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 CD Review: The Java Enterprise CD Bookshelf
See Also: Dr.Bob's Programming Books for Delphi & C++Builder books co-authored by Bob Swart
The Java Enterprise CD Bookshelf
David Flanagan and several others
1 print (604 pages), 7 electronic works

O'Reilly has done it again: The Java Enterprise CD Bookshelf contains a powerhouse of books from O'Reilly (one print and seven electronic): both electronic and print versions of Java Enterprise in a Nutshell, plus electronic versions of seven bestselling books:

The term bookshelf in the title must only refer to an electronic bookshelf, since the package itself is the size of a single book (the size of Java Enterprise in a Nutshell) plus one CD-ROM. The CD-ROM contains 64MB of data, and doesn't require any installation (just load the index.htm from the root of the CD - the autorun will do so for you automatically).

The electronic books are all available in HTML format on the CD-ROM, which means you can read them using your web browser. Each book is divided into parts and chapters, and each chapter is divided into a number of logical sections (it's a good thing these book were well-structured to begin with). I estimate each section to be a few pages in size, which makes them good reading blocks - even in your browser. Moreover, each section contains helpful cross-reference links to other sections of the same book (I must say I encountered few cross-reference links to other books in the bookshelf, something that might be welcome in a second release).
I've tried reading an entire book in a browser, but my eyes got tired after a few hours. You probably shouldn't fool yourself into thinking you can read all seven books electronically. But that's not the main purpose of this bookshelf (at least not in my view). The main advantage is the fact that the complete text of all books is available, fully indexed (individually as well as in a master index) and with a powerful search engine, written in Java, of course.

This search engine, which is provided by JObjects, makes the CD very usable as a reference guide. You can either do a text search in one of the books, or a text search on all of the books. You can combine searches with AND and OR operators, and can search for sections containing the requested text, or for sections which do not contain the requested text. The results are given in a window and can be selected to go to the appriopriate sections.

When I examined the bookshelf for the first time, I quickly noticed that I already had three of the seven books in "paper" editions on my real bookshelf. And another one or two others at work. You may have a similar experience (especially the Nutshells are bestsellers, but all books are considered to be masterpieces in their respective areas). Do you still need the bookshelf, even if you have one or more of the books already? Well, I already had three books, and I'm still very pleased with the package. Having (read) a book is not the same as knowing everything that's inside a book, nor it is the same as knowing where to find something in a book. Especially when you have more than a dozen books about Java (or Java Enterprise), you quickly forget where you read that information you need right now (at least I do). And at that time it's very convenient to have the Java Enterprise bookshelf search engine at my fingertips; it will quickly tell me where to look for the specific (otherwise hard to find) topics I'm looking for. The results take me to the relevant sections of the electronic books (which I can then read in my browser, or print to read on my desk).
In short: even if you already have some of the books, unless you've memorised them completely, you may still find a good use in the Java Enterprise bookshelf CD. The recommended street price is roughtly equivalent to three physical books (remember that it contains a softcover edition of Java Enterprise in a Nutshell itself as well), but you can get a discount at and

(Bob Swart)

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