O’Reilly Online Learning review 2020 – An awesome resource for IT pros

O’Reilly Online Learning review 2020 – An awesome resource for IT pros

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In this article we’ll take a look through all that O’Reilly Online Learning has to offer in 2020 and whether it is good value for money.

Previously known as Safari Books Online, O’Reilly Online Learning is now so much more than just books. What does it include and is it worth it?

With a range of formats including live online training courses, interactive tutorials, books, videos, and case studies, we equip all members of the workforce with the insight they need to stay ahead in an ever-changing economy.

O'Reilly Online Learning

Why do you need O’Reilly Online Learning?

In the world of IT, you can’t sit still. Maybe right now you’re working on a long-term project with a particular set of languages and frameworks and you know what you’re doing. You’re comfortable, productive, and consider yourself highly skilled.


If you don’t keep learning, then it won’t be long before you’re hopelessly out of date.

Some fields move faster than others. Javascript is like the Wild West compared to Java, with a new favourite framework every five minutes, but even Java is dramatically different now from what it was 5 years ago.

In some careers you can study once, train once, and then spend the rest of your life repeating the same old stuff and never having to learn something new. Not so in IT.

If you want to get up to speed on your new project or on your next contract, and you want to get another job after that one, then you have to keep learning, and it can be a massive advantage to have instant access to books, videos, and training on any language or framework or technique.

Sure, you can order a real book from Amazon and have it next day, but do that a couple of times a month and you’ve already spent 2 or 3 times the cost of your O’Reilly Online Learning subscription, and with O’Reilly you have hundreds of books and hundreds of videos and hundreds of courses.


O’Reilly Online Learning is available on desktop and mobile. The mobile app on a phone is ideal for listening into live training sessions or videos during your commute. On a tablet it’s perfect for reading. Phone, tablet, and desktop all synchronize through your account so that you have the same reading lists and the same progress markers. You can even make your own notes by marking up a book as you read, and these are synchronized too.


O’Reilly Online Learning isn’t just for O’Reilly publications. It includes thousands of items from all the major IT publishers, like Pearson, Packt, Sun, Addison Wesley, Manning, and more It isn’t just for programming books, or even just technical books. There’s a lot of resources covering topics like business transformation and soft skills like communication. In fact, here’s the current list of top-level topics you’ll find in O’Reilly Online Learning:
  • Business
  • Career Development
  • Data
  • Design
  • Hardware
  • Math, Science, Engineering Education
  • Security
  • Software Development
  • System Administration
  • Travel & Hobbies
  • Web & Mobile

Learning materials

It’s no longer just books. Books are still the core of any IT learning program but O’Reilly gives you access to a huge selection of material in other formats.


No O’Reilly Online Learning review would be complete without talking about books.

Let’s take Java as an example. A search for Java, filtered to just books, returns over 15,000 results and includes pretty much any Java book currently in print. The same is true for virtually any topic that falls under the “IT” umbrella.  There are hundreds of categories covered:

Java, Spring, Oracle Database Solutions, Java EE, Native Android Development, Python, Game Development, JavaScript, Windows Server, C#, PHP, IBM Cloud, Linux, HTML, C++, Data Science, Microsoft Azure, Cocoa, CompTIA, FinTech, Penetration Testing, Ethical Hacking, Team Management & Leadership, Raspberry Pi, Agile…

We’d be here all day if I listed all the topics available in O’Reilly Online Learning.

Another benefit is that you get early access to a lot of books before they reach the bookstores or Amazon, so if you’re eagerly awaiting that updated edition due out in 3 months, chances are it’s already available on O’Reilly. It is not a library of previous editions and out of date technologies, it is in fact a way to get the latest works before they even reach publication.

Here’s an example of the sort of book available on O’Reilly: Building Microservices by Sam Newman and a screen shot of just the first page of results in the Software Development topic:

Video and audio

Just as rich as the books selection. A search for “agile” videos returns 1254 results. Loads of Uncle Bob’s Clean Coder videos are included. There’s new stuff added all the time and it’s all included in your subscription.

Live training

O’Reilly Online Learning offers a great deal of very frequent live training sessions with highly respected trainers, authors, and coders. People such as:

  • Uncle Bob Martin
  • Ken Kousen
  • Simon Roberts
  • Neal Ford
  • Henri Tremblay
  • Sam Newman

There is a long list of courses and signing up is easy. You get email reminders before the course starts so you don’t forget it, and after the course you’ll get a downloadable video recording of the session. The online course environment is very effective with clear video and audio, the option to submit questions through a Q&A panel, a live chat panel for the coure attendees, and downloadable copies of the presenter’s slides and resources.

