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The Essential XML Bookshelf

You'll need to do a fair amount of reading to fully understand XML. That's why I cite my favorite XML titles below, with brief explanations, so that aspiring XML experts can benefit from my efforts in plowing through the literally thousands of pages of material I've read on the subject. Here are some suggestions as to the best and most useful XML books.

Birbeck, Mark, et al: Professional XML, Wrox, Birmingham, UK, 2000. List Price: $49.99. ISBN: 1-861003-11-0. -More of a compendium of papers on various XML topics of great interest to many developers (for example SAX versus DOM, EDI, using XML and CSS, and so forth) than a general work on XML, this book is a valuable addition to any active XML practitioner's work shelf (hence the title, I guess). Although the information herein is bound to get dated by 2001, it remains a handy XML developer's reference, particularly for those interested in using XML applications to capture and deliver content online.

Ducharme, Bob: XML: The Annotated Specification (The Definitive XML Series from Charles F. Goldfarb), Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1999. List Price: $44.99. ISBN: 0-13-082676-6. -Don't expect to learn XML from this book; expect a thoughtful and insightful exegesis of the XML specification instead. As such, this book is a must-have for anyone who needs to understand XML in depth, particularly how XML documents are structured, and about the concepts of well-formedness and validity. Also provides an incredibly valuable discussion of the XML processing model (or the way that XML documents are read, parsed, and interpreted at run-time).

Goldfarb, Charles F. and Paul Prescod: The XML Handbook, 3rd Edition (The Definitive XML Series from Charles F. Goldfarb), Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2000. List Price: $44.99. ISBN: 0-13-055068-X. -Goldfarb is, of course, one of the inventors of SGML, and a leading figure in the development of XML. Prescod's participation in the W3C's XML working groups gives him equal stature, if not equal name recognition. Although the book gets dinged for shoddy proofreading and repetitive examples, those in the know recognize this as a great overview of XML terms, concepts, tools, and techniques, and a great source of illustrative examples of what XML looks like, works like, and what it can do.

Harold, Elliotte Rusty: XML: Extensible Markup Language, IDG Books Worldwide, Indianapolis, IN, 1998. List Price: $39.99. ISBN: 0-7645- 3199-9. -At this point, I've read every introductory book on XML (and even written a couple) but this one remains my favorite because of the clarity of its writing, the humor and value of its examples, and for taking exactly the right tone with a beginning reader-not too technical, not too simple, but just right in terms of explaining and applying the many and sometimes subtle capabilities that XML can deliver to savvy content and document developers. For my money, it's the best book to get yourself started on XML.

Harold, Elliotte Rusty: XML Bible, IDG Books Worldwide, Indianapolis, IN, 1999. List Price: $49.99. ISBN: 0-7645-3236-7. -This book picks up where the other title by this author leaves off, and provides a stellar collection of examples, XML applications, plus discussions of tools, techniques, interfaces and more. When I'm looking for general how-tos or code examples, this book remains my favorite reference for that purpose.

Kay, Michael: XSLT Programmer's Reference, Wrox Press, Birmingham, UK, 2000. List Price: $34.99. ISBN: 1-861003-12-9. -This book covers the XSL Transformations, an XML application that can be used to convert information stored in XML format into HTML, among other forms. As such, it represents the best way to deliver XML content to today's (generally non-XML-aware) Web browsers. It is also a model for what any markup reference work should be: great writing, good explanations, and easy lookup for all XSLT elements and attributes, plus lots of useful examples and sample code.

Ed Tittel is a principal at LANWrights, Inc.: a wholly owned subsidiary of LANwrights offers training, writing and consulting services on Internet, networking, and Web topics, plus various IT certifications (Microsoft, Sun/Java, Prosoft/CIW).

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