Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The Preface to Internet Today! states that this is a book for people who want to learn to use the Internet and the World Wide Web effectively and efficiently. There must be many millions of people who today fit that profile, so popular has the Internet become. A fair percentage of Internet users are happy to use the home pages provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP) as a launchpad for their online explorations, or alternatively to use popular directories such as Yahoo!for the same purpose. Many others are content merely to send occasional e‐mails to relatives and friends, or do a little online shopping. Some may not realise, and might not even care, that there exist many thousands of information retrieval tools beyond the Netscape Navigator Search facility. For those whose needs extend beyond the basics, however, there will always be a good market for books such as Internet Today!, which is just as well, as there are a great number of similar titles currently available. The particular audience at which Internet Today! is aimed is college‐level students in the arts, humanities and physical sciences with no prior online experience.
Two things immediately struck me about this book. The first was the very sturdy nature of its binding, which, along with its contents of nearly 300 pages, weighs in at 2lbs 10oz, only a couple of ounces lighter than the Sony Vaio laptop on which I am writing this review. This seems rather unnecessary for a book whose shelf‐life may be fairly limited due to the essentially ephemeral nature of its subject content. The second was the very colourful and attractive format in which it is presented. The borders of the pages of each chapter are coloured alternately red and blue, which makes locating sections very easy, and the illustrations, figures, tables and text boxes which appear on nearly every page are particularly clear and informative.
Interwoven with the main text of each chapter, apart from the one dealing with social and legal issues affecting the use of Internet resources and the question of Internet security, are step‐by‐step exercises which show how to use the retrieval tools, services and resources under discussion. At the end of the main body of each chapter are lists of selected terms used in the text for which definitions can be found in the glossary, and these are followed by exercises which provide further practice with the tools and techniques which have been introduced. On the whole, the authors have avoided making the exercises overly convoluted, although the Web pages referred to tend to be most appropriate to an American audience.
The content of Internet Today! is fairly similar to many other books of the same ilk, and includes a basic introduction to the Web, the use of browsers (Netscape is the preferred choice), basic e‐mail, finding information on the Web, search engines, writing Web pages, less common protocols such as Telnet and FTP, and the aforementioned chapter on social and legal issues. The authors have obviously put a lot of time and effort into making each topic as easy to understand as possible, and the result is a logical progression of ideas.
I was particularly pleased to see in the chapter about finding information on the Web, even before a section on where to start looking, that advice was given on evaluating one’s information needs, along with a warning that the Web is not always the best tool to use to answer questions. Too many students, nowadays, seem to believe that everything can be found via the Internet, so it was refreshing to read that “A reference book in your library may have the information you need, and you’ll find the information more quickly there.” Of course, with more and more reference books becoming available electronically, this situation may change in the not too distant future, but in the meantime it is an important caveat. I was, however, a bit disappointed to see that the list of recommended subject guides was so short (five virtual libraries were recommended, including the Argus Clearinghouse, Infomine, Internet Public Library, Librarians’ Index to the Internet, and the World Wide Web Virtual Library).
Internet Today! is a good solid (in more ways than one), well‐written handbook. Much of the information it contains can be found elsewhere, but its clear layout and use of exercises makes it a useful addition to any library’s shelves, especially a library serving a student population.