So far I've been getting my information from the web - chiefly this site and Reef Central. (And mostly this site.) Earlier today I ordered a couple of books.
The biggest thing I expect from the books is the systematic organization of the information. I expect to find - for example - something about what kind of animal is a coral. Then break it down to groups of corals and their characteristics. And finally, I expect to find a list of commonly found corals with individual descriptions of their characteristics. Plus I'll be getting information from someone who is a known expert in the field. That's not to say that the folks on this forum are not experts. I'm sure that many have expertise in various areas that exceed the book author. And there are others that do not. I just followed an old thread between two enthusiasts who had just started out. Before long they were advising each on issues for which they could have no personal experience. [boggle.] They were simply repeating what they had read on the site. Does something become true if it is repeated often enough?
There are some excellent attempts to systematize the information presented here such as the Coral Info Database. It's an excellent resource for picking out some "first time" corals and I presume that is it's focus. I can go to my LFS and see many many more corals than what are listed there, so it is nowhere near comprehensive. Maybe we need to start "fishipedia" along the lines of Wikipedia. (Actually, when I googled Maroon Clown, I did find an entry there.) Igreen's Ultimate Nano Fish Guide is also a great start. But consider the quantity of material compared to a printed book and you will see that Igreen has a daunting task ahead of him before his web publication comes close to a published book. This is not to dis' the efforts put forth to put these guides together, but rather to put in perspective what can be accomplished by a hobbyist in their spare time vs. a paid professional.
On the other hand, when I want to buy a book, I have found no better place than the Internet - be it forums like this or news groups - to research that topic. In some topic areas (like computer programming) there is an incredible amount of absolute trash gets published. One of the best ways to identify the better publications is to ask a group of people who have read the books. When selecting reef books, I started with the discussion in the common pitfalls thread (http://www.nano-reef...p;#entry1018974
) and ordered "Natural Reef Aquariums" and "Aquarium Corals" with full confidence that I am ordering the best books on those subjects that are available.
The Internet is a terrific way to connect with like minded individuals the world over. For information that relies on collective experience, it is tops. I don't see it replacing dead tree publications yet. Eventually I have no doubt that it will.
Edited by HankB, 23 March 2008 - 05:45 PM.