International Journal of In,]ormation Management, Vol. 17, No. I, pp. 75-76, 1997 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. Printed in Great Britain (1268-4012/96 $17.(X) + 11.00
Reviews Creating an Information Service (3rd edition) Sylvia Webb Aslib London (1996) 134pp £18.00 ISBN 0 85142 360 4
The HTML Sourcebook. A Complete Guide to HTML 3.0 (2nd edition) Ian S. Graham John Wiley New York (1996) 688 pp $29.95 ISBN 0 471 14242 5
Sylvia Webb's introductory guide for anyone starting up a small-scale information service is well known, and generally regarded as highly recommended reading. This third edition expands its coverage of IT topics, and has a general updating, and will no doubt retain the place of the predeces-
Anyone who began to create Web pages a year or more ago knows how rapidly the use of HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) has developed and how the standard is changing as a result of the implementation of new features by those responsible for producing new Web browsers, such as Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. Indeed, although this book refers to HTML 3.0, there is no such standard at present--the current, definitive version is version 2.0 (as Graham makes clear in his Introduction). The various extensions introduced by Netscape and Microsoft have not yet been adopted as standard, although because of the impact of Netscape Navigator in particular, the extensions have the status of de facto standards. It is also a fact that anyone who has sought information on the Web about the use of HTML will have come across a large proportion of this book already freely (and usefully) available for some months and regular updates are promised to be on-line at http:// www.wiley.com/compbooks/. This new edition is expanded by three chapters and includes material not covered in the first edition, such as CGI programming. With its 12 chapters, six appendices, a glossary and an index occupying a total of 688 pages (plus the end-pages, which are also used to provide useful information) it is clear that this is not a quick, 'how to write Web pages in six easy lessons'. It is, rather, a reference work and should be approached in that light, although there are readable chapters on, for example, 'Real World Examples' and 'The Design of HTML Document Collections'. Examining the text as a reference work involves asking it questions, such
The whole book is, of course, about information management, although the phrase is not mentioned in contents or index. Perhaps this is a shame, as the title and general presentation seem guaranteed to ensure that the book appeals only to the 'traditional' special library sector. In fact, much of what it is in here--selection of resources, basic records management, clear outline of significant IT concepts, networking, and so on--could be ~ery useful to the many people charged with handling information resources of some form who would not necessarily think of themselves as providing an 'information service'. The pragmatic advice in here would be of far more use to such people, at least initially, than much of the technologybased advice which they will receive from other sources. Anyone involved in setting up, or taking over, a small information service should read this book, for a novice it is essential reading, for the more experienced, useful revision. Webb's selection of further reading is well chosen, and commendably up to date. The publishers, however, are missing out on a larger market, but continuing with the traditional presentation of this sort of material.
David Bawden City University London, UK
as: 'How do I define the background colour of a document?', 'How do frames work?', 'When I am in a frame, how do I get back to the last point I consulted in document?', or 'What is a Java a p p l e t ? ' - - a l l questions I've posed myself in recent months when designing Web pages. How does this source-book cope? On background colours (although the index is less than helpful in getting me there), I eventually find page 152 and learn that I can use B G C O L O R = "rrggbb"--a proposed HTML 3.0 extension, which some browsers will not recognize. However, there is no table of the RGB codes for different colours--although several of these are readily available on the Web itself. On frames (which, at the time Graham put the book to bed, were handled only by Netscape Navigator 2,0, but which Internet Explorer 3.0 now copes with), Chapter 47 'HTML in Detail', provides the basic information and the syntax rules for FRAMESET, FRAME and the various attributes such as MARGINWIDTH, MARGINH E I G H T and SCROLLING. Several examples make clear the use of the various elements, but I was surprised that there was no discussion of how best to use frames. To be fair, the question on returning to an earlier point in a frame is a matter for the browser one is using, rather than for HTML: the answer is that if you are using Netscape Navigator 2.0 or later, you use the right mouse button to pop up a dialogue box which includes the line 'Back in frame'--clicking on this takes you back to your earlier point, whereas using the 'Back' button takes you to an earlier URL. This, however, is not the case with Explorer 3.0, which uses the "Back" button. F i n a l l y , the s o u r c e - b o o k does answer the question about java applets, but provides only the briefest description, not surprisingly, given the early state of development of the Java
Reviews language, and the fact that it is not an integral part of HTML but a programming language. Personally, the Java implementations I have seen on Web pages so far leave me distinctly underwhelmed but no doubt Graham is right to say that, 'The power of this technique is profound, and truly does represent an exciting new addition to HTML d o c u m e n t s . . . ' . No one who designs and develops Web pages, at whatever level of competency, should be without this book: it is an invaluable guide to the correct use of HTML and, in addition, covers many of the extensions that may be embodied in a future HTML 3 . 0 ~ n o t all, because new ones are coming out with every new browser or new version of a browser. Fortunately for the reader of this source-book, however, the Web site referred to earlier will be picking up and advising on those new elements, At $29.95 this is a bargain.
