders about 1 book a month on Amazon for an average of $30. For one developer that costs you about $360 per year. Typically cheaper than a single day of vendor training or one day at a conference.
- Most of the reading will take place outside of working hours, and typically if a developer is doing some reading at work or going through examples it’s during downtime anyway.
- A book budget is a nice perk for a lot of developers and can help convince them that you really believe in investing in them.
As a last point if you’re a manager you should assume when you buy a book for someone that it’s pretty much theirs. Occasionally employees share books or pass them around, but typically they like to keep them around as personal references. If you need to buy two copies or more of something, just go ahead and do it. I’ve never seen a library type system work where the company owns the books and you have to explicitly check them out. Basically it’s just an extra layer of hassle for developers. Besides that the library space typically becomes a dumping ground for dated technical manuals and people stop even bothering to check it out.