Do developers still read? Now, you might think this is a silly question… of course developers read! However, the real question is do they still read books, inside and/or outside of work, either fiction or non-fiction (or both!).
Our world is becoming increasingly virtual and online. The way in which we communicate has changed, learning and work resources are more readily available, and our free time is precious. All these factors have led to a shift in our lives and activities. Reading for a lot of individuals has become a chore. Why would developers need to read a whole book when they can easily find what they’re looking for on stack overflow and other alternatives? These online facilities allow developers to search for their exact question, offer constantly updated content and give benefit from the wisdom of the crowd.
My name is Alicia, I work as part of the marketing team at IDRsolutions. I work alongside a group of hard-working developers who spend their day improving our products to create the best service and customer satisfaction possible. I personally enjoy reading and was interested to see if the team was of the same opinion. Also, I thought this would make an interesting read for other developers or reading fanatics. Therefore, I asked our developers if they still read books and here is what they had to say about the matter.
Mini interviews with the team
Mark is the CEO of IDRsolutions which he stared in 1999. Telling me about his coding upbringing, Mark said, ‘when I started coding my VIC-20 as a precocious schoolboy in the 1980s, you had to read written manuals to learn anything’. Continuing he added, ‘I still have several well-thumbed Programmers Reference Guides for some old machines. When I learnt Java in the 1990s you still needed to buy the book’. I went on to ask Mark his general opinion on books, he said, ‘I still read technical books to understand or learn about a topic, however, “how do I questions” are now much easier to get answers for on the Internet’. Yet, Mark does enjoy reading non-technical books as he sees them as ‘a great escape after work’, adding ‘I read a wide range, my last 2 fiction books were by Leo Tolstoy and George Romero’.
Suda, one of our senior developers, also discussed his beginnings with code and development and his relationship with books. ‘I remember when I was first learning computing, I bought several 3d max and Maya bibles, these books are massive when it comes to searching for something and it takes ages to find what I am looking for’ said Suda. The introduction of online tools allowed him to download the PDF version of books, saving space, ‘I started downloading 300 books to learn computer science’, said Suda. Yet, Suda understands the risk of getting all his information online, as he added, ‘if we lose internet and electricity then having eBooks will be a huge problem (because I have watched I am legend several times)’.
‘I’ve spent a lot of the last decade with my nose in the PDF versions of various font specifications, which is often the only way to answer questions too obscure for StackOverflow’, added Sam, our York based developer. Yet, Sam prefers reading outside of work, adding ‘I much prefer the feeling of a real book in my hands, with the exception of audiobooks when travelling’. In addition, he added, ‘long time readers of this blog might be aware of my love of graphic novels – most recently I’ve read Daryl Cunningham’s non-fiction graphic novel about Billionaires, which features (among others) a profile of Jeff Bezos. On the fiction side, I mostly read sci-fi/fantasy – I’ve been enjoying Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series along with some friends.’
Our newest developer, Jacob, said, ‘most of my reading material comes from online documentation, open-source code, technical blogs, and programming tutorials (as well as endless amounts of Stack Overflow posts of course)’. He added, ‘I tend to read to learn, especially when I’m doing a project and want to look at how to approach it/how other people have done it/why it’s not working’. When asked about reading outside of work Jacob said, ‘when I was younger, I read great amounts of fiction for entertainment, I was a big fan of modern fictions like the Alex Rider books, and Sci-fi like Red Dwarf, but nowadays I much prefer more interactive forms of media, so mainly video games and D&D’.
‘I’ve been learning or working with code for the last 20 years, at first my reading would be physical copies of technical books, as time went on, I found my technical reading moved toward online documentation instead’, said Kieran, our testing and cloud expert. He continued by adding, ‘the technical docs I have an electronic copy as things move so fast there is little reason to grab the physical copy each time’. When he is not at work Kieran prefers audiobooks. ‘I started listening around 10 years ago and, in that time, I’ve been able to enjoy many more books than I did in the 10 years before’. Kieran’s favourite genres are Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror. Yet, he still enjoys a physical book, adding, ‘I will get a physical copy if I enjoy the audio version so I can enjoy the slow reading of a good story. This happens more often now I have a toddler who likes to listen to the story before bed’. Currently Kieran has three books on the go, describing them to me he said, ‘my current audiobooks are the Frank Herbert Dune novels, my current physical book (and my favourite) is Niel Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and my toddler’s favourite book is Eric Carles The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ … good choice!
Daniel, our FormVu product manager, said, ‘I’ve been learning about programming since around 2015. Most of my technical reading has been digital with either e-books or online documentation/guides and were typically to achieve a goal’. I also asked him about reading outside of work, to which he answered saying, ‘for anything non-technical, I’ve honestly not been active with reading anything since just before the pandemic hit, as I’ve just not had the drive for it. I had been getting into audiobooks just before that, which would likely be my preferred medium (over a physical or electronic book) as it meant I could listen whilst walking places. But without the strong desire to read/listen, I stopped listening to the audiobook of 1984 and have yet to pick it back up (though I might do that now I’m starting to come into the office again)’. Although Daniel is not keen on reading his preference is fiction. He added, ‘not sure if I’d consider it my favourite, but the last book I really enjoyed was the first Dune audiobook’.
‘I wasn’t much of a reader until I decided to learn programming on my own in 2014’, said Zain, our support and performance expert. Continuing he added, ‘when I saw how much special powers (skills and knowledge) learning gave me, that’s when I became a passionate learner and had the urge to develop myself to gain more special powers’. Zain used a variety of tools to gain his special powers including google and YouTube. ‘What I really enjoyed was listening to audiobooks with my note-taking trello board open or just while I was commuting and working out. They say Google is your best friend but Audible was mine!’, said Zain. Zain prefers non-fiction books, describing why he said, ‘I wanted to read books that would make me a better person and help me solve problems in life and so a lot of the books in my library are self-development and entrepreneurial books. I have read many great books including Outliers, The Alchemist, Think and Grow Rich, but I think the book that has had the greater impact is Rich Dad, Poor Dad’.
Leon is our product manager for BuildVu. When describing his role as a developer he said, ‘I spend a lot of my day reading. One of my favourite books is Obviously Awesome by April Dunford, which I highly recommend if your job role involves thinking about product positioning’. Even though Leon reads for work, his opinion on reading outside of work is very different. ‘In terms of fiction, I think the last thing I read cover-to-cover would be the Harry Potter books as they were being released, which probably says a lot. Even with eBooks and audiobooks, I much prefer listening to podcasts and consuming other forms of media’. He went on to mention, ‘since the start of the pandemic, we have been playing D&D at work on Friday afternoons to keep in touch. I’ve enjoyed this a lot, but if I’m honest I’m in it more for the problem-solving aspect than the storyline – sorry Kieran (our DM)!’.
IDRsolutions book club
There is a common trend amongst our developers, which is that they now typically use online tools for further development and skill enhancement. They argue that is easier and allows for a quicker solution. Yet, a lot of them have an interest in fiction – but sometimes finding the motivation to read is a challenge.
If you’re a developer who wants to get back into reading (or if you’re like me and just want more recommendations to add to your already long list) then I have created the perfect solution for you. For the month of September, I will be running the IDRsolutions book club across our social platforms. Sam put it best, ‘an informal book club is a great way to stay connected during the pandemic!’. There will be a mixture of short tweets and posts to full blog articles covering both business and fiction books for you to delve your teeth into. ‘I’ve found I’ve had better success with books that were recommended to me over finding them on my own’, said Daniel, hopefully this will be you too. Now, what are you waiting for… let’s get reading!