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Why You Should Stop Freeloading and Pay for Your Programming Books

This article was republished from Books on Code

We have tons of accessible, free resources. Not just that -- they are full-size and quality technical books, tutorials, and courses for software developers.

Since starting my Books on Code Twitter account and committing to the software developer conversation, I find so many amazing resources. It's crazy -- the number of intelligent programmers who offer their wisdom and projects for absolutely nothing.

While reviewing of the Front-End Developer Handbook, which is also free, I came across this quote:

I am not aware of any other profession that is practically free for the taking with an internet connection, a couple of dollars a month for screencasting memberships, and a burning desire for knowledge.

And that statement isn't even true: you don't need to spend "a couple" dollars a month on screen casting services. The guide was sponsored by a screen casting service, so it presents an obvious bias.

The truth is, with an internet connection, you do not need to pay a single penny to become a self-taught, quality programmer.

If you have a will, there is a way, and by participating in groups like the DEV community, CodeNewbie, and Free Code Camp, you also have a free community of cheerleaders and mentors to help you along the way.

But you know -- there are paid services as well. Even free services like Free Code Camp ask for donations or free coding books like the DEV community's book, Your First Year in Code, give their books for free but accept a donation.

If you can get everything for free, why buy a programming book?

Sit tight. The following sections are going to convert you from the penny-wise programmer to an abundant giver to the development community.

3 Reasons to Invest in Programming Technical Books

Reason 1: Feel More Accountable

I have personally done this:
I audited free Coursera classes. And then I just didn't do the courses.

Even if I wanted to learn the topic, I couldn't bring myself to invest the time. The back of my mind kept reminding me that I could quit without any loss, and so I did.

Investing your money makes you far more likely to invest your time and effort, too.

When money is tied to a service like a class or a book, we feel that we made the conscious decision to invest in that thing. Already, by expending hard-earned cash, we have made an initial investment, and we want that investment to "pay off."

Whether the book is free or paid, we tend to value it more when we paid for it. And there's more: the more we paid, the more we value it and invest in it.

When it's expensive and out of our own pocket, we can feel pride in making an effort to better ourselves. When we pay for a programming book, we think about its potential in impacting our lives.

Consider Flatiron School's in-person bootcamp. It's a huge time investment: several months, full-time. But it's also a huge money investment -- more than I paid for my Master's degree. If I were to go to an expensive, full-time bootcamp, it would be the #1 priority in my life. I would be all in at maximizing the benefits I get from the course, being absolutely sure I got a return on investment.

Now consider Udacity. Their program is online and self-paced, and it's at a massive fraction of the cost -- currently at 50% off at $199 a month. You can get a Nanodegree in front-end or full-stack web development in less than 1/20th the cost of a bootcamp credential! But the program is online and with only a part-time investment. When considering investing in a Udacity Nanodegree compared to a bootcamp, it is far from first priority. I imagine how to fit it around my schedule. As far as priorities go, the investment is comparable to an upscale gym membership at the 50% off price point.

When I buy a book, I imagine myself growing into a better person. I believe I am going to be changed, and I am proud of myself to taking that step toward personal betterment.

Going even more meta here: when I started Books on Code, I was thrilled to buy the domain name, the hosting service, and invest in a logo design. Each action gave me a sense of tremendous value and satisfaction, because each investment meant taking a huge step in making a dream come true to connect with a larger development community and share love of learning and coding combined.

So when you buy a book, feel good about it! Get excited.

Imagine the work that you are going to pour into learning from it. Imagine the person you are going to be -- how you are going to get that programming job or solve that problem or better your team.

Paying for software technical books is an act of giving to yourself.

Reason 2: Incentivize More Great Programming Books

When there is a truly amazing developer resource in existence, for example, the Front-end Developer Guide 2019 or Free Code Camp, the best way we can show approval and to promote and encourage those content creators is by investing in their work.

Many creators who give away free content still accept a means of giving. Take the You Don't Know JS Yet series as an example. You can read the series for absolutely nothing through GitHub. You can also join the completely free Book Club that is currently reading the series.

But here's another thing: you can also buy the books on Amazon and own all of the physical books. You are both giving to the creators and giving to yourself by having a physical copy. You can also be giving to others by offering You Don't Know JS Yet as a gift.

When you invest in creators, the creators give back in a big way by creating more value for you. Your good will compounds, generating more great, free resources for everyone to enjoy.

Reason 3: Grow Your Dev Community

Ken Honda, in his book Happy Money, says it best:

So many of us walk around with all this energy, and it imparts not only ourselves but others as well. We like to think that money is just a number or a piece of paper, but it is so much more than that. Money brings with it so many emotions -- more than we realize. Even when we are aware of it -- such as when we feel stressed about our endless stack of bills, our meager paychecks, or our lack of savings for the future -- we often think we are powerless. We feel hopeless and defeated. ... So few of us see the potential that money has to bring us joy, gratitude, and happiness -- especially when we give it away freely and with the same positive energy as we received it.

When you give freely to your software developer community, you are spreading an infectious, positive energy to others. When we see our community as one that is full of giving and abundance -- just as others have seen it when they gave away resources for free -- we too feel that energy and give in return.

We are all here to build each other up, to learn and grow, and to conquer today's greatest technological challenges. We are all striving to bring impact into our lives, and helping out one another is one of the best ways to do it.

That is ultimately why we should pay for our programming technical books -- out of love for our community, for the authors, for the publishers, and for the enrichment we are going to receive. We give with gratitude for great services that we receive.

Best of all, self betterment is an investment of time and effort and energy -- and it's a journey that we all share. So let's share in the energy and pay for our technical books. 😊❤️️

Thank you very much for reading my Books on Code article.

If you liked this article, please share it with the software developers in your life.

And if you are interested on continuing your journey to self betterment through books and through code, sign up for the Books on Code newsletter at the Books on Code website.

Top comments (8)

ludamillion profile image
Luke Inglis

I think that Reason 2 is the most compelling point. Naturally people want free things but it takes resources to produce content. Producers who aren't subsidized in making their content will tend towards burn out if no one supports their efforts.

I think one of the qualms many people have about paying for content in a field like ours is that there is a risk of specifics becoming outdated (and in some cases useless). I know I'm more likely to buy ebook/online versions of things that include updates to the material for this reason.

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mlimonczenko profile image

That is all well and good. The title is a little click baity; I'm not really calling anyone freeloaders.

The emotions around spending money is complex. I don't think it's as simple as being smart or a fool for choosing the paid option over the free option. All of our relationships with money is different.

tulkdan profile image
Pedro Correa

Yeah, me too, I bought some Udemy courses, and I've never finished one of them. I start one and later find an article or book with better explanation about the same subject, and for free

downey profile image
Tim Downey

I have the opposite problem where I buy more technical books than I possibly have time to read 😭

I always have the best of intentions at the check out page!

mlimonczenko profile image

I just realized:

Part of the motivation for writing this post was that yesterday I met up with my uncle for lunch. He is a university professor and coordinator of a graduate IT program. This week his department is getting cuts; he likely has to lay off all of his adjuncts and spread himself thin. This is an unfortunate and stressful way to live, but we're in a new age of technical education.

codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited

Right on.

Also, #4, you're supporting someone else's career. (Says the programming book author.)

mlimonczenko profile image

Yes! I think that is the spirit of #2. Giving great educators the opportunity to educate. 😁