Book Review - Windows 8 Out of the Box, by Mike Halsey
Nowadays, most hardware reviews start with an "unboxing," a series of photos showing what the box looks like and what the contents look like at various stages of being removed for use. I was intrigued by the idea of an "unboxing" for Windows 8, which is what the title of Windows 8 Out of the Box brought to my mind. Was this actually what the author wanted to accomplish with this book, an "unboxing" of Windows 8 followed by instructions for using it? Let’s see if I guessed correctly, in this book review.
Off to a rocky start
OK, it wasn’t exactly what I would have thought of as an "unboxing," but that has more to do with my expectations than with what the author intended. So what is this book all about? Instructions for using the many new features of Windows 8. The book is set up so that each chapter begins with a Top Tips summary, followed by sections explaining how things work.
Unfortunately, what jumped out at me from the very first page is how poorly this book was written and edited. Instead of looking like a proper release from a highly respected publisher like O’Reilly, it came across like someone’s self-published "masterpiece." Clearly the publishers’ copy editors never laid a hand on this one, which quite frankly surprised the heck out of me. Not everyone reads the copyright pages, and apparently the people who were supposed to copy edit this book were among those non-readers.
Here are a few examples of mistakes in the manuscript that should have been caught by an editor, from the first pages of the first chapter.
Unfortunately, when there are mistakes all over the text, many readers (like me) will be distracted by them, and their opinion of the book’s quality will suffer because of it. And Windows 8 Out of the Box is riddled with this kind of lah-di-dah editing.
Structure and substance
Each chapter starts out with Top Tips. The "top tips" are all just lists of three items. I gather the idea was that the "top tips" would be a summary of what was to come, and the reader would be inspired to go on to read the rest of the chapter to see the "top" explained in full, with additional "tips" to make reading the chapter worthwhile. Unfortunately, many of the tips don’t accomplish this purpose. For example, here are the "top tips" for the chapter titled Watching and Listening to your Videos and Music.
Why is the fact that Windows 8, like most previous versions of Windows, comes with apps for playing music and videos a "top tip"? Each chapter ends with a brief summary of the chapter’s contents, and most of them sum up the chapter a lot better than the Top Tips do.
Content and information
Windows 8 Out of the Box is apparently intended for beginners. While the instructions for doing various tasks are adequate, they’re somewhat abbreviated and many of them sound like they were written to fill space (see "Windows 8 comes with apps for playing both music and videos" above). The More Top Tips for Using Windows 8 chapter at the end of the book includes information that should have been included in earlier chapters. There seems no real reason for pulling things out of place and putting them in the final chapter other than to create a final chapter that didn’t really need to be there.
While the book’s illustrations do Windows 8’s colorful interface justice, there really isn’t anything in Windows 8 Out of the Box that can’t be found in other books. Between the obtrusive lack of copy editing and the "tips" that don’t really tip anything, I have to say that if I hadn’t been reading this book for review I wouldn’t have finished it.
Windows 8 Out of the Box presents itself poorly and contains nothing that can’t be found elsewhere. The structure of the book gets in the way rather than encouraging the reader to make new discoveries. About all it has going for it is its $9.99 list price, which is noticeably lower than the prices of many other tech books. For complete beginners, I’d recommend instead Windows 8 Plain & Simple or Windows 8 For Dummies which suffer none of the faults of Windows 8 Out of the Box and provide a much more satisfying explanation.