Each course typically has a couple of hundred spots available for attendees, and it’s worth signing up early because they are extremely popular. When a course is full you can join a waitlist. People often give up their spot closer to the time when they have other plans and so if you’re on the waitlist you can often pick up a last-minute space.

Each session is moderated by an O’Reilly Online Learning staff member to make sure that any technical issues with the audio and video are dealt with quickly and normally it is trouble free.

Uncle Bob’s live sessions on Clean Code, Clean Architecture, and Agile Development are brilliant and there’s so much more.

Here’s just a tiny sample to show you the range of courses on offer and the variety of expertise levels catered for:
  • Functional Programming in Java
  • AWS Design  Fundamentals
  • Asynchronous Programming with Node.js
  • Google Cloud Platform: Professional Cloud Architect Certification Prep
  • Artificial intelligence: AI for business
  • Microservices Architecture and Design
  • Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) Crash Course
  • Reactive Spring and Spring Boot
  • Programming with Python: Beyond the Basics
  • Architecture foundations: Styles, patterns, and trade-offs
  • Microservice fundamentals
  • Cybersecurity Offensive and Defensive Techniques in 3 Hours
  • Introduction to Docker Compose
  • Introduction to UI & UX design
  • Azure Architecture: Best Practices
  • Programming with Java Lambdas and Streams
  • AWS Certified Developer Associate Crash Course

Interactive learning

This is a new feature. Live coding environments in your browser where you can learn some of the hottest skills in 2020 such as Kubernetes, Python, Docker, Terraform, and beyond. Instead of reading a book and instead of going hands-on with no guidance, here you can get hands-on practice and understanding through guided learning material.


The desktop and mobile access works great and sychronizes your activity across devices. 

When reading a book you can adjust the font size and switch between light, dark, and an “in between” themes.

When playing videos you can adjust the playback speed.

When browsing through the available materials you can quickly add something to your reading list, and create multiple lists for different topics or priorities.

O’Reilly Online Learning also has a few different ways of helping you discover new materials, beyond the usual lists of trending, popular, or recent items.

Playlists and learning paths

Playlists of videos or reading lists of books, or a mix of both, curated and selected by experts in the field. This is a great way of discovering new topics and new authors, and will lead you to new aspects of a technology that you hadn’t thought of looking for.

Resource centres

Content curated by editors to take you all the way through a topic from concepts to deep understanding.


O’Reilly Online Learning costs $399 / £299 per year. That’s around £25 per month.

Let’s put this in perspective. The current most popular book across all topics at O’Reilly today is Hands-on Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn and TensorFlow, by Aurelion Geron. It is £38.99 at Amazon at the time of writing this O’Reilly Online Learning review.

That’s one and half month’s worth of O’Reilly Online Learning spent on just one book.

The second most popular is Designing Data-Intensive Applications, by Martin Klepperman. That one is currently an Amazon best seller and is £27.98, more than a month’s worth of O’Reilly.

The third most popular book at O’Reilly is Python Crash Course 2nd Edition, by Eric Matthes. The Python Crash Course book at Amazon is £18.92.

One book at Amazon can be as much as unlimited access to everything on O’Reilly for an entire month. Every book, every video, every live training course, accessible anywhere on mobile, tablet, and desktop, and downloadable for offline access.

If you ever buy courses at Udemy then you should consider O’Reilly. There are some excellent courses on Udemy and it can be brilliant value. It can also be expensive, and it can add up. I use both. I have O’Reilly because of the huge amount of video courses and live training courses included in the cost. Then I go to Udemy for the stuff that O’Reilly doesn’t cover. The end result is that I spend a lot less.

The hottest and most in demand skill for 2020 is machine learning, which is why Python is the fastest growing language of the moment. Those top 3 books at Amazon for an introductory study session into AI/ML and Python would come to £86.

Let’s do a search for “Python” on O’Reilly. Here are the first few things that are available as part of your subscription:

  • Python Crash Course 2nd edition – book
  • Python Fundamentals – video
  • Introducing Python 2nd edition – book
  • Effective Python – book
  • Python for Data Analysis, 2nd edition – book
  • Python for programmers, 1st edition – book
  • Python for Beginners – video

There are 10,000 more results. And then we also have these live online training courses with multiple sessions coming up over the next few months:

  • Getting started with Python 3
  • Programming with Python: Beyond the basics
  • Learning Python 3 by example
  • Python Full-Throttle with Paul Deitel
  • Getting started with Python’s Pytest
  • Vizualization in Python with Matplotlib
  • Core Statistics for Data Science in R and Python
  • Object-oriented Programming in Python
  • Python for Devops

The list goes on for 3 more pages.

