Author: Barrie M. North
Format: Paperback, 480 pages plus DVD edition
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR; 2nd edition (June 1, 2009)
Update: I just got a heads up from Heather Fox at Prentice saying that Fundamentals of Joomla Video Training & Users Guide Package (which includes the subsequently mentioned book and DVD training video) is still available exclusively at Barnes and Noble. After January 1, 2010, the bundle will become generally available. Please disregard any contrary bits of information in the original review. Thanks.
I think this bundle (the book and DVD) was a limited offer and unfortunately, it's taken me just a bit too long get to my review to take advantage of the package. Nevertheless, the products are still available individually, and are both written and presented by Barrie North. But let's back up a bit.
According to joomla.org, "Joomla is an award-winning content management system (CMS), which enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications. Many aspects, including its ease-of-use and extensibility, have made Joomla the most popular Web site software available. Best of all, Joomla is an open source solution that is freely available to everyone." Between those two links, if you didn't have an idea of what Joomla was before, you do now.
Like a number of other Joomla books on the market, Prentice Hall's offering is tailored for the novice, but promises enough sophistication to take the reader up to at least a "quasi-professional" level. The Preface of the book states in part, that the reader isn't assumed to have any programming or even CSS experience. It's "easy to read" and "low on technical jargon", telling me that North wrote the book for the non-web designing business professional who wants to take advantage of CMS in general and Joomla in specific, to further their business purposes and goals.
That said, the book does teach the technical aspects of how to create a Joomla site from scratch but you start out at ground zero by being introduced to the concepts of web pages, CSS, and Joomla itself. Depending on your level of experience, the first chapter may be something you want to bypass, or at least just skim through. If you have web experience but no Joomla experience, Chapter 2 will tell you where to go to find and download Joomla, then how to install it. You are wisely directed to the XAMPP site to take care of the Apache, MySQL, and PHP side of things, but other options are also presented. Of course, you are also provided with links to acquire the required Joomla installation software.
While I don't consider the Chapter 2 instructions to be outside of a reasonably intelligent person's ability to comprehend, if you really are a completely non-technical person, you might want to take some time to read through the chapter and make sure you have all the steps down, before going through the installation process for both XAMPP and Joomla. This should save you a bit of time and frustration. However, for those with "power user" and up skill sets relative to web design or development, this shouldn't be too much of a chore.
Beyond this point, the book is fairly linear as far as assisting the reader in building the various skills required to create and manage a Joomla site, from basic administration, to organizing content, to creating menus, and so forth. Chapter 10 pulls together all that you should have learned in the prior chapters by letting you build a trial site. In this case, it's a school site, complete with content for students, parents, teachers, other staff, and so on. I suppose this would be the cherry on the cake if you're a school administrator in need of a website, but if you're not, the practice you gain can be applied to just about any organization with a bit of tweaking. If you really need another example, Chapter 11 teaches you how to build a restaurant site. The appendixes offer additional resources, including where to get help, case studies of actual commercial sites powered by Joomla, and more.
The Fundamentals of Joomla! video training DVD and 128 page study guide is based on North's Joomla! 1.5: A User's Guide so, if you have the book, you have all the content the DVD and accompanying booklet contains, just in a different form. On the one hand, this can seem redundant, but if you learn best by accessing more than one learning mode (text and video, for example) using them together will be especially handy. This method could be used either by the individual, or in a school classroom or business training venue. The video content itself might seem a little "light", especially if you have no familiarity with Joomla at all, but coupled with the 480 page primary text, it is a golden learning opportunity.