How to Judge a Reliability Book

How Do You Judge a Reliability Book?

By it’s cover no doubt. The title and cover are important, this is true. When you judge a reliability book we often first see and evaluate the cover.

The author? Do you buy the book based on who wrote or edited it?

Do you have a quick scan or check for key features before you add the book to your library? I’m curious how you select a book to use a reference for your work. The books we read and use for work shape our work, thus it’s important to have the right works at our disposal.

Different Kinds of Reliability Books

We use professional books for different purposes thus that may change how you judge the book.

  • Reference books such as dictionaries or glossaries are for quick checks or research.
  • Text books provide explanations, develop concepts, provide examples, and include end of chapter problem sets.
  • Business story book are part fictional novel and part concept development. These may include explanation of processes, success stories, overcoming obstacles, and procedures.
  • How to books show us step by step how to accomplish something. 10 steps to perform FMEA, 5 step planning for an ALT, etc.
  • Edited collections are books written by various authors. Often each chapter is by a different author. The editor organizes the chapters and works to provide some continuity between chapters.

Of course some books mix the above elements. For example a text book may include how to elements. In part the way we judge a book is by how we expect to use the book. If we’re taking a class then reference and text books may be particularly helpful. If trying to brush up on sample size determination (just need the formula) then a how to or text book may have what we need.

How I Judge a Reliability Book

Here’s what I do when I discover a reliability book. I have hundreds of books in my library so have enjoyed judging plenty of books over the years. Also, I suppose my criteria is aimed more at understanding what the book is about rather than to inform a purchase decision.

First, I scan the table of contents. How is the book organized? Does it have topics of interest?

Is the book slanted one way or another concerning treatment of the topic.  For example, some are more a statistics book that has reliability topics, while others are a reliability engineering book that happens to include statistics. Is the book theoretical or practical?

Second, skim the first few pages (the forward or first chapter). This often is where an author explicitly describes what the book is about and who it for. They may layout the purpose and organization of the book as well.

Third, flip through the book. Get a sense of the layout. Masses of dense mathematical derivations or complex charts and graphs or blocks of dense text.

Fourth, scan the appendices and index. A text book and some others will include pure gold in the appendix section. The index is a quick way to determine the range of topics, plus a sense of how you quickly you could find something in particular.

Finally, how does the author talk about reliability? Do they use the definition that includes function, environment, duration and probability? Do they use MTBF? As you suspect, the work diminishes in value if they use MTBF instead of the reliability function. If they use MTBF is it describe a concept then quickly move on to a useful discussion while not using MTBF?

If a book uses MTBF I don’t use the book for work. Such books are not helpful for the practical world of reliability engineering.

How Do you Judge the Reliability Books You Run Across

What do you look for in a book? What would you add to my list of checks of a book?

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

About Fred Schenkelberg

I am an experienced reliability engineering and management consultant with my firm FMS Reliability. My passion is working with teams to create cost-effective reliability programs that solve problems, create durable and reliable products, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce warranty costs.

3 thoughts on “How to Judge a Reliability Book

  1. I’ve been very lucky with the books I’ve bought over the years, based on Table of Contents (buying online).

    Many ‘reliability’ books provide you with the basics of reliability and go no further. If you’re looking for some really meaty reliability, a bit of research is required. I was reading a paper which quoted a Bayesian book, (I looked for over a year for a good Bayesian Reliability before buying one from Springer Yellow Books.

    1. Yes, to find the really good book does take a bit more work.

      What is the Bayesian book you found? Would you recommend it? Maybe write a review that we could post here on NoMTBF.



      1. My approach is similar although I look to understand ideas behind managing for reliability and not just the analytical or testing sides. What are the requirements set for reliability – test to failure to really understand what are the risks or is it just a Delphi-like approach with people guessing in a classroom? That is as bad as using MTBF as a decision aid!

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