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extremely disappointed in "Head First Java" book

 
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I won't mention the names of the authors of this book, for one of them founded this site. However, I will say that the grammar in this book is often incorrect, the jokes at times are sometimes offensive, but the WORST part of this book is that the program code is inaccurate. What has finally burned my buttons about this book is the "Code Magnets" section on page 157. The line:

SHOULD be:

Furthermore, MANY of the references in the index section of the book are incorrect (as in references not being on the same page the book says they are). How could the authors of this book do such a bad job of making sure that at least the code compiles and that the references in the index section of the book are correct?
I will ask for a refund from Amazon (not likely to get it). If I get my refund I will consider purchasing books in the future with this author's (actually either of the two) name on it. If I don't, then I will put up a negative review of the book on Amazon. For the most part this book has been a good one, but it is stuff such as I mentioned above that are inexcusable.
If I have my account on this site banned/cancelled, that is fine. To each his own. At the moment I feel like I have been ripped off, as I don't make much money, so going out and buying other books to supplement this one is not a feasible option.
Have a nice day!
NOTE: in the code above, the '&;;' is because this site wouldn't let me post '<;' as part of my code
[ November 21, 2003: Message edited by: Thomas Whalen ]
[ November 21, 2003: Message edited by: Thomas Whalen ]
 
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Thomas, you have unrealistic expectations about books, I am afraid.
Guess what, most of books (if not all) have errors. That's why they all have errata! If you found a typo or whatever else you see as a problem -- drop the authors E-mail, so it will be corrected in the next printing!
Another thing, this forum is for "Questions, suggestions and whining about this site". For discussing books we have "Book Reviews" forum. Here is a thread to discuss "Head First Java" book.
 
Mapraputa Is
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I am moving this thread to "Bunkhouse Porch" forum, whose description says: "A place for all folks to talk about books. A place for Authors to get feedback."
 
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Thomas, the particular error you're pointing out was corrected in the August 3rd printing.
Check out the book's page at O'Reilly's web site. There's an errata page that lists all the errors in all printings of the book. Spend a few minutes with your copy, this web page, and a pen, and you'll be in good shape.
 
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Originally posted by Thomas Whalen:
I won't mention the names of the authors of this book, for one of them founded this site.I will ask for a refund from Amazon (not likely to get it). If I get my refund I will consider purchasing books in the future with this author's (actually either of the two) name on it. If I don't, then I will put up a negative review of the book on Amazon. For the most part this book has been a good one, but it is stuff such as I mentioned above that are inexcusable.
If I have my account on this site banned/cancelled, that is fine. To each his own. At the moment I feel like I have been ripped off, as I don't make much money, so going out and buying other books to supplement this one is not a feasible option.


