First Monday: Book Reviews
First Monday
First Monday Reviews: First Monday October 1996 column

Electronic and Internet publishing: new books

Books and sofware reviewed

Desktop publishing is old-fashioned. Now, it's electronic publishing, on CD-ROM at a minimum or Internet publishing, for all of the cyberworld to see. Fundamentally, the commonsense of desktop publishing still works for Internet and electronic publishing. Among other considerations, commonsense electronic publishing means working well in advance on knowing your audiences and their software and hardware configurations; thoroughly researching and verifying information for publication; and, maintaining and updating electronic information on a constant basis. The Internet is littered with home pages that long ago should have seen digital disposal. Hundreds of CD-ROMs from gleeful publishers and authors gather dust in closets or make for shiny mobiles in office skies. These books provide realistic and entertaining suggestions on how not be yet another inventor of electronic junk; may they be successful, ever so slightly, in reducing all of our collective virtual garbage bins. - ejv

Mary Ellen Bates
The Online Deskbook
Wilton, Conn.: Pemberton Press, 1996.
261 p., paper. ISBN 0-910-96519-6
Price $US29.95

BOOKCOVERAny venture in electronic or Internet publishing starts with research; there's plenty of proof that many digital publishers disregard this most important first step. Mary Ellen Bates provides in this book a succinct summary of all of the most important ways to collect and verify information online, from DataStar to Dialog to Lexis-Nexis to the Internet. The book really falls into three parts, opening with a treatment of professional (i.e., fee-based and metered) online resources. DataStar, DataTimes, Dialog, Dow-Jones, Lexis-Nexis, and NewsNet are examined, with contact information, descriptions of information available, explanations of common commands, prices for access, and evaluations. The second section examines general online resources, including America Online, CompuServe, Microsoft Network, and Prodigy. A separate chapter deals with Internet tools and search engines. the last section provides excellent advice on picking the right database and searching practically with the least expenditure of time and money. I especially appreciated, in this section, the list of the seven deadly sins of online searching (originally authored by Reva Basch). For any digital publisher ready to search for information, or for anyone serious about hunting for electronic facts, this book needs to be close to your keyboard and modem. - ejv

Larry Bielawski
From Paper to Online Publishing: A Guide for Planners and Decision Makers
Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1996.
261 p., paper, with two diskettes. ISBN 0-133-53749-8
Price $US34.95
Prentice Hall

BOOKCOVERInternet and Intranet publishing, for any organizations, requires a great deal of planning before one byte goes public. This book calls itself a guide for planners, rather than a technical pixel-by-pixel analysis. In five segments, Bielawski treats the history and development of electronic document delivery in the first half of the book. The second half very briefly looks at publishing options and then examines one solution, Lotus Corporation's SmaText. Nine case studies, referred to throughout the text, end the book with two diskettes providing a trial version of SmarText for further experimentation. The constant flipping from one part of the book to the case studies at the end made this book an exercise in dexterity on paper (a hypertext version would have been easier to handle). The lack of references to other specific methodologies (beyond SmarText) was not helpful. It would have been useful to have some exact figures on cost savings in the case studies, providing real data instead of the usual generalities. The targeted audience of this book - managers and administrators - probably do not care about the difference between synonymy and polysemy (as explained on p. 90); concrete and more detailed case studies, tied in to the text with less page flipping, would have immensely improved this ambitious book. - ejv

Steve Cunningham and Judson Rosebush
Electronic Publishing on CD-ROM
Sebastopol, Calif.: O'Reilly & Associates, 1996.
383 p., paper, with CD-ROM. ISBN 1-565-92209-3
Price $US36.95

