|There's more than one way to do things|
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You had me there until the last paragraph.
Some SAMS books are bad. In fact, prior to 1999 I'd say *most* of SAMS books were bad. A lot of it has to do with the editorial process of which I've got firshand knowledge. So trust me there. Things have improved though.
The same could be said of any publisher. ORA and Manning both have some real stinkers on the shelf right now at my local bookstore.
My own "Teach Yourself X in Y" book has gotten very *good* reviews from both a readability and technical standpoint. It doesn't teach any bad habits that I've ever been told of, was widely tech reviewed in an open process by dozens in the Perl Community, has a friendly style to newbies, and as a result sells like gangbusters everywhere.
I'd send you one to review, except your attitude's a little hostile and negative right now and I don't know if it'd do any good.
On a related note, I've always held there's two kinds of tech books: ones you learn a subject with, and ones you use for reference. There are very few books that fit both categories well. The Llama is a *terrible* reference book, it's organized all wrong for that and it's not supposed to be a reference. But it's pretty good to learn from! The Camel is an *awful* introductory text to Perl. It far too steep and organized around the parts of the language and not tasks to be done with it. It's a great reference and map to the language.
Of course, by "learn a subject" I mean starting fairly low on the curve. If you're already an adept C, Lisp, Java, Shell, Pascal, Smalltalk, and C++ programmer and you're learning Perl for the first time you'd probably be happy with a reference and a few examples. If your programming experience is limited to BASIC and some Pascal you took in college then you're a different creature entirely.
Are there any books that do well at both? Possibly. K&R does a nice job, before it got too footnote-heavy in the second edition. But C's a microscopic subject compared to Perl. Steven's first edition of the Network Programming book got it right and does both well. His Unix book though was kind of steep for learning a new system, but great if you already new a bit of this and a little of that.
I borrow a learning book, spend some time with it, and then permanently loan it out again. I then go out and buy a reference book and keep it forever.
In reply to Painting with broad brushes