Howdy Thomas,
First of all, it's certainly OK if you mention our names... everyone here knows that we are the ones to blame, and you are CERTAINLY not the first person to express this. And, well, if I banned everyone (which I am not allowed to do anyway) who complained *justifiably* about my mistakes, this would be a less helpful, less interestingly (and smaller) place.
Unfortunately, you're coming in too late to have experienced our long, numerous, and heartfelt apologies on javaranch (and O'Reilly) for the mistakes in the first printing of the book, which is the version you obviously received.
But I feel awful enough to keep on apologizing as long as there are still people who see that version! I'm not sure why you did, and if you just received this from Amazon, I'm horrified; that hasn't happened in quite a while. Those should have been long gone by now... it sucks for you that you got one. I can't imagine that Amazon won't refund your money, but believe me, if for any reason they do not, we will send you the new version in a heartbeat.
But since you deserve to hear the story, we do not have any excuse at all. I do have a somewhat pathetic explanation, but please do not take this as an excuse, because we should (and could) have found a way around this. And before I start, I have to say that it is definitely not O'Reilly's fault -- WE (Bert and I) were in charge of everything; it did not go through O'Reilly editorial because nobody knew how to deal with this book's format and production... it had never been done before. We were making it up as we went along, and man oh man did we overestimate our own capabilities.
Two things came into play here:
1) Bert and I were still brand new to books and writing; it was our first time (we wrote this and the cert book almost simultaneously). Normally, this would not be a problem because that's what the editorial process is for, but Head First did not have any kind of process because it was so profoundly new, and not composed of text.
2) The Head First Format is not like a typical book... it is like 600 pages of individual graphic handouts. Automated spell-checking is virtually impossible, because you can't actually *run* a spellchecker on a graphic, and huge chunks of the 'text' in this book are actually graphics. So it all must be done by hand, and we now know that we were not up to the task. Bert and I were idiots (who should have known better, having been software developers) that somehow, if you and a bunch of others look it over, it must be OK.
Anyway, the hate mail came in almost immediately, and we corrected it within 4 weeks of the original shipping, extremely grateful for everyone who helped. We were thankful that O'Reilly had done only a small print run on that first one, and if we could burn all of those, we would. Again, I'm so very sorry that you got this.
And for the record, one of the first sections of javaranch was a book review page, and on that page ME, personally, did a review of a book where I said in pretty much these exact words, "The authors should be shot for having these mistakes in a certification book." So, I'm thinking you're actually being a lot nicer about this than *I* was.
I agree that the mistakes are unforgiveable, and I can only hope that you will hear my apology and understand that we did screw up, significantly, and we tried desperately to correct our screw-up as soon as we possibly could, AND we promised to learn from our mistakes.
We just released the second book in the Head First format, and we had vowed to find a better process (actually ANY process was an improvement). We weren't 100% successful; this first printing of the new book certainly has errata, but far, far less than the first, and of far less technical significance, and not out of line with other *normal* 700-page books.
But one of the reasons we're here on Javaranch is so that if people find errors or have problems, we can at least try to help them not become so frustrated and dead in the water.
I'm ESPECIALLY glad that you posted here, because as soon as I saw your Amazon review today, I felt awful that I had no way to apologize... there's no mechanism for that on Amazon.
You had every right to post it, and as I said, you were nicer than I would have been. The final note on my "the author should have been shot" story is that I later moved to the same city where this author moved, and he became my closest friend. Not sure I've forgiven him for his book pissing me off so much, but now at least I know that you can suck at this, even if you DO deeply, truly care.
So, where we're at now is... we listened, we learned, we felt (and still do feel) terrible about it, and we tried our best to make corrections as soon as humanly possible, and we vowed to do better. The new book is in waaaaaaay better shape than the first printing of Head First Java, but if so many people hadn't complained, I'm not sure we would even have had a clue.
I don't know what else I can say. I do wish that Amazon reviews had a way to indicate which printing was being referenced, because almost nobody today should ever be receiving that printing, but your review makes it appear that this is the current state of the book. I'm still horrified that you got this one.
But again, I'm glad you posted here, and I can't apologize enough.
-Kathy
 
Thomas Whalen
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Kathy, I do not want to hurt anyone's feelings. I think, that aside from the buggy index in the back of the book, and the frustration that I went through on that particular problem only to find out that I wasted my time, it is a superb book. Please realize that I am not one to stay angry for long, my wife couldn't have put up with me this long.
Being one that has taken a long, on-again-off-again path toward learning how to program, I am very excited to have wrote my own Paper-Rock-Scissors program. Right now it's just a console-based program, but the book is written well enough and excitingly enough that I have not felt compelled to just go diving into the GUI stuff. The one great thing about your book is that you have convinced me that the nuances and mechanices of Java (and programming in general) are far more important than how-to-write-a-GUI-program!
I know that the above mentioned program is nothing to brag about, it is my intention to let any newbie to programming that is looking to learn from a book on how to program in Java, that this book will present the language in a fun light. In short, if I can learn from this book, I feel anyone else can.
Again, as I stated in my first thread about this book (in the other forum, before the thread got moved) I think two components of a prgramming book MUST be correct: (1) printed code and (2) index of book. Otherwise, though I do not believe that this book is deserving of a 10-star rating as Sheriff Paul gave it over on Amazon, I do think it's a small pale of frustrations from being one.
Something that I have been thinking about, as I have been reading this book, is this. You all definitely present your book as being humorous and fun to read, but it worries me that at some point you're going to run into a wall with brainstorming ideas for your unique style of writing programming books. How in the world do you manage to overcome this, keep things fresh, and have you worried that at some point you will just be rehashing the same ol' jokes?
 
Thomas Whalen
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Kathy and Bert,
You two have my total support. Never in my life have I met two authors who were this sincere about the quality of a book they wrote. I will be asking Amazon (this was my first purchase from Amazon, I don't even know how to begin asking for a refund on a debit card purchase) for a refund, and if they don't comply I'll take you on your offer to replace the book with a corrected version. Right now I feel very badly for bringing up something that apparently is old news, and in no way do I feel authoriative that you replied so quickly and sincerely to me. Are you and Bert going to continue writing books in this style? I am one fan that hopes you do! Have a great weeken!
 
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