BOOKCOVERCunningham and Rosebush provide in this book an entertaining and highly educational review of modern publishing, based on their experiences in creating CD-ROMs and commercials as well as in research and education. In three sections, the book opens with an overview of electronic publishing, an analysis of CD-ROM and online publishing, and examples based on creation of the CD-ROM "The Ultimate Robot" and the SIGGRAPH Proceedings. The middle section of the book treats the technical basics of CD-ROM production, including descriptions of standards, authoring systems, and design considerations. The last part of the book treats CD-ROM manufacture and marketing, with some well appreciated advice on costs and price structuring. An appendix provides a list of companies that manufacture CD-ROMs in quantity and in trial runs; CD-ROM software; and, CD-ROM packaging. The appendix, glossary, and bibliography, along with many examples from the text, are included on a cross-platform CD-ROM at the very end of the book. Practical, informative, and thoughtful, this book should be read by anyone contemplating CD-ROM publishing. - ejv

Bruce Page and Diana Holm
Web Publishing with Adobe Acrobat and PDF
New York: Wiley, 1996.
363 p., paper, with CD-ROM. ISBN 0-471-14948-9
Price $US39.95

BOOKCOVERWell-developed Internet servers use a rich combination of software tools to present information to their readers. Beyond HTML, there are several vehicles for documents but one of the most important is Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). PDF allows documents to appear on the Internet and to be used, without the cumbersome trouble of downloading specific programs for display and manipulation. In four parts, this book opens with an excellent explanation of Acrobat and HTML. The second section explains how to create PDF files and the third part puts these files in the context of your Web server. The last section looks at PDF on CD-ROM and with Lotus Notes, while appendices treat plug-ins, navigation, configurations, and other details. Confused about PDF and Acrobat? Format-challenged on the Web? Ready to move to another level with a home page? Page and Holm's book simply is the solution. - ejv

Darrell Sano
Designing Large-Scale Web Sites: A Visual Design Methodology
New York: Wiley, 1996.
288 p., paper. ISBN 0-471-14276-X
Price $US34.95

BOOKCOVERSuccessful Internet servers are well conceived, thanks to a proper mix of careful analysis and appropriate visual design, well in advance of any tagging and programming. Darrell Sano examines these multi-faceted issues from a number of perspectives in this deliciously helpful guide to Web server preliminaries. This book opens with a discussion of many of the design issues that need to be considered, including an appreciation of the technical limits of your potential audience. With these liabilities in mind, Sano looks at the "organizational framework" or the ways in which complex information can be presented simply on the Web. This architecture of information space requires, in part, the development of prototypes for experimentation in Web production. With prototypes in hand, designs are then developed to test different ways in which information can be presented. A final chapter describes ways in which Netscape can be manipulated with tables, frames, and other devices. Experienced Web workers, tired of the same old HTML formulaic explanations in other books, will find Sano's book eye-opening and wonderfully practical, a valuable addition to the growing collection of books describing Web architecture. - ejv

Robin Williams with Dave Mark
Home Sweet Home Page
Berkeley, Calif.: Peachpit Press, 1996.
183 p., paper. ISBN 0-201-88667-7
Price $US14.95

BOOKCOVERReady to put your family history on the Web, but you're fearful that it will look like just every other vague personal home page? With Robin Williams' examples of the Gargoyle family, there's no need to worry. As in Williams' ten other highly popular and incredibly entertaining books on the practicalities of computing, the reader is gently guided, with plenty of illustrations and humor, in the best ways to create a Web site for the family. For those confused on all fronts, the book opens with explanations of electronic mail, the Internet, and the World Wide Web (for those who found all those topics to be melding into one headache). With that confusion cleared, Williams explains the kinds of tools needed to put together a home page along with warnings and advice (I cheered for the section labeled "eliminating superfluous stuff"). With tools at hand, Williams, in the next part, describes why a layout is needed, how to prepare materials for Web input, and the basics of page design. The book ends with examples, from an online photo album (of the Gargoyle family) to recipes to the family reunion. For those who still are clouded over basic premises, advice, tips, and other explanations can be found at the book's home page at Simply put, this is wonderful book, certain to bring a smile even to the most hardened HTML expert. - ejv

Copyright © 1996, First Monday

First Monday reviews.
First Monday, Volume 1, Number 4 - 7 October 1996

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