Originally read November 26, 2013
This book was a required textbook for a recent college course. My interest in the subject was high, and I enjoyed learning PL/SQL. The book was easy enough to understand, and I learned PL/SQL as a result of reading it, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the format.
Each chapter starts off with a brief introduction about the topic and then there are usually two or three sections within that chapter, each of which is referred to as a “Lab”. Each lab starts off with a short discussion of the basic concepts and syntaxes related to the topic. The real detail of the material is found in the lab exercises that follow. The lab exercises take a variety of formats. For example, one exercise might contain sample PL/SQL code which you need to read to see if you can figure out what the code does. Another example of an exercise would be a requirement to add something new to previously-provided code.
The answers to the lab exercises were provided immediately after each exercise. So you could either walk through the exercises yourself, or you could just read through the exercises, come up with the answers in your head, and then keep on reading to see if you were correct. Given that I already had homework assignments as part of my coursework, and since I did not find any of these concepts to be challenging, I chose the latter method.
In theory, this isn’t such a bad format. The question/answer format might force lazy readers to think about what they’re reading a little more. I think it was the organization that I really had trouble with. The information often seemed too repetitive to me because some information was provided in the lab discussion before the exercises, and then discussed again in multiple lab exercises. Repetition can be useful, but I hate repetition in a textbook. It’s a book, after all. The words aren't going anywhere. I can go back and reread sections if I need to. I don’t want to read the same information twice unless it was my choice to go back and reread it.
In other situations, I had the exact opposite complaint. The exercises were laid out in a relatively logical progression, but sometimes they presented new syntaxes or concepts in an example without any explanations of those concepts until after the example. I prefer to have things explained before I see the examples. The lab-based format of this textbook meant that things were often presented the other way around – first the example in the exercise, then the explanation contained within the answer to the exercise. This often forced me to go back and re-read the exercise in light of the new information I had just read. I felt like this format was less efficient than a traditional textbook format because I spent more time flipping backwards and re-reading than I normally do.
I’m willing to put in the time to read and understand material about a difficult subject, and I like to be challenged, but I get frustrated if something is more complicated and time-consuming than it needs to be. Especially if, like PL/SQL, it really isn't a difficult subject. If a person has any aptitude for programming at all, this book will be more than sufficient to teach them what they need to know. I just personally would have preferred a more linear, traditional textbook format.