I am reviewing these two books together because what I want to write about them has a good degree in common. Both books are really wrappers for several much smaller books. I have no problem with this in principle but the practise leaves a good deal to be desired. For example both books contain a substantial section on AS/400 systems. Now I do not know about you, but I have strong doubts that someone interested in such a platform would be working in an environment where substantial though elementary material on Visual Basic or Access 97 was relevant. It seems to me that the publishers have just bundled up a number of part works without considering any degree of coherence. Dan Cohen knows about the AS/400 and writes a lot so he gets a place in both books. We do not have anyone who knows much about Delphi so we will leave that language out. We have someone who can write about Oracle so put that in but ignore the other multi-platform database packages.
What makes it worse to my mind is the underlying philosophy that seems to be that after you gain a job you will need a book to help you meet the requirements of your employers and fellow employees. I nearly wrote hoodwink back there but that is too harsh. The books are well intentioned but have all the feel of a bad copy of 'the Readers Digest'. The information is highly condensed and in places where I can check, often out of date or of poor quality.
Any programmer who needs the relevant text and who would get real benefit from it is already employed several levels above their competence. For example a programmer who needs to be told about magic numbers is, in my opinion, not yet ready to earn a living as a programmer, they are still serving their apprenticeship.
I think it is a comment on the poor professional standards in the IT industry that books such as these have a market. Yes, if you have landed a job that demands more than you have, reading one of these books might help but you will then need to burn the midnight oil in actually studying more detailed texts.