Which is the best way to buy ITIL version 3: as books, PDFs or online subscription? The IT Skeptic makes a choice.

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There are three ways to buy ITIL Version 3: books, PDFs or online subscription. Which is best?

You can obtain the ITIL v3 books as PDFs, i.e. downloaded softcopy Adobe books. Before you buy be aware that the ITIL version 3 PDFs, although searchable, cannot copy and paste text when quoting an extract from a book, which for me defeats one of the only real advantages of softcopy. According to itgovernance "PDFs are not networkable, can only be printed once and cannot be copied, cut or pasted...any attempt to copy, cut, paste or move the PDF may result in its corruption...They can only be viewed using Adobe Acrobat 6.1 or 7 (not 8.0) and will need to be activated by visiting the Adobe DRM Activator website." Strike one.

The other advantage of softcopy is usually portability, but the ITIL v3 PDFs can only be installed on the one machine, which means they are only as portable as your laptop, as compared to the portability of a CD. Van Haren Publishing's itilbooks site says "Once downloaded the PDF is permanently stored on your PC. It can be used on another PC provided Adobe reader 6.01 or Adobe 7 has been installed, and by setting up a .Net Passport from the DRM activator site." Strike two.

Despite the massive reduction in production costs they don't cost any less than the printed books. Strike three. And even though they are digital, ITIL v3 PDF buyers don't get automatic updates. Strike four .. no wait, you're already out. Skip the PDFs.

Second option: you can also subscribe to online access to ITIL version 3. The online subscription will also give you "Dynamic content, Easy navigation, Bookmarking, History, Cross-linking between chapters, Pop-up glossary of terms" and 50% off a hardcopy set of the books. Now for me the only benefit of the ITIL v3 online service that I can see (as compared to cool geek features that I don't need) is "dynamic content", i.e. the books automatically reflect any updates to the text. So far as I am aware there haven't been any yet [correction: we may have moved to the second edition already], and BOKKED shows very few important errors in the texts. This subscription service will cost you almost as much per annum as the books will to buy. Let me repeat that: you can buy a new set of the five ITIL v3 hardcopy books every 18 months for less than the cost of subscribing online. Strike one against online subscription.

Another thing about online subscription (for me anyway) is that it is less convenient to read in bed or ... er.... other places of deep thought. Strike two. And I for one would still much rather read paper than pixels (maybe it is just my aging eyes). Strike three.

Which leaves option three, the five books as books. Actually there are six books in ITIL version 3, including the official Introduction to the ITIL Service Lifecycle, written by Sharon Taylor, as a summary of the other five. [Note: NOT yet been updated to 2011 edition]. I think it is pretty good. Certainly a good place to start for those who are not keen to fork out hundreds of dollars for the five books (see ad to the right here for current price).

[updated:] An even better introduction to ITIL Version 3 is Passing Your ITIL Foundation Exam (updated to 2009 syllabus). [Note: NOT yet been updated to 2011 edition]. This book is also published by OGC as part of ITIL. As discussed in my review of this book, it is even simpler than the Official Introduction, and has the benefit of being half the price.

So the IT Skeptic's recommendation is: buy Passing Your ITIL Foundation Exam. It may prove to be all you need. If you need more, read Introduction to the ITIL Service Lifecycle. If that does not have enough depth for you, then buy the full set of ITIL v3 in hardcopy. Next time that there are significant updates, buy it again to replace your dog-eared set (including the one someone borrowed and never gave back).


That makes two of us. I

That makes two of us. I rather read paper that pixels and that's why I think paper will stick around for a while until we find a better replacement. My personal library is filled with 3 ring binders containing professional information extracted from PDF files. I could read all that on my laptop but having the paper alternative works better for me.

ITIL Online

Another option for viewing ITIL v3 online is 24x7Books. These are HTML versions of ITIL v3. Best online/soft rendition. They also have v2 books (all).

looks legit

US$499 per year for more than just ITIL, so not bad I think (i'm a bit jet lagged), This looks legit.

