First Monday
First Monday Reviews First Monday November 1996 column

The Utilitarian Internet: new books

Is the Internet a telephone? Is it a teacher? A painter's palette? A printing press? A billboard for advertisements? Anyone of these books might argue that the Internet is all of these and more. With the expanding range of services offered on and via the Internet, there is a greater need for these sorts of guides and printed assistants to a growing abundance of electronic resources. Although each one of these books is dated by virtue of being written or printed months before you see it, this sort of temporal deficiency is more than compensated by pages of eye-opening, keyboard-tapping content. The ever increasing specialization of the Internet only means a ever growing stream of these sorts of books in the months and years ahead. So much for the paper-less bookshelf. - ejv

Paula Berinstein
Finding Images Online
Wilton, Conn.: Pemberton Press, 1996.
357 p., paper. ISBN 0-910-96521-8
Price $US29.95
Pemberton Press:

Tens of thousands of images scattered on online servers make the Internet virtually the largest graphics warehouse ever known. But how do you find that right picture for your work? Paula Berinstein tackles this problem in this book by pointing out what you can find and what you can't find on the Web, with Gopher, and in the commercial databases and services. In 21 chapters with 4 appendices, Berinstein devotes the first third of the book to the basics: descriptions of the basic kinds of images, the kinds of equipment you'll need to be most efficient, and some suggestions on how to search. The middle third of the book specifically describes what you'll find in CompuServe, America Online, and other commercial services as well as with everyday Internet tools like Gopher and the Web. She also describes the advantages and disadvantages of image-specific online databases like the Kodak Picture Exchange. The last third of the book explains how you can look at what you've downloaded, provides a too brief warning about copyright, and gives you a handy subject guide to images online. For those who spend way too much time looking for just the right picture, or for those whose livelihood depends on a stock of images for ready use, Finding Images Online will be of immense help. Frequent updates of this book on the publisher's Internet site will keep the information up-to-date, too. - ejv End of article

Scott Kersnar
NetSuccess: How Real Estate Agents Use the Internet
Sebastopol, Calif.: O'Reilly & Associates, 1996.
204 p., paper, with CD-ROM. ISBN 1-565-92213-1
Price $US34.95
O'Reilly & Associates:

According to Becky Swann of the Internet Real Estate Directory, there are thousands of real estate sites on the Web. Ten percent of these sites are outstanding, while another ten percent aren't worth your electricity or time. With tens of thousands of different kinds of properties available over the Internet, how can you find anything? What makes a good site, and what doesn't? In twelve chapters, this book explains the Internet's utility by explaining how real estate agents are already exploiting it to reach customers and clients. Written by a former real estate broker for other real estate brokers, this book is not just for the property-minded. Chapter 9 on an Internet business plan provides appropriate advise for anyone putting their business on the Web. Chapters 10 and 11 explain how Internet strategies, that bringing different groups together, make it feasible to offer customers new and radically different services. For those looking for real estate and for those selling it, this book can be a great place to start. - ejv End of article

Jeff Pulver
The Internet Telephone Toolkit
New York: Wiley, 1996.
201 p., paper, with CD-ROM. ISBN 0-471-16352-X
Price $US29.95
Wiley: http:/

Telephonic computers? It's not impossible, with Jeff Pulver's book that explains how you can use your computer, Internet connection, and certain kinds of software to reduce your computer to a mere telephone. Some computers may be insulted by this sort of book, but thousands of Internet users still find themselves using the telephone in spite of the networked universe. Pulver doesn't demand much of the reader in this thin book - just buy into the fantasy and test your software options. The first four chapters convince you that this indeed can work and will work in the foreseeable future. The last nine chapters look at options from Internet Phone, WebPhone, WebTalk, TeleVox, FreeTel, CoolTalk, NetMeeting, and other options. Two appendices provide a list of resources and more information on Free World Dial-Up. Will this book put AT&T, Sprint, or MCI/British Telecom out of business? No, because even the author admits that these sorts of solutions to long-distance communicating will eventually fit into the profit structure of the dominant telecommunications organizations (p. 192, to be specific). For those a little terrified about abandoning the trustworthy telephone, the accompanying CD-ROM gives you plenty of opportunities to test software risk-free. Overall, the author has pulled together just enough information to interest those new to Internet telephoning, plus given those with some experience with one or other approach a place to learn more about other solutions. For those serious about using the Internet for all of their long distance calls, this book is required reading. - ejv End of article

Raphael Sagalyn
The Great American Web Book: A Citizen's Guide to the Treasures of the U. S. Government on the World Wide Web
New York: Times Business/Random House, 1996.
257 p., paper. ISBN 0-812-92814-8
Price $US17.00
Random House:

Almost a half of a decade ago, the Clinton Administration entered the White House, determined to alter the way in which the American government informed its own public. By a remarkable coincidence, this interest in electronic communication coincided with the development and popularization of World Wide Web browsers such as Mosaic and Netscape. Gratefully, the White House did not attempt to control the application of the Web and HTML with a new agency or superficial Office of Virtual Communication. Diversity was the key, in the ways in which U. S. government agencies explored the Internet and made themselves more public. This book is a collection of those experiments in government information, and as such could serve as a model to other governments in how to encourage access in this digital age. The author simply takes you on an electronic ride through the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches of the American government, followed by a tour of the Internet sites of the cabinet offices, from Agriculture to Veterans Affairs. For the rest of the book, there is an in-depth description of various independent federal agencies from the CIA to even the U. S. Postal Service. Of course, you can find the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in this wonderful book as well as the Space Shuttle. I wonder what kind of world we would have if every government in every country made public this kind of information every day? In any case, for those addicted to government reports, press releases, statistical studies, photos, maps, and other kinds of facts and factoids, Sagalyn's The Great American Web Book is as necessary as bread and water.- ejv End of article

Staff of Classroom Connect with Vince Distefano
Child Safety on the Internet
Lancaster, Pa.: Classroom Connect, 1996.
(distributed by Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, N. J.)
296 p., paper, with CD-ROM. ISBN 0-135-69468-X
Price $US34.95
Classroom Connect:

Where does the "dark side" of Internet exist for children? In the minds of adults, imagining virtual kidnappers at every mouse click? Or in the eyes of young Internet users themselves? For those concerned over the content of the Internet, this book proclaims that it is indeed the band-aid for all ills, imagined and real. Ten chapters and four appendices take you on a thrilling tour of the "dangers" of the Internet, with chapter headings like "The Internet's Dark Side," "Dangerous Minds," "Become a Computer Detective," and "Police the Net." And if these chapter headings and the general tone of the book don't send the right paranoiac message, look at the first screen dump in chapter 1: it's the opening page of Playboy (p. 5). The second and third screen shots in the same first chapter are from the Adult Mall and the Ku Klux Klan. These sorts of editorial tactics will make this book a popular one with young people for precisely the wrong reasons, and lead too many adults to simply pull the telephone jack and modem. For those interested in presenting children and adults with a positive view of the Internet, please look elsewhere but certainly not in the pages of this unnecessary thriller. - ejv End of article

Copyright © 1996, First Monday

First Monday Reviews.
First Monday, Volume 1, Number 6 - 2 December 1996