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OReilly vs Sams

by waggerz (Pilgrim)
on Oct 06, 2001 at 03:31 UTC ( #117140=perlquestion: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

waggerz has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:

I am just starting out on learning Perl, and I have started with the Sams "teach yourself in 24 hrs" but as I have browsed through this site I notice alot of reference to the OReilly books (The "Camel").

Would like to know which would be the best to go by for a beginner?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: OReilly vs Sams
by clintp (Curate) on Oct 06, 2001 at 06:59 UTC
    (Disclaimer: I write books for SAMS. I've edited them for Manning and Addison/Wesley. That being said...)

    Go to a bookstore, get a stack of books on the topic you want. Sit down and read. Spend a couple of minutes on each book, make a "yes" pile and a "no" pile. Really spend the time. If you're going to shell out 20, 30 or 40 bucks it's worth the effort. Repeat with the "yes" pile until there's one book left. Buy it.

    Remember that almost no books are good beginner/learning books and reference books at the same time. (most of all Perl books!) They're either one or the other. Make sure you know which you're shopping for.

    The style of presentation varies wildly between the books, even between editions of the same book. Pace, tone, language, terminology, and coverage can shift a lot between books under the same publisher, author and even title. Whatever helps you learn, buy that. That's most important with learning/beginner books. Your learning style may not be the same as everyone else's.

    Sometimes (especially with reference books) it's helpful to pick a topic that you're interested in or something you've seen online and see how each book presents it. Pick something out of the ordinary like context, threads, closures, typeglobs, strict, or AUTOLOAD; look it up in the index and see which book gives you the explanations you can follow. By picking just a topic or two, you can cross-reference the explanations with each other to find out what authors know what they're doing and which are just bullshitting you.

    Every publisher turns out bad books and good books, it's inevitable. SAMS, Manning, Addison/Wesley, and yes even O'Reilly have turned out their share of stinkers.

        yes even O'Reilly have turned out their share of stinkers

      Point taken, though some shares are more equal than others... Considering how many awful computer books are out there, O'Reilly's share of stinkers has been far lower than its "fair" share would mandate.


Re: OReilly vs Sams
by footpad (Abbot) on Oct 06, 2001 at 08:02 UTC

    OK, I was going to stay out of this, because I have experience working for a few publishers and am not, therefore, an objective observer.

    However, someone needs to plug the recently released Learning Perl, 3rd Ed.. What was the de-facto standard (co-written by someone we know) has been greatly improved.

    I'm one of those people you don't want in your training sessions. Yet, Llama3 read precisely like the best seminars/training classes I've attended. Even if you have an older edition of the book, I urge you to take a look. It's well worth buying again.

    imnsho, of course. ymmv...


    P.S. Since you insist, I will almost always prefer O'Reilly over Sams. The former tries; the latter doesn't seem to give a pica about quality--only money.

    Update: Yak! I fixed that last comment to reflect my true feelings. Bloody tpyo's.

Re: OReilly vs Sams
by greywolf (Priest) on Oct 06, 2001 at 03:54 UTC
    If you like to learn in more of a tutorial mode then Sams books might be for you. I think they are reasonably good at presenting beginner to intermediate level information. When you get into the more advanced topics/syntax you will not find Sams as useful.

    OReilly books cover a lot more detail and are a must have when you get into more advanced topics/syntax. Programming Perl(The Camel) is a great book but it can take a little while to get used to the layout. The Perl Cookbook is good at presenting a specific problem and giving you a usable solution.

    It really comes down to your learning style and how far you plan on getting into Perl. I would recommend sitting down in a book store and taking a look through a couple of books and getting the one(s) you feel the most comfortable reading.

    mr greywolf
      And FWIW, I am in complete agreement with greywolf on this. I own both Programming Perl (3rd Edition) and Sams Teach Yourself Perl 5 in 21 Days. I found the Sams book to be very useful for learning the basics of the language, but when I started dealing with the more advanced features, I usually turned to the Camel book. Also, I agree with footpad that another book you might be interested in, is Learning Perl which has been re-written.

      There's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us
      about this script for Hamlet they've worked out
      -- Douglas Adams/Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Re: OReilly vs Sams
by Maclir (Curate) on Oct 06, 2001 at 06:42 UTC

    I have not read the Sams book in question, so I cannot comment. A question - are you reasonably experienced in programming in any other language? (C / Java / even VB) That is, do you understand programming concepts, structured programming, algorithm design, things like variable scope, references, and the like?

    If so, then the so called "Camel Book", plus the Perl Cookbook would be worth getting. In fact, they are worth getting anyway, since if you progress in Perl, they are valuable reference works. As well, Perl has substantial on line documentation included with it - the faq, and other supporting stuff. Not all of it is readily understandable for those without a programming background, however.

    Finally, the best "tool" is persistance. Read, try, read, try again. Ask questions here - like "I want to do the following, and I tried this and this happened. It doesn't seem right - have I misunderstood something?" rather than "I need a script to do foobar - can someone tell me where I can get one?"

    The bottom line is, though - if you are learning and understanding by going through the Sams book, then that is great. Once you have mastered that, get both the Camel (Programming Perl, 3rd Edition) and the Ram (Perl Cookbook). They will be a wise investment.

Re: OReilly vs Sams
by derby (Abbot) on Oct 06, 2001 at 05:36 UTC
    I've never been a big fan of the Sams series. I think the llama is a good choice and is co-authored by fellow monk and well known perl personage merlyn
Re: OReilly vs Sams
by Dr. Mu (Hermit) on Oct 07, 2001 at 07:56 UTC
    Dear Brother Waggerz,

    No matter how many versions of the Catechism you own, you still need a copy of the Bible and a good concordance. Scrimp, save -- withhold your tithings if you have to -- but buy the Camel book and a copy of Perl in a Nutshell. The latter is the most dog-eared Perl book in my library.

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