Professor Tom Wilson University of Sheffield, UK
lnternet for Absolute Beginners
Aslib London (1996) £24.24 The product comes on two floppy disks, and installs easily and quite quickly on any Windows-capable PC. Running it is a simple matter of clicking on a limited range of options, and following the sequence of information and demonstration. There is little opportunity for real interaction, but this hardly matters, as most users will want to progress quickly through this product, and use the Net itself. What is provided is a basic, necessarily rather superficial, introduction to the Internet itself, and its main applications; e-mail, news, Web, etc. The graphics and text are capably, if not trendily put together, and make their point clearly enough without being particularly gripping. At the end of a thorough run through this product, a complete novice should have a reasonable idea of what the Internet
does, and what it looks like, and should be well prepared for real life use. Someone who had used some parts of the Net, without having any thorough instruction, could find it useful as an overview to put particular aspects into context. It is, perhaps, a little difficult to see who this product is aimed at. A complete novice might use it as an initial introduction to Internet facilities, but one is tempted to think that they would do better to browse the real thing; at least, if they have free or cheap access. I cannot see it appealing to most students, for this reason. It is certainly an attractive alternative to reading through the thick 'Introduction to the Internet' type of book (though the information gained from the book by an attentive reader would be much greater), and will also serve as a happy experience on the PC for the technoprobe. Perhaps those who would most profit from it are mildly technophobic would-be Internet users, who either do not have access yet, or who do not want to pay real money learning the basics, and who can't see from printed material quite what the Internet would look like. If you know such a person, buy them a copy of this product for their next birthday; they should be grateful.
David Bawden City University London, UK Progress and Problems in Information Retrieval David Ellis
Library Association Publishing (1996) 220 pp ISBN 1 85604 123 9 This volume has a differently named predecessor, though this fact only becomes evident from a careful examination of the small print on the cover. David Ellis's 1991 volume, New Horizons in Information Retrieval, was well-received on its publication as a worthwhile and useful survey of the
state of the art. This book, although it has a different title, is a second edition of the 1991 book; the title change is to be commended, as reflects the book's contacts more accurately. The overall structure of the book remains much the same, with chapters on the origins of information retrieval research; statistical and probabilistic retrieval; cognitive user modelling; expert intermediary systems; artificial intelligence and information retrieval; associations, relations and the origins of hypertext; and hypertext and information retrieval. There is a new chapter on the debates on the nature of information retrieval research, and the paradigms within which it operates. As well as a general updating to include recent publications, the sections on hypertext, and on artificial intelligence and natural language understanding, have been greatly expanded. The aim of the book remains the same as with the first edition; to provide a structured and selective introduction to information retrieval research for students and for researchers new to the area, and in this it succeeds admirably. It is well written, clearly structured and well referenced. It is always possible to quibble that one's own favourite topics have been omitted or given less attention than they deserve; retrieval research outside the 'laboratory' paradigm, for example, or retrieval of entities other than text documents. It is difficult to see how a rounded volume on information retrieval can entirely omit the academically and commercially significant area of chemical structure retrieval. But this is quibbling, and probably unfair. David Ellis has done an excellent job, and this book will be assimilated with gratitude by students, and could be read with profit by many practitioners, wondering what academics are really up to.
David Bawden City University London, UK