by Ellen Hoffman, Merit/NSFNET Information Services
[This review reprinted with permission from Link Letter, Vol. 5, #3, Nov-92. Link Letter is published by Merit/NSFNET Information Services. To subscribe send email to: <NSFNETemail@example.com>.]
Informative Internet Books Rolling Off The Presses -- The growth of the Internet has created a market for commercial publishers, resulting in a flurry of new books on getting started with the Internet. This trend is a change from the past, when most Internet "how-to" information was produced by unpaid volunteers and available at no cost online. The newest books are hardly mass-market paperbacks, but for those who don't have online access to free sources of information or just like having a one-source reference on their desks, these books are excellent beginning guides to the Internet.
Three books already on the shelves include works by authors who have previously been active in developing online materials. They have their roots in academia, where the Internet has been most widely deployed and have brought their extensive knowledge to these publications.
Zen and the Art of the Internet -- For a short and to-the-point introduction, Brendan P. Kehoe's "Zen and the Art of the Internet" (Prentice Hall, 112 pages, $22.00) is the second edition of a popular online work issued earlier this year. It provides updates to the earlier document and some minor corrections. The primary focus is what resources are out on the Internet, and how to find out more about using them. This work is ideal for individual users who have questions about using the Internet. Kehoe initially developed his publication while a college system administrator who found himself answering the same questions again and again. When he developed this piece to resolve his frustrations, he also wrote an excellent and friendly summary that benefits all beginning users.
The Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog -- Ed Krol's 1989 paper, "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet," was one of the first general introductions to the Internet for the non-technically inclined. He has followed that success with his new book, "The Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog" (O'Reilly & Assoc., 376 pages, $24.95). Krol's book goes beyond Internet resources to provide an overview of the network's history, technical foundations, and policies. The book evokes the culture of the Internet to help the network novice get a feel for the network's structure which can be useful background for understanding how to best use the Internet. Like Krol's earlier work, the breezy style makes for pleasant reading on what could have been a very heavy-weight topic. The old-time woodcut illustrations in the catalog resource list at the end contribute to the charm of this work.
The Internet Companion: A Beginner's Guide to Global Networking -- The third book comes from Tracey LaQuey with Jeanne C. Ryer, "The Internet Companion: A Beginner's Guide to Global Networking" (Addison-Wesley, 196 pages, $10.95). LaQuey's previous book, "User's Directory of Computer Networks" (Digital Press, 653 pages), has been a primary resource on network providers since its publication two years ago, although rapid changes in networking have dated some of the material - a problem with any book covering this subject. LaQuey brings her knowledge to her newest work and provides a well-researched introduction to Internet resources and uses.
Internet: Getting Started -- Not all guidebooks come from commercial publishers. SRI International has produced an excellent introduction in "Internet: Getting Started" (SRI, 333 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park, CA 94025, 318 pages, $39). Edited by April Marine, this book has an international flavor, covering not only the US Internet, but also networks throughout the world. It is particularly useful for the beginner who is interested in connecting to the Internet, and provides more technical detail in addition to sections on Internet resources. It has an excellent list of network providers and also other organizations which are important to Internet administration and development.
Additional resources via anonymous FTP -- A number of other books are scheduled for release early next year. Of course, there are still many sources of information that don't cost money if you have a connection to the Internet. Two excellent resource guides developed by the information services staffs at NorthWestNet and CICnet are available by Anonymous FTP, as well as Kehoe's "Zen and the Art of the Internet" (first edition). Both guides can also be purchased in hard-copy format from their publishers.
The "NorthWestNet User Services Internet Resource Guide" online version (1992, 300 pages) is available only in PostScript format. To find out about getting the files, get the file README.nusirg in the directory /nic/nwnet/user-guide from ftphost.nwnet.net.
The "CICNet Resource Guide" is available in both text and PostScript formats. For information on obtaining the Guide online, use Anonymous FTP to access nic.cic.net and get the file README in the directory /pub/resourceguide.
If you are interested in obtaining "Zen" and other free, online introductory information on the Internet, a good source is the document collection found in archives around the Internet called introducing.the.internet. To find out more about accessing these publications, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the first text line: send access.guide.