I shrugged. I'd been waiting for this book for a week and a year (ordered: September 11, 2007 - received: September 18, 2008) so I wasn't about to quibble about its title. What I was curious about was if, during its year-long gestation period, the authors had kept the book up to date with the rapidly-changing world of Apex - after all, version 3.1 had come out in that time. I searched the index for 3.1's most impressive feature, interactive reports. No luck; not one mention. Not a good sign; had they delayed the book for so long that it was born outdated?
Flicking through the book didn't fill me with confidence either. I spotted a reference to the htmldb_application package. Nothing wrong with that, but I did wonder if it was the authors' preference or maybe a sign of how long ago the book was written that they hadn't used apex_application instead.
Not exactly filled with confidence I settled down to work my way through the first few chapters. I noted that the authors hadn't resorted to that chatty, overly-informal tone that many textbook authors use these days. Good for them; when I'm studying Application Express I don't need to feel like I'm having a beer in the pub with my mates. (When I'm in the pub, if you want to know, I start out talking about football and end up, when I'm thoroughly drunk, swearing I saw a UFO hovering over my local KFC in 2003. Not one mention of Apex.)
I also liked the way the authors approached the subject of Apex, the sequence in which they dealt with its various topics. Too many Oracle textbooks read like freeze-dried reference books; this book, I noted, seemed to have found the right middle point between reference book and those annoying "for dummies" books.
Some topics in the book struck me as a little strange. For instance, there's a bit about VPD, a useful subject for an Oracle developer to be knowledgeable about but not exactly Apex. I didn't mind this though; I'd been planning to read up about application contexts for a while now, so I was grateful for their concise explanations on the subject. On the other hand when I came across 2 pages demonstrating to me that putting double quotes around table names made them case sensitive I must admit that I felt as if I was being talked down to.
Two paragraphs ago I said that I liked the sequence in which the authors lined up their various topics, and that's the truth. However, I wonder if I would have found this book so welcoming if I was a complete Apex newbie. I dunno; maybe not.
So maybe the pro in the title does stand for 'professional', because for someone like me who has dipped their toes in Apex (and therefore is partway between a newbie and an expert) this book is perfectly positioned. Reading back over what I've written so far I suspect that you might think that this is aiming to be a negative review: the complete opposite is the truth. I am very glad that I bought this book - and in some respects I am even pleased I had to wait a year for it. Because already I am using things I am learning from it to fine-tune and improve my application.
But I'm beginning to ramble; I should summarise. What you probably want to know is should you buy the book? Well, if you're a newbie the answer is yes. Be warned though that this book won't replace the resources of the web; you'll still need to work through the Oracle By Example docs - maybe before you dig into this book. If you're not exactly a newbie but still no expert, then I think this book is most definitely for you. (I've just been reading the chapter on the Apex dictionary, for example, and that alone is - almost - worth the cover price.) And if you're an expert? Well, what do I know? - I've only been working with Apex for 6 months. Why do you want to take advice from me? Huh?