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Featured Books

Digital Libraries

The Intellectual Foundation of
Information Organization

Net.people:The Personalities
and Passions Behind
the Web Sites

The Complete Idiot's Guide to
Starting an Online Business

Recommended Reading

ONLINE, November 2000
Copyright © 2000 Information Today, Inc.


For this issue we look at a few books that define our progress into the digital age, covering the broad topics of digital libraries and organizing information. Then in cyberspace, we get inspiration by stories of folks on the Net, and learn how to get started in ecommerce ourselves.

* * *

Digital Libraries
by William Y. Arms

ISBN: 0-262-01180-8
Published: 2000
Pages: 287pp.; hardcover
Price: $45.00
Available from: The MIT Press, 5 Cambridge Center,
Cambridge, MA 02142-1493; 800/356-0343;

If you have missed the last ten years of library development and want a quick way to catch up, this book provides a good overview of what has happened. It describes the original impetuses for digital library development, early initiatives by players within and outside the traditional library arena, and provides some details of ongoing research projects and current (a-year-old) digital library implementations.

I couldn't figure out who would best be served by this book. Some parts are extremely simplistic, such as how the Web works and the basics of HTML. Others get highly technical, such as descriptions of object models and software architectures. But I concluded that this is ultimately good, as broad cross-section of readers can use it to fill gaps in their knowledge.

The book is very practical and easy to read. Each chapter focuses on a particular concept or challenge of digital libraries, such as legal issues, archiving, metadata, etc. You can read just the chapter you want, and there are numerous "panels" detailing particular initiatives. A glossary is included to help those unfamiliar with the digital library lexicon. Strangely, the biggest omission is a lack of URLs for any of the multitude of digital libraries mentioned, or as references for further information. This seems crucial for such a time-sensitive topic–and odd when the author acknowl- edges that his major source of input for the book was the internet.

* * *

The Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization
by Elaine Svenonius

ISBN: 0-262-19433-3
Published: 2000
Pages: 255pp.; hardcover
Price: $37.00
Available from: The MIT Press, 5 Cambridge Center,
Cambridge, MA 02142-1493; 800/356-0343;

We are all involved in the organization of information, but how often do we stop and consider the underlying principles upon which our decisions are based? This book, as the title suggests, provides a foundation for our thinking and our current processes.

The author does an excellent job of presenting the information in a clear, readable style. The book is divided into two parts. The first part takes an analytical look at the pieces that form our basis for organizing information, focusing on definitions and descriptions of the building blocks. This includes defining information and bibliographic objects, and setting out the principles of bibliographic description and languages. The second part of the book goes into more specifics of the different languages used for bibliographic descriptions, covering cataloging, indexing, and specialized vocabulary and classification systems.

Although the author certainly attempted to make the book understandable to those outside the library profession, the examples are so rooted in the library world that an outsider would have great difficulty in extrapolating the material to his/her own environment. The issues that are brought up about the difficulties inherent in any organizational scheme are certainly universal, but not easily extracted for the novice. However, for those in the field, the book is both thought-provoking and fundamental. By looking at where we have been and how we got to where we are now, we may create even better organizational schemes for the new types of media and information we are facing today.

* *

Net.people: The Personalities Behind the Web Sites
by Thomas E. Bleir and Eric C. Steinert

ISBN: 0-910965-37-4
Published: 2000
Pages: 317pp.; softcover
Price: $19.95
Available from: Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike,
Medford, NJ 08055; 609/654-6266;

Have you ever wondered about the people behind some of the Web sites you visit? Why have they devoted so much time to something for so little reward? This is the book about those people. It is not about successful dot com companies. It is about the individuals who created Web sites based on a passion for a particular topic or hobby. A few of the sites are making money, but most of the stories end with the wish that the owner could figure out a way to do the Web site full-time.

Thirty-six individuals are profiled in this book. The authors state in the introduction that they never met any of the individuals in person, and most interviews were conducted via email. This shows, since the pages seem lacking in the spirit of the individual and there is no analysis. They are stories, not interviews, and I did not feel I really got to know the person. Also, the stories are strikingly similar, as most of the participants started their Web site as a hobby, and are now trying to find ways to make it self-supporting.

It is nice to hear about people who created Web sites from scratch, with no money from the venture capitalists and sometimes little technical skill. It would be more interesting to have some analysis and true insights into the workings of these sites and their creators.

* * * *

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting an Online Business
by Frank Fiore

ISBN: 0-7897-2193-7
Published: 2000
Pages: 345pp.; softcover
Price: $18.95
Available from: Que Publishing, Macmillan USA,
201 West 103rd St., Indianapolis, IN 46290-1097;
317/581-3500; 800/858-7674;

Like the other books in this practical series, this book provides down-to-earth advice on setting up your online business. Whether you are selling a service, a subscription, a downloadable product, or a shippable product, you will find the basics of how to sell it here.

The book starts with some basic facts about ecommerce, and then goes into basic business and marketing plan development. The author emphasizes that it is not enough to sell a product, you also need to find the appropriate niche. There is a nice mixture of Internet-specific advice combined with practical business sense. The author tries to include free resources wherever possible, as well as for-fee services, to cater to all budgets. He covers all the necessary technical topics, such as choosing an ISP, shopping cart software, credit cards, and fulfillment options.

There are lots of useful URLs scattered throughout the book. A combined and sorted list such as an appendix would make it much easier to find these resources again. If you are thinking of setting up shop in cyberspace, this is the book to get you started.

Deborah Lynne Wiley (deb@consultnw.com) is Principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc. and HARDCOPY Editor.

Comments? Email letters to the Editor to editor@infotoday.com.

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