2 March, 2009

Looking for a gift for a geek?

A lot of people land here after searching on “geek book”. I’m not sure what they are looking for, but one idea is maybe that these are people looking to get something for the geek in their life, but they aren’t sure what to do. They know this person loves books, and maybe they are looking for guidance on where to go from there. I figure if that is the case, I’ll do my little bit to help out. Of course these are my preferences, so they may or may not apply to your situation.

Most geeks do love books. The problem, just like people who love anything we can be rather picky too. On top of that, many of us already own a ton of books. This means it can be tough to not end up getting something we already have. With that in mind I’m going to give two suggestions. The first is to consider a gift certificate. Here are the upsides in my mind. Number one, I love buying stuff so it is fun to have mad money. Second, I know I will get what I want. Third, I may really want something other than a book and this is where a gift certificate to somewhere like Amazon really comes in handy. Maybe what I really want just now is a new game or something else. And if giving a gift certificate sounds good, I really recommend Amazon. They tend to have great prices, a wide selection and good customer service.

The bad side of a gift certificate is that it may feel impersonal. In that case, then one may want to think about picking up a gift at a physical book store. I say this for one reason. It can make returns easier. There’s no need to try and ship something back. That might sound harsh, but it is something to consider I think.

Outside of those logistical considerations, if you are going to buy a book what can you do to get a good one? Well, if possible I recommend getting a look at their current library. What kind of books do they like? What do they already have? Not all geek fiction is the same. Some people really love Science Fiction but don’t get into Fantasy much. Some people may really enjoy a sci-fi sub-genre like alternative history. Maybe you will see that their is a certain author that they really like. There is an opportunity there. Lots of geeks are also collectors. Getting an early edition or autographed copy of a book they already have can be a phenomenal gift. It shows a deeper knowledge of who they are as a person.

Tech books can be really tricky. Stuff moves in and out of date very rapidly. I remember being in a book store one day looking at Fedora 5 books. I had just installed Fedora 6 the day before and these books were brand new, and out of date. If they are a Mac person, a Windows book probably wont score a lot of points. If they are a java programmer, they may not really need a C# book. Here I would tread even more lightly than with fiction. It’s not too hard to get a tech book that is pretty much useless for your geek. I’d have a gift receipt in there so they can swap it out for something useful if that is the route you want to go.

Most geeks love to read books and they love to talk about books. This is your last and most powerful tool. Ask them about what they are reading, what kind of books they really enjoy. In all likelihood they are going to be so excited about the conversation, they wont even put two and two together, if you want to surprise them with a gift book.

If you are going to buy something and shop on-line where do I recommend? For tech books, bookpool.com has great prices. For books and just about anything else in existence, as I said, Amazon. And if you aren’t sure a book is the way to go but you want something really geeky and a book is the geekiest thing you can think of; I encourage you to check out ThinkGeek.

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