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Title: Google, Amazon, and Beyond: Creating and Consuming Web Services
Authors: Tom Myers and Alexander Nakhimovsky
Level: Intermediate Java, beginning web services
Verdict: A good practical introduction
When it comes to web services in the wild (as opposed to the wilds of the imagination that most of the hype promotes), there really are only two big players in town, Google and Amazon. So it's no surprise that this readable, accessible and eminently practical book on web services should focus so much attention on the Google and Amazon APIs. However the book does much more than repackage the material that you can get by registering a developers key for either service.
While the authors use Java for much of the code, they are fairly agnostic when it comes to platforms. On the browser side of things the code is tested and run in Internet Explorer and Mozilla. On the server side of things open-source tools are used exclusively, including Tomcat and Axis. While there are details of how to set these up in the body of the text, there is also a useful appendix which goes into more detail.
A number of extended examples are used in the book, enabling the basics to be extended and new examples incorporated. A book club service, for example, means that client-side access to Amazon is used alongside a web service connected to a database. This extended example brings together many of the topics that are covered separately. A similar approach is used to contrast SOAP and REST versions of the same service.
Aside from looking at the core web service technologies, the book also provides much useful additional, but essential, material. For example, while some knowledge of XML is assumed, the book does provide a solid introduction to XSLT for transforming results. Similarly there are refreshers on JDBC for database access, JSP and Tomcat, sockets and ports and so on. What this means is that while there is some familiarity with Java assumed, there is no assumption as to levels of experience of any particular Java technology, not least in the general networking area.
Overall then, this is a useful book that provides practical coverage of a wide-ranging set of technologies around web services. The focus on practice rather than theory is clear and it means that the reader can very quickly get up to speed and start experimenting.