I promised a publisher I’d review their book, Android Wireless Application Development (2nd edition), however, I tried doing a book review earlier and honestly it’s just a snooze to read; so I thought I’d write a blurb about tech books in general too.
In general these technical books suffer from a very common ailment, being big and boring – no normal people would read these tomes from cover to cover and enjoy it. There are some publishers which consistently publish enjoyable succinct reading; but a large majority still churn out heavy tomes which end up selling regardless of their content.
The subject has been covered in some detail.
Andrew Binstock wrote about Lax Language Tutorials not too long ago,
“These books are marked by common failings that greatly frustrate their simple mission. The first and by far most-common handicap is a confusion by the authors in which they conflate a tutorial with a detailed treatise on every aspect of the language. For reasons not quite clear, the latter approach seems generally favored by the publishing industry, resulting in almost ridiculous volumes.”
Philip Greenspun also touches the subject in his Dead Trees story,
“It is an article of faith in the computer publishing that bigger books sell better. They take up more space on the shelf and readers with a tech problem find a bigger book comforting. Readers aren’t really sure what is wrong with their computer and they only have a few minutes in the bookstore so they figure the thickest book is the most likely to contain the solution.”
Sounds plausible. I did a bit of googling about the myth of authors getting paid by the pages, but that seems to be untrue; although a thicker book might mean more sales which would mean there is an implicit motive to make your book as thick and heavy as possible.
So how does this relate to Android Wireless Application Development? Well at 791 pages (including index and everything) it certainly is thick, although it’s not the thickest book I’ve seen. There are much worse. I’d love it if these books would limit themselves to 300 pages, but preferably closer to 200 pages.
The biggest cardinal sin of Wireless Application Development is explained by the authors’ themselves in the very introduction:
“This book was written for several audiences:”
It goes on to list software developers, quality assurance, project managers and “Other audiences”. I figure you can write a book for several audiences, but you cannot write a _great_ book which is suited for several audiences.
The tech books which have affected me the most, the ones which were of most educational value to me, have all had focus. They tended to a narrow audience which I was a part of.
In Android Wireless Application Development I found maybe 3 chapters out of 29 completely irrelevant; which isn’t that bad actually.
Then again this is a reference book first. Every chapter can be read independently of each other. There is no common thread from beginning to end; so you can just pick the chapters which interest you and read them; and this is definitely the way you should read this book. Thankfully most chapters jump straight into code examples which mostly get straight to the point.
It doesn’t go very much in depth into the more advanced subjects, but nor should it. It scratches the surface and lets the reader go online if it interests him further.
With 29 chapters this is certainly the way to go; although I myself would’ve maybe dropped some of those chapters, but at least it doesn’t leave any major subject unscratched.
It’s all in there.
I used this book as a head rest while camping for a week in Iceland; and at 791 pages it certainly worked well for that; but you’ll learn a whole lot more if you actually read some of it. Good for the non-beginner Java dev wanting to learn Android development but also for intermediate Android developers who just need a reference book.