I was recently turned on to a special deal on a reference site that I plan on using very often. If you're like me, you regularly visit newsgroups, MSDN, the Knowledge Base, and any other site that has proven to be of value when it comes to finding answers (SQLServerCentral.com included, of course). You also might have a limited personal book budget, and in these belt-tightening times, perhaps have even had the company training budget put on hold. IQ Destination (http://www.iqdestination.com) has a great solution to satisfy your thirst for knowledge on a shoestring budget. Subscribe to this site, and it's like putting a bookstore at your fingertips. We at SQLServerCentral.com have inked a deal with them that will make it easier and cheaper for you to sign up, and get some great discounts on MCDBA reference material packages.
They currently have over 300 books available online for viewing and purchase. They will be adding 100 books in the near future, and about 10 more books per month - based in part on subscriber feedback.
You can self-register on the site for a free seven day evaluation. This trial membership is limited in that you are not able to view the entire contents of what is returned for your searched or bookmarks. If you register through their sales department, you get the same period to evaluate the site, but there are no limits to what you are able to view. The standard subscription rate is $199 for a 90 day subscription, and $299 for a one year subscription. Group discounts are available. For a limited time, SQL Server Central has arranged a series of specials for our members. We have a series of specials through October 7th, 2001. Click the links below to take advantage of them.
- SQL Server 2000 Administration Exam (70-228)
- SQL Server 2000 Database Design Exam (70-229)
- SQL Server 7 Administration Exam (70-028)
- SQL Server 7 Database Design Exam (70-029)
- SQL Server 7 Data Warehousing Exam (70-019)
Finding Reference Materials
There are three ways to locate reference materials regarding a particular topic of interest. You can perform a keyword search, do a lookup by author, title, publisher, or ISBN, or you can browse the pre-defined hierarchy of reference categories.
Performing a keyword search will return a very well organized list of reference materials that meet your criteria to varying degrees. The returned items are ranked by relevance - high, medium, and low, and are further qualified by ranking the particular sections of the book that pertain to your search criteria via a small meter bar next to each section. Along with the rankings, you get a picture of the cover, a brief summary of what the book is about, and links to the book and its table of contents.
Here's a sample search result for keyword "DTS".
If you know the title of the book, or even just want to do a search on the title or author, the results are a listing of any relevant matches similar to the keyword search. There are no rankings, so all you get is the picture and the brief summary. Browsing through the hierarchical listings is fairly intuitive, and they are put together in logical groupings. I prefer the keyword search above all, but it's nice to be able to get a high level view of what they offer.
What happens if you have found something you like, and you decide you want to have the paper version of the book? Well, they conveniently offer a purchase option right on the site. You click on a "purchase book" link, and you are taken to one of the several popular on-line book retailers.
One very cool feature of the site is the bookshelf - basically, it's a customized favorites list of reference materials you have found on the site. The beauty of this is that you can let other members of your group subscription (colleagues) view your bookmarks, and you can check out theirs. You can add notes about any items of interest that you happen to come across, and set alerts that notify you of any new titles in which you specify an interest. When you are viewing sections of a book, and create a bookmark (instructions are on the site), they are put in this bookshelf section for easy retrieval.
A couple of navigational oddities, in my opinion, are that you set you display options and edit your personal preferences in the Bookshelf section, and the "contact us" information is located in the help section. Not counter-intuitive by any means, and once you've found it, you should have no trouble getting there again. The site is well laid out and has a clean look and feel to it. Using the subscription model, they can get away with not putting up any advertisements.
Overall, I was very impressed with the site, and will certainly recommend that we purchase a group subscription for our company. While even though any $30 to $60 dollar book will pay for itself if it gives you a few ideas on how to solve a problem you are having, most of the books I buy sit on a shelf after I read them and then become dated not long after that. There's always something new to learn about, and that's what I find so appealing about this "leasing" model. You can get to the substance of what you need to solve a problem, and if you like what you've read, you have the option to buy the book and have it shipped to you. You can still access the whole book on-line, so even if you need to get some information (and have chosen not to carry your books wherever you go), it's just a mouse click away.