You get all of this each month for the price of just one book. I’m constantly amazed to find colleagues who don’t use O’Reilly or who think it’s not good value. It’s an absolute no brainer. The sheer quantity of high-quality and up-to-date resources available and the ease of immediate access from any location is phenomenal.

That’s why I’ve been a subscriber for well over a decade.

You’re looking at investing as much as £199 in a good Python bootcamp course on Udemy. It can be a good investment, but a better one, a wiser one is to start with O’Reilly. Then go to Udemy for the shorter courses that fill in the more specialist knowledge that is less well covered on Udemy. That said, you will find some of the very best courses on Udemy.

If you’re self-employed this is of course an allowable business expense and for IR35 it’s a good thing to demonstrate that you are paying for your own training and that you have the sorts of expenses that a genuine business has.

If you’re employed then try asking your employer to pay for it. It could be easier to sell this to your employer than you think and definitely demonstrates that you have the right attitude towards professional development.

The price includes:

  • Live Online Training
  • Books and Audio Books
  • Video Courses
  • O’Reilly Conference Talks
  • Early Release Titles
  • Playlists
  • Resource Centers
  • Learning Paths
  • Case Studies
  • Notes, Syncing, and Highlights
  • Personalized Recommendations
  • Online and Phone Support
  • iOS/Android App

My opinion

Let’s conclude this O’Reilly Online Learning review with an opinion.

I always used to buy books from Amazon, and I enjoyed having a bookcase full of IT books. Then you find yourself buying an updated edition to a book you already have, and the original has become obsolete. Or you buy one and it turns out to be not all that great or not what you needed, so then you faff around trying to sell it second-hand. One day you run out of space on your shelves. Another day you realise that your bookcase is now at least half full of books about things you no longer use.

Then you change job or move house, and those books just become a pain in the backside and end up in a box in the loft.

Years and years ago I switched to O’Reilly, or Safari as it was back then, and I’ve never looked back. I would never go back to buying hardcopy books. I would not like to be without the instant access to any book on any work-related topic just by opening a browser.

The sheer volume of material and range of topics makes O’Reilly Online Learning worth every penny. Throw in the videos, live training, and interactive learning, and it is an absolute no brainer.

If you are serious about a career in IT, then you simply must have a subscription to O’Reilly Online Learning. It is an astonishingly good value way to invest in your own future career and financial success.


What does O’Reilly Online Learning cost?

O’Reilly Online Learning costs $399 / £299 per year. That’s around £25 per month.

What do you get with O’Reilly Online Learning?

O’Reilly Online Learning includes a huge amount of books, videos, live online training courses, and interactive learning environments.

Is O’Reilly Online Learning available on mobile?

Yes, O’Reilly Online Learning can be used on desktop, tablet, and mobile.

Is O’Reilly Online Learning good value?

Yes, if you’re an IT professional and you buy even a few books or training courses a year it can cost more than a subscription to O’Reilly Online Learning.

Does O’Reilly Online Learning have new books or just old ones?

O’Reilly Online Learning has the latest works from publishers like Pearson, Packt, Sun, Addison Wesley, and Manning, and often has early access to books that are not yet available in the shops.

4 thoughts on “O’Reilly Online Learning review 2020 – An awesome resource for IT pros”

  1. It now costs $499/year or $49/month, and since I live in Sweden there is also 25% VAT on top of that. It starts to get expensive in my view ….

    1. Luckily I get this from work for free. But not being able to take the books offline is a loss for me. Also you should get book credits to keep titles and allow the export. I use a box note 2 eink android device that allows me to write notes in the book. The app scrolls which makes the eink experience terrible as it has a low refresh by design. I have emailed me to at least allow paged reading I’m the app. The app runs fine but scrolling is not the same as a std tablet. I bought many books from Manning and the are a subsidiary they allow the export of the ePub which works great for me. Also most books can be bought for half price. So I can buy and own 2 books vs the price of the subscription. I also have an collection of kindle titles which is where my eink preferences built from. No need to power down readers on flights. IMO 250 should be the yearly price. I would do monthly and turn it off when you don’t need the resources. If they gave you book credits then I think it would be ok at the 399.

  2. I have a quick question. The title says that it is for “IT pros”. Yeah I have seen that the books and courses go from beginner levels, but does it provide a good foundation for beginners or is it more useful for already professional/advanced users?

    1. It’s used by everyone from students to experienced pros. For those studying or beginning a career in IT, it’s a good option. The price makes it less appropriate for novices or home hobbyists. A complete beginner should start with free online courses and one or two books. Hard to justify an annual subscription unless you already know you will need access to books on a range of topics.

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