Customer viewpoint...

I think that Books 24x7 is an outstanding resource -- I use it CONSTANTLY. The service sends out weekly updates with new books added and I look forward to seeing the new submissions. I can only remember one or two weeks where I didn't find at least one great book to dive into.

For anyone that does research, it's an invaluable companion. My subscription covers several of the libraries. For me, it's definitely not a replacement for hard copy books. I consider it an opportunity to search a broad database of relevant books and go real deep real quick. In fact, I've found that I end up buying more books (in hard copy) from having the chance to review them in soft copy format.

How I got the ITIL v3 books into Microsoft Word format

Got the online subscription, then I went page by page dragging across the HTML and dumped it into MS Word. It took me several hours to get through all 5 volumes. The dragging grabbed everything including the graphics. The only glitch was all the table formatting came out centered instead of left justified, but that was easy to fix.

I'm very happy as now I can just copy and paste the content (and do a spell-check on the Queen's english, changing it to u.s. english)

Digital Rights protection is impossible

Not too many people will go through that Joe. it does show however that Digital Rights protection is impossible and the ITIL books will leak eventually.

DRM Skeptic

You are correct, DRM as it is conceptualized today is structured for failure. It is not solely a technology problem. But what Joe is doing is within the scope of copyright law (Fair-Use).

DRM technology controls access much more strongly than copyright law. Fair-use is the right to use copyrighted material, regardless of the desires of the copyright-holder. But often the intent of DRM is at odds with fair-use rights over the copyrighted material. As E. Felton remarked, “To a computer scientist, such imprecision is a bug; to lawyers it is a feature, since it allows judges to take into account the unique circumstances of each case.”

no respect for the copy rights of owners of digital media

Quite right. So long as Joe stops there it is legal. But there are people (and cultures) with no respect for the copy rights of owners of digital media. Someone will move on to the illegal step of distributing the books. i saw the first appeal for pirate copies on the forums before the books were actually released. It is inevitable that people will circulate (and sell) pirate copies.

ITIL Copyright

Hate to disagree with you good people but, if Joe's "cut and paste" is pasting extracts, however small, into another document that is not strictly limited to his personal use, e.g. its intended to be used as part of an article, or web page, or other published product, that is NOT fair-use and is in breech of Copyright Law. As I'm sure nobody needs reminding, ITIL is protected by Copyright; it is not "in the public domain"; and ITIL is a registered trademark.

You may not quote ITIL for commercial use without permission

The law is very grey. In principle though John is correct. You may not quote ITIL for commercial use without permission. See my latest post for more information.

Here you go Skep

And how, pray tell, would you define "strictly limited to personal use"?

No one is disputing that ITIL is a registered trademark protected by Copyright. Copyright laws give copyright owners the right to prohibit others from copying a work or creating a derivative work. Fair use can be understood as an exception to this rule, saying that in certain cases a user can legally copy a work or make a derivative work, even if the copyright owner objects; for example, including clips from a movie in an online review of the movie is generally fair use, even though it involves copying parts of the original copyrighted work. Similarly, making a backup copy of a digital work is typically fair use.

The legal definition of fair use is highly vague. No enumeration of fair uses is provided. There is not even a precise algorithm for deciding whether a particular use is fair. Instead, the law says that judges should make case-by-case decisions based on four factors: the nature of the use; the nature of the original work; the portion of the original work used; and the effect of the use on the market.

The law does not say exactly how these factors should be evaluated or even how the factors should be weighted against one another. Fair use is a judgment call; it allows the fair use doctrine to evolve in light of technological innovation.

The lack of a hard-line rule separating fair use from copyright infringement has another consequence. Although some uses are clearly fair and others clearly not fair, there is a large gray area of uses that may or may not be fair. For example, I can resell my old books but the RIAA says I cannot resell my iPod with its stored music collection. If I resell my laptop, with all the ITIL pdfs stored within, is this "strict personal use"?

