ISSUE 485: The high tech office- Feb 9
Net directories and how-to books offer tips
for kids, veteran surfers and even newbies
While one of the biggest promises of the
Internet is its international scope, one of the biggest frustrations is
its tendency to see the world through American eyes. With only some
exceptions, the language of choice online tends to be English, the
currency the U.S. dollar.
No, I don't think this is an intentional conspiracy,
but rather the result of the Net growing from U.S. roots, and from
Americans making up, at least at first, the clear majority of Net
This is changing. Just as there is an increasing
number of women on the Internet, more and more Web sites and Internet
users are non-American.
One area in which this is evident is books about the
Web. Book publishing, perhaps inevitably, is always a bit behind the
times. Certainly what we find on our bookstore shelves is mostly
blissfully unaware of the worldwide reach of the World Wide Web.
A year or so ago, I received a review copy of The
Internet Kids Yellow Pages by Jean Armour Polly. A nice
book, with lots of kid-friendly Internet sites, arranged by topic,
useful for fun and for school -- and no listings for Canada.
African-American children could use the book to find out about
themselves on the Net, but apparently, Canadian kids didn't exist.
If you want something done right (or in this case,
done at all), you sometimes have to do it yourself. For five years,
Canadian authors Jim Carroll and Rick Broadhead have
been writing and updating a Canadian Internet Handbook. The
first edition was slim but -- reflecting the growth of the Internet and
the growth of Canadian participation -- the book has grown in size and
in scope. Their latest, The 1999 Canadian Internet Handbook 5th
Anniversary Edition (Prentice-Hall Canada, $27.95), weighs
in at 350 useful pages offering a Canadian perspective on working the
It's not particularly aimed at new users. Its four
sections are all focused on helping business users become more
effective. The book starts off with tips on evaluating your Web site's
design and improving its visibility to Web searchers. It goes on to
look at security issues -- from viruses to vandals, securing your
connection and protecting your privacy online.
A section on increasing productivity ranges from
speeding up your connection to using better search techniques for
"just-in-time knowledge." Finally, the authors look at adding
electronic shopping and audio and video to your business's Web site.
The enclosed CD offers the bulk of the content of the well-respected Tucows
But the effort to give the Internet a Canadian spin
has grown beyond what Carroll and Broadhead can fit into a single book.
A companion volume, 1999 Canadian Internet Directory & Research
Guide ($29.95), fills the gaps in the U.S.-based Internet
Yellow Pages. At about 500 pages,
it has doubled in size over last
This year's volume is split in two. The first part is
devoted to search skills, including a chapter
on when it's time to go beyond free search en-
gines to a dedicated online database. The bulk of the book is devoted
to the Yellow Pages-like listing of Canadian or
While the ever-changing nature of the Internet makes
any fixed-in-time list like this grow stale quite quickly, most of the
listings I tested were still up and running. And a book like this has
an advantage over a search engine -- the authors have visited all these
sites, guaranteeing that they do, in fact, relate to their topic.
But these two books are not everything that the
authors have to offer in their quest to put a Canadian spin on the
Internet. They also have a pair of oddly sized Quick Guides:
* Small Business Online ($18.95) describes
itself as "a strategic guide for Canadian Entrepreneurs." The authors
suggest that small businesses are ideally able to use technology and
the Internet to build their enterprise, and offer tips on using the Net
to help prepare a business plan, assess the feasibility of a proposal,
set up a home office, register a company name, research tax
implications, obtain licences and permits, and secure financing. A
series of different strategies are illustrated, complete with examples
of Canadian companies.
* 1999 Canadian Internet New User's Handbook
($16.95) offers the Canadian spin on "why the Net," along with a
Web-based cross-Canada tour. New users (yes, Virginia, there are still
new users) are provided with readable but not simplistic explanations
of what the Internet is all about, how it works and how to get
connected. Internet services such as e-mail, the Web and discussion
groups are introduced, along with search strategies and even ways to
build your own Web site.
Unlike some books aimed at newbies, this book tries to
provide some balance.
A section titled "The Internet Is About Opportunity"
is followed by one looking at "Challenges Presented by the Internet."
The authors warn users to "be realistic in your expectations." *