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Mon 27 December 2021

JavaScript Books That Misspell "JavaScript": How Amazon Became a Minefield of Low-Quality Programming Books

Posted by Al Sweigart in programming   

Here's a hint for programmers writing their resumes: "JavaScript" is spelled as one word, capital-J, capital-S, and no hyphen.

But this isn't a blog post about programmers who make typos on their resumes, but about what a minefield of low-quality programming books that Amazon has become.

Teaching people to code is important to me. I write books on programming and make them freely available online under a Creative Commons license. But there are many low-quality, self-published programming books on Amazon that you need to learn to avoid.

Let's look at JavaScript books that misspell "JavaScript". I'm not linking the books here, because they don't deserve the traffic.

First up is SQL Programming Guide. The subtitle is "Java Script and Coding Programming Guide: Learn In A Day!". If you look at the cover, it looks pretty nice except for the subtitle which was amateurishly added on after the fact. The subtitle is in a completely different font than the rest of the cover's text. It uses a serifed font instead of sans serif, likely because the serifed font was the default in whatever graphics program the "author" used.

It was odd that a SQL database book would also cover the JavaScript programming language. What's funny is that if you look at the table of contents, this book doesn't JavaScript at all. Literally none. They're just trying to capitalize on the popularity of JavaScript.

Suffice it to say, the positive reviews are probably all fake.

Best Excerpt from a Negative Review: "The only mention of Javascript is in the title." (I liked this one because even the negative review misspells JavaScript.)

The next JavaScript book that misspells "JavaScript" is Ajax books, ajax for beginners, Complete reference, Tips and tricks, ajax study, ajax for beginners, Step to step, ajax jquery, Jquery, Java script, PHP, Programming language. There's no subtitle, that's the entire title. The title contains the word "ajax" five times. They're clearly trying to cover their bases with that title. It's a title that has it all!

The cover is... a mess. The background pattern makes it hard to read the text, and he puts his name in a larger font than the title. Yikes.

Also, the book's contents are plagarized from Wikipedia. Most of these books probably are.

Best Excerpt from a Negative Review: "A book without a beginning or an end!"

Software Development for Engineers, C/C++, Pascal, Assembly, Visual Basic, HTML, Java Script, Java DOS, Windows NT, UNIX is amazing because it's from 1997. There's only one copy for sale available, so Amazon has it priced at $143. I'm not sure if it's actually from 1997 because there's a Kindle version available, but the cover sure does look like late 90s tech books. It was doing the SEO title thing before SEO was a thing. I like how it covers everything from Assembly to Java to VB to Pascal, and also UNIX, Windows NT, and DOS. Remember DOS? I do, because I'm old.

The book is over 600 pages, and from the table of contents it seems to actually cover the topics in its verbose title. It's just that the JavaScript chapter is 21 pages long. This was late 90s JavaScript, but still... I don't think 16 pages is enough to make a scrolling marquee in the status bar.

Remember scrolling marquees in the status bar? I do, because I'm old.

Best Excerpt from a Negative Review: There's only one review for this book, and it's just a wordless 3-star rating.

SMART Scripting is a nice title. It's followed by a subtitle that seems to be the author's life story: Scripting in more than one language - Learn mixing of VBScript, Java Script, HTML, Batch script and SQL Script. Write scripts for solving real daily life problems by mixing of scripts without having any expensive IDE compilers. That's multiple sentences with punctuation.

The cover design isn't that bad: it uses a limit color palette and sticks to two fonts. The author's name is about the same size as the title. But then it has this college entrance essay for a subtitle in tiny tiny print. The book is only 100 pages, and I'm guessing forty of those is for the subtitle. The remaining sixty pages covers the entirety of VBScript, JavaScript, HTML, batch files, and SQL.

I read the first page, and it's incredible: There are only three sentences that don't have blatantly wrong information.

Best Excerpt from a Negative Review: There's only one wordless 3-star review for this book too.

I like the tasteful cover and title of Java Script. The author didn't go for the 500-word subtitle approach of other books. It's too bad that the brief title gets the spelling of the language wrong. What's even more tragic is that the title is the only place in the book where "JavaScript" is misspelled. The author and cover designer must be two different people, otherwise the book's creator snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The interior of the book is the standard low quality writing and layout design. I can tell from the font and text color that this book was written in Word and directly exported to PDF from there.

Best Excerpt from a Negative Review: There are no reviews for this book, which makes me feel like this and the previous two books were actual earnest attempts to write books instead of making a cash grab that involved paying for positive reviews.

Using JavaScript's cover is a masterpiece of ugly. The top half is a blue and white cloudscape, the bottom is a stone-gray table of sorts with an illustrated coffee cup on a saucer. A cursive font is an... interesting... choice for the title. Normally you'd want the title to be easy to read. The cursive font makes this book's title look like "Javal Cript".

And the author forgot to put his name on the cover. He's modest.

The author of this self-published book didn't do a good job with their Amazon listing. "JavaScript" is spelled correctly on the cover of the book, but not on the Amazon page. There's no "see inside" preview, which is alluring because apparently this book is 896 pages. But it also says this book was published on January 1, 2001, which is before the Pearson Custom Publishing company existed.

And Amazon image of the cover... is literally a photo of the printed book resting on a table. The flash from the camera adds a bright spot that makes the title even harder to read.

I almost want to buy it just because I'm so curious as to what could be in the pages of this massive tome.

Best Excerpt fro- of course there are no reviews for this book.

From the author of SQL Programming Guide, the JavaScript book that literally has no JavaScript content, comes JAVA, JAVA Script and SQL, another JavaScript book that literally has no JavaScript content. Or Swift content (the subtitle is "Programming Guide: Learn In A Day! (Java, Swift, Apps, Programming Language)"). Or any content: the "look inside" preview on Amazon is literally 35 blank pages.

The cover is simply two copies of the other book's cover copy and pasted together.

The book has only one 5-star review from Brianna, a nurse from Portland, Oregon. Her headshot is so conventionally attractive you'd think she's a stock photo model. She's written 540 reviews, all 5-star.

Conclusion

Self-publishing has created a new wave of tech books. While I got my own start through self-publishing programming books, I need to stress that you should cast a skeptical eye over these books before you buy them. Just being listed on Amazon is not an indicator of quality, and Amazon's review system is rife with paid-for positive reviews.

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