About the Web Edition
by Ryan A. MacMichael
A little under ten years ago, there was a company betting their livelihood on the popularity of electronic books. They put out a handheld device that cost a few hundred dollars and offered e-books and e-magazines on disk. This was before the Internet had become a household necessity and the idea did not go over very well at all -- they disappeared in less than a year.
Why did they go under? For some of the obvious reasons: poor screen resolution, the general clunkiness of the reader, and it just didn't feel right needing batteries to read a book at the beach. It was pretty clear then that electronic books were not going to be a serious competitor to the physical book anytime soon. Cliff Stoll felt much the same way, as he talked at length about in Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway.
I'd say, unequivocally, that the world is not ready for a handheld device like the one above to out-and-out replace the physical book. However, with the extreme popularity of the Web, the release of an online book is a wonderful complement to the release its physical counterpart:
When you add a search facility, worldwide accessibility, and hypertext to a physical book, the additional value is immeasurable. With a site supporting a technical book like Securing Java the benefits are immediately obvious:
- Books don't have a satisfying search capability built into them. The index is usually somewhat helpful and a "top-level" navigation system like the table of contents works to a point, but what about when you're looking for that one small section you read a few days ago? The online book allows a reader to jump on the Net and run a quick search through the entire text.
- From a promotional standpoint, the online book makes deciding to purchase a text online as easy as reading a few passages of the same book from a physical store. Unlike reading selected passages that book mega-sites like Amazon may provide, having the entire text of your book online lets consumers see for themselves without leaving their home if it really fills their needs before ordering the paper version online.
- And the importance of a book existing in a hypertexted Web space can't be stressed enough. The very foundation of the WWW is the ability to use hypertext to a degree previously only dreamed of. The phrase "see also: section x in chapter y" works as a link directly to the cross-reference. A categorized list of links (like those in the appendices of this book) is much more accessible and usable, especially when accompanied by a searchable index. And details of a footnote or citation can be easily accessed through an unobtrusive pop-up window.
The process of writing a book, especially a non-fiction text, is changing -- the author must consider providing web-based resources as seriously as adding an appendix. Whether these online resources are a list of links, text corrections and updates, or providing a full, searchable online text depends on the nature of the book, but it's clear that at least some level of support and information beyond traditional paper publishing is becoming necessary and hopefully through example, the Securing Java site will help clarify this importance.
- Searching the online text for "smart card SSL" is a lot quicker than jumping to the table of contents, choosing chapter eight, and then figuring out manually which section(s) refer to the use of SSL with Java smart cards.
- Now imagine you're at work and you read a feature in one of the weekly techie trade rags about Securing Java. You swing by Amazon and there's minor information, but not much, and you doubt that you'll have time to go to Borders on the way home to take a look at the book. Swing by the website and you can thumb through the book, so to speak, as if you were lounging in one of those comfy chairs at the book superstore.
- Lastly, in a book like Securing Java, direct links to lengthy research papers provide an added dimension a URL on paper can't provide. Being able to quickly download a postscript version of a doctoral thesis will add a new dimension to what you're reading online in another window.
We hope you find the online version of Securing Java a useful supplement to the physical edition. We invite you to show your support for the effort put into the online version by purchasing the book.
Ryan MacMichael is the Webmaster at Cigital in Dulles, VA, and designed the online version of Securing Java. He has been previously published in BBS Callers Digest and spends too much of his spare time on perhaps the world's largest personal Web site. You can reach Ryan with any problems or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Copyright ©1999 Gary McGraw and Edward Felten.
All rights reserved.
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.