Friday, January 05, 2007

Correction Re Java Tutorials

Grrr. I intensely dislike being wrong in reviews and recommendations. I put lots of effort into my published writings so that readers can rely with confidence on what I recommend. So, it's quite painful--actually, it's a sense of shame and depression coupled with a lot of pain--to realize that I bollixed a review in print.

Such is the case with my quick guide to Java tutorials that appears in the current column in SD Times. In it, I write the following (after discussing the major books in this market):

Finally, for those who want something more serious but don’t require the omnibus tomes, there’s “The Java Tutorial” 4th Edition, by Zakhour et al. (Addison-Wesley Professional). In 600 pages, it presents all of the language proper, with well-chosen code examples, plus the basics of the major API sets. It’s put out by the same team that developed Sun’s outstanding online Java tutorials, which might be the best tutorials ever developed for any language. Get this book to start with, unless one of the others has a particular feature you feel is critical. Either way, you’ll be treated well.
The problem is this book is really not very good and I have to retract my recommendation. It contains some unpardonable errors (its list of Java keywords is incorrect; it refers readers to other books for topics it introduces and never brings to a close--but it only gives you the other book's title, not a chapter or page number, nor even a link to a website that covers the same topic; it makes reference to material that has not yet been presented; and, finally, it makes points that it flags as important, with no explanation as to why.). Don't consider this book, instead go to Volume 1 of Core Java to get the basics of the language in fewer than 800 pages.

My erroneous recommendation comes from an aspect that I failed to consider. The book does have good parts, especially those that refer to the latest items added to Java (enums, for example). I looked at these and was impressed. I then made the error of thinking that the rest of the book was as good as the sections I'd read. The trouble is this book is a gang project and clearly there is considerable fluctuation in the work quality of various authors. I happened to hit the few highlights in my review pass.

Curiously, a few years ago, this problem would not have occurred. Books were primarily written by one or two authors, so quality was consistent throughout--be it good or bad. Any given pair of chapters pretty much reflected the book's overall quality. With the gang books, this is much more rarely the case, as I was badly reminded.

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