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Jack J. Woehr
XML: A Primer, by Simon St. Laurent, is a prime introduction to the eXtensible Markup Language (XML). St. Laurent is a prolific writer and open-source software author whose personal web site bears eloquent testimony to both occupations at the same time demonstrating his ability to muster content effectively while demanding a minimum of bandwidth.
XML: A Primer starts off with a brief history of markup from SGML through HTML and CSS to XML and XSL. St. Laurent escorts us through the building blocks to the esoterica of XML in the field, such as XLink, IML, AIML, repositories, processors, and gateways, assisted by fine diagrams, tidy tables, and tastefully understated screen shots.
The smoothness of the presentation is due in part to the depth of his familiarity with the subject, and in part to his commendable technical writing style, which is concise without being terse and factual without being excessively dry. St. Laurent exhibits that rare skill of inserting an immense amount of detail offhandedly into the discussion without choking the reader. He's also generous with notes, cross-references, and web links.
Rarity of rarities in a computer book, St. Laurent is capable of using humor as an exotic spice, which he sprinkles in sparingly to emphasize important points or to explain oddities and inconsistencies in the technical regimen. Many authors regrettably slather it on like ketchup to draw the reader's attention to the author's own wit, but that's not the case here.
XML: A Primer is neither an expert-for-a-day rendition nor a "Dummies" book. It's a thoughtful volume for sophisticated readers who learn quickly from a topic well taught. You could wish for an accompanying CD-ROM, but while St. Laurent doesn't skimp on examples, his taste doesn't allow him to attempt to stun our critical faculties by burying us in code. Furthermore, this artfully designed and generally well-edited tome (despite a few typos and few code samples that suffer slightly in legibility from the narrow page format) has been kept quite inexpensive for such a masterful treatise.
A good horse runs at the mere shadow of the whip; XML: A Primer is aimed at those for whom the acquisition of yet another professional skill is a matter of routine. There are more comprehensive treatments available, but few so enjoyably readable as this one.
— Electronic Review of Computer Books