How to choose webmaster self-help books
Why buy a book when you can get it on the web free?
Many times I have found myself going around and around with a
particular problem, have tried forums, have experimented and mucked about and
then, in frustration, found myself looking for a book to help me out.
Once I've bought the book, and I'm part way through it I've looked
back at my behaviour and laughed "Why didn't I buy this sooner?"
To be fair, there are good answers to that question:
Some books are hideously expensive (especially true depending
on which country you live in and the relationships between your country
and the country of origin);
Some books are not very helpful;
Some books are out-of-date;
Some books are targetted at a level above or below your's;
Some books encompass more or less than you're looking for.
The "bash-your-head-against-a-brick-wall" technique that I employ
before I go in search of a book does also have a few really effective side
I get a pretty average to good understanding of the subject before
I invest my hard earned money;
I sometimes find out that the technology I'm delving into is not the best
one to provide the desired outcome (eg. I'd be better off looking at
Once I have the book there are many more "ah-hah" moments that I
may have missed if I'd not had a go myself first.
Finding the correct book
Ask people you know (but then if you know them you can probably ask them
to help you with the problem).
Ask your web hosting company for help with the problem or a link to a website
or the name of a book on the topic.
Find a popular forum (with lots of members) that seems to cover the topic
you're interested in,
and ask for help with your specific problem.
At the same time ask if anyone knows a good book that can help.
Using the responses, have a look on amazon.com for the particular book
Most major works have had some sort of reader feedback given about them.
Read the feedback - even the seemingly trivial. You can often get a feel
for the style of the book and the particular slant (eg. on a scale
from novice to guru) from the reviews.
The reader feedback often says "...but if you're interested in xyz
then you're probably better off with Fred Nurk's blah-de-blah".
Look for the definitive books - there are usually two or three and explore
each of these (as above - reviews etc).
You now have a shortlist for further investigation (online in forums
"Has anyone got xyz
and what's it like?" or in a shop).
If you have the luxury, go to the best stocked technical book shop in town and
have a flick through the books on your shortlist. If one of the books you
expected to find is not there, ask them why not and when they last had it
and when they expect to get it and if not, why not.
Price - I find it really hard to part with over $100 for a book no matter how
good or tax-deductable it is - but sometimes I do think "What's it worth
Sometimes at this point (leafing through the actual books)
you realise that you need to be on a different tack to the one you started
on. For example, I once went looking for a book on PHP / MySQL and found
myself becoming very interested in books on the broader topic of "LAMP"
as this particular author called it (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). A nice
book, but it can wait - or can it???
[Content of this page last reviewed: 12-Jun-2004]