The Intellectual Foundation of
The Complete Idiot's Guide to
ONLINE, November 2000
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.
by William Y. Arms
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 topicand odd when the author acknowl- edges that his major source of input for the book was the internet.
by Elaine Svenonius
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.
by Thomas E. Bleir and Eric C. Steinert
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.
by Frank Fiore
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 (email@example.com) is Principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc. and HARDCOPY Editor.
Comments? Email letters to the Editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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