Safari Books Online is a great resource. Unfortunately it will never be hugely successful for the following reasons:
- It's priced too high - $42.99 for unlimited access, even though it's low considering how much a tech book costs. Psychologically it feels very high because few subscription-based services charge this amount.
- It does not allow offline reading, let alone offline reading on multiple devices.
- Lack of native app to read ebook for optimal reading experience.
- ebooks piracy is rampant.
In contrast, Amazon Kindle is leaps and bounds ahead of Safari Books Online because it doesn't suffer from any of the issues above. With Kindle, you pay for what you read. You can read it on your computers or portable devices. You can read it without any net connections. Best of all, you have a native app that is designed for optimal reading experience.
Granted, if you read a lot, Safari Books Online may come out to be cheaper but most people don't read a lot. For $42.99, I can own about four books that I can read anywhere, anytime and I will choose that over unlimited acess online browsing any day.
In fact, one of Amazon's smartest moves is by making Kindle books available outside of Kindle and having native apps in their respective devices for optimal reading (offline bookmarking, highlight, notes, etc.) Amazon is known to do things that seem counter-intuitive, or perhaps it's only counter-intuitive if you think from the standpoint of the business rather than the consumers. Amazon is a good example that consistently doing what makes the most sense for your customers is the best way to beat out your competition (not that it has any).
The one thing that can take Kindle to the next level would be a subscription-based services that allows you to pay a fixed fee each month to read any Kindle books you want, except that you have to archive books you no longer read if it goes beyond a limit - say 10 books. Another nice feature would be allowing the readers to sell books they no longer read to another Kindle user (and Amazon takes a cut of that)