Even a well-trained copyright lawyer cannot say with certainty where the line lies between fair and unfair uses. The most anyone can say about one of these gray-area uses is that there is a certain probability that a judge will find it legal.

Come on you copyright lawyers - help us out

My understanding of "fair use" is that it covers commercial use as well. So long as the extract is of reasonable length and is properly attributed then of course one can quote from ITIL. Come on you copyright lawyers - help us out here...

Get your correction fluid out now!

Quietly, in the dead of night, without any publicity, or release note (what is one of those?) or anything else, new copies of the 5 core books have been released. Apparently "As the second impression of these publications only contained minor amendments to typographical errors so
no statements were released. I can confirm that there have been no
changes to the technical content whatsoever." Sounds OK. However, we have also been told by someone else that these changes were "Typos corrected mainly, 1 or 2 references corrected and a few arrows on diagrams now pointing the right direction. Nothing dramatic at all"

HOLD ON!!!!! " few arrows on diagrams now pointing the right direction." !!!! That sounds to me like a pretty important change to me. I have spent hours trying to fathom some diagrams (as there are no decent explanation in the books). Now, I find out that maybe there was no explanation! Arrows pointing the wrong way is pretty fundamental. And worse - I now know that some arrows are wrong...but which ones??? A Release note specifying the changes might have been an idea, or even, dare I say it Good Practice!

Liz Gallacher
Freelance Trainer and Consultant

arrows and all that

Hi Liz,

Thanks for your posting. I ran into some textual issues as well.
Would you be willing to share your findings with the rest of us? Which arrows did you have a problem with?

Maarten Bordewijk
Getronics PinkRoccade

I passed this information

I passed this information on, it was a friend who queried what had changed and was told this about the arrows. My point was that we do not know which have changed! I have made sense of all the diagrams I have used (more or less) but that does not guarantee that the diagram was correct - I may have been talking myself into it!

ITIL diagrams

I see what you mean. I think many of us had similar experiences. I actually used this principle when discussing the Manager's Bridge syllabus with my colleagues: "here's a diagram...what does it mean". Part of the exam is about that as well, we found out. It proved the proper preperation, because we all passed.

Maarten Bordewijk
Getronics PinkRoccade (Trainer/Consultant)


Whatever you find, the convenient place to document them might be on BOKKED? It is easy to use and it helps centrally document all errata


Places of deep thought

So I can see that we read in the same places! :-)
Books were my first and only option. I do like reading in the bus, in the subway and in those places I like to think about work :-)

The Hybrid Option

Actually, if you buy the PDF, have a decent copier and Adobe Writer, you can print off multiple copies, then stick them in three ring binders. Then you have both the PDF portability and paper-based convenience.

Note that I am not advocating piracy or anything of that ilk, but if you happen to drop your paper copy in a puddle of water, it would be quite easy to just print another one.

I think the print once restriction may only apply to Adobe Reader - not Writer.

Hybrid Option

We have bought the 5 books set, and later the PDF version of Introduction. My experience: PDF is such a drag, we still didn't manage to move it to another PC (and we have 40 hardcore IT system consultants), printer copy is nowhere near usability of a real book and printing more then once is next to impossible.
My advice: go for the real book version. Those who prefer piracy will soon have a plenty of cracked copies on their P2P networks, and good citizens like us will enjoy our book versions, appreciating the price of our knowledge.

doubtless show up on eBay

Not to mention the ten dollar CDs which will doubtless show up on eBay like other piracy

The only benefit of the

The only benefit of the PDF's is their portability. Its a drag that they only work with certain Adobe versions and require a .net account but it saves having to lump around 5-6 books.

I like the online attempt but find that at customer sites sometimes I don't have an internet connection due to security reasons and therefore could not access the on-line version. Also cost of online seems high.

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