internet hardware: How to book a place on the superhighway

There's a forest of guides to help you to find your way on to, and around, the Net, says Andrew Orlowski
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Who said the Internet was green? I was pondering this in Dillons' new "Cyberstation" on Gower Street recently. Inside, the bookshop has installed a number of Net-connected PCs to encourage browsers to pick a title from the mini-rainforest of Net books surrounding the machines.

The acknowledged bible of the Net, Ed Kroll's The Whole Internet, has acquired the reputation of being daunting to non-technical readers. This is unfortunate, as Kroll's explanations are justifiably praised as the most lucid and informative.

Similarly, both The Internet Navigator, by Paul Gilster, and Osborne McGraw-Hill's The Internet Complete Reference take a one-stop shop approach, combining tutorial and reference material. Neither book contains a single screen-shot from a World Wide Web browser, which might deter the casual bookbuyer. But actually this is a strong point: it means the books will not date quickly, and also reflects their concentration on the unglamorous but more useful parts of the Net, such as Telnet and listservers.

However, these references do not help the complete novice to get on-line. Having paid the provider of your choice, and bought a modem, what next?

A good start is to buy a book that will hold your hand, although you may have to hold on tight while you pay. Most of the books are American, and British booksellers have a habit of just turning the dollar sign into a pound sign, which makes them expensive. You may be able to order direct from the US - the trouble is, you have to have a Net connection before you can do this.

For PC owners, Peter John Harrison's The Internet Direct Connect Kit helps you to do that. An accompanying disk contains all the software you will need, as well as elaborate instructions on creating a successful log-in "script". However, at pounds 28.99, this is highly priced for a book that is bound to have a short shelf-life.

Charles Seiter's Internet for Mac for Dummies performs the same duty for Apple Macintosh owners, although it is crowded with cute American asides. This trait is shared by the The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Internet, which suffers from over-detailed expositions of tasks without really getting to grips with the principles. (And why is one labelled a dummy or idiot just because you can't use something yet?)

Using the Internet (the User Friendly Reference), published by Que, has a good choice of bundled software. Although ambitious, it suffers from a jargon-crush in its early chapters - the text reads like a vermicelli of acronyms - and the book never really recovers.

Internet Basics, by Steve Lambert and Walt Howe, is a fine text, let down by dull presentation. To their credit the authors aren't afraid of explaining a point, and have the scope to do just that. Published in 1993, the book needs an update.

How to Use the Internet, by Mark Butler, takes an illustrative approach, which works surprisingly well, although it could use more imaginative illustrations.

Future Publishing's .net Guide series looks at a number of Net areas in detail. Titles aimed specifically at the UK are Davey Winder's All You Need to Know About the Internet and Sue Schofield's excellent Net guide.

All You Need to Know About the Internet, Davey Winder, Future Publishing, 324pp, pounds 14.95.

Using the Internet, Bill Eager, Que, 369pp, pounds 18.99.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Internet, Peter Kent, Alpha Books, 365pp, pounds 18.95.

The Internet Direct Connect Kit, Peter John Harrison, IDG Books, 283pp, pounds 28.99.

How to Use the Internet (Join the Internet Revolution Today),

Mark Butler, Ziff-Davis Press, 145pp, pounds 16.49.

Internet Basics (Your Online Access Guide to the Electronic Superhighway), Steve Lambert and Walt Howe, Random House,

495pp, pounds 23.

Internet for Mac for Dummies, Charles Seiter, IDG Books, 304pp, pounds 28.99.

All You Need To Know About ... series, 12 books, Future Publishing, 130- 150pp, pounds 7.99 each.

The Internet Navigator, Paul Gilster, John Wiley, 590pp, pounds 24.95.

The Whole Internet, Ed Kroll, O'Reilly Associates, 543pp, pounds 18.50.

OTHER RELEVANT PUBLICATIONS:

Internet for Dummies Quick Reference, John Levine and Margy Young, IDG Books, 164pp, pounds 7.99.

The Internet - A Complete Reference, Jarley Hahn & Rick Scott, Osborne, 816pp, pounds 21.95.

The UK Internet Book, Sue Schofield, Addison Wesley, 339pp, pounds 19.95.

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