Yeah right! "Let's write the consummate book for students to help them use the Internet."
This is the kind of book that oftentimes appears to be a neat idea but is really a bust. However, in this case it works. It works with honors, which makes me have to reconsider books of this genre.
A daunting task, doomed to fail, in the words of the authors: Eric Crump and Nick Carbone. The authors suggest the book will fail because of the vastness of the Internet and because of the Internet's mercurial qualities. The guide, they suggest, will be incomplete and outmoded as soon as it is available. Their assumption is correct. The book does fail to provide definitive answers to the myriad ofquestions raised by using the net, if that is what you are expecting. That is not the purpose of this book, and the authors warn against those who propose to write such a tome. The book does not, however, fail in providing the student a wonderfully written guide to solving the myriad of questions raised by using the net.
The authors have submitted to the net and do not attempt to define it. They explain that the best place to learn about the net is on the net itself. The problem, however, is for the net newbie: "Where do I start?" These starting points with some historical background and fundamental exercises are the stuff of which this guide is made.
The guide offers the students of English a roadmap of hints to solve their own questions on how best to use the Internet in their English studies. In an educational climate where constructivism is a dominant doctrine, this guide provides a place to which the student can turn to solve a problem, to construct a solution, and to realize his or her own self in the process of problem-solving. The teacher is not burdened with the mundane workings of the Internet nor is the teacher the purveyor of all knowledge. This guide is not the definitive encyclopedia, but it was never intended to be. However, this guide does succeed in doing what it sets out to do: It is a starting point on the journey of using the Internet.
What really makes this guide so successful is the presence of a companion website.
The authors have succeeded because they know a book about the Internet by itself will fail. They created the book, that is the key which unlocks the door to the Internet. The companion website will allow the work begun in the book to continue in a live conversation. Here we have a perfect marriage between print and electronic publishing: the book starts the conversation which the website continues.
I would say that the success of this book is analagous to the film Wizard of Oz which starts out in black and white and then turns to spectacular technocolor when Dorothy lands in Oz. Crump and Carbone have begun in a familiar linear style, the book, and have gently ushered the student into the technological wonders of the Internet.
Yes, the book will fail if it tries to be definitive, so the attempt is not made. Instead the authors have adapted to their environment, as our students and many teachers must adapt. In fact, I am impressed with Houghton Mifflin's gile in this project. The guide prepares the user in the familiar form of the book for a journey into the unfamiliar, the Internet. We move from a static dead text to live, vibrant hypertext.
Crump, Carbone, and their publishers have accomplished with honors the task of creating a useful guide to the Internet for the students of English.
The book is divided into five parts with a very good Glossary of important Internet terms and words.