Review: XQuery, The XML Query Language
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by Teemu Keiski
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Pros & Cons

Pros

From the very beginning I liked the style the author has written the book with.  The style is very compact but informative at the same time. Therefore the book keeps its promises by being easily readable for a beginner as well as an advanced user. Such a style can be hard to adopt, and with this book the result has been good. The book keeps its focus well through the chapters and therefore it is also suitable for self-studying and in-fact even for classroom usage, if one would have such a need.

I also liked the implementation independent style that the book has adopted. It gives more room for background discussion of things behind implementations, and therefore important general things aren't missed because a certain implementation does something differently than another. That also gives one common denominator more for different parties interested in XQuery and suites for promoting the interoperability between these parties.

Cons

One drawback with the book is that its visual appearance is bit dull. The structure and style described earlier indeed serve well, but the chapters consist mostly of sections separated by the subject and one section is usually purely text varying from couple of sentences to a few pages, the only separators being headings, examples, and few tables. There are not very many figures but the ones that do exist work well.

Examples in the sections do ease the readability so that chapters aren't purely plain text, but there is room for improvement. In Chapter 9 (Type Operators), a figure was used to describe how evaluation happens when types were converted across the type hierarchy, and I think it worked well, similar to the tables describing tuple spaces in Chapter 6 (Iteration). Using more of these to visualize the descriptions would have been perfect. Certainly a reader with even a bit of focus gets what he wants from this book, but it takes a bit more will power than usual.

Another thing I'd like to criticize is the chosen time of publishing this book (February 2004). At the time of writing XQuery is in draft stage ("XQuery 1.0 and XPath 2.0 Formal Semantics" specification in Last Call till April 15th) so there are chances for changes before the specs are closed. After all, it wouldn't have been too long to wait for this stage to end so that reader could have been more sure what the specs would look like in final form. Luckily, the changes are probably minor and are mostly covered at the book's web site, so it won't be a big problem.


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