AOL Tourguide - A good deal
Author: Scott Ohman
Date: December, 1993
Keywords: America Online service modem book review
Text: The America Online Membership Kit and Tour Guide includes a 400 page guide to AOL, an AOL startup disk, and 10 free hours of on-line time, which can be used by new or current members. The software will work with any Mac from the plus on up. It requires at least 700K of ram and a hard drive with ''several megs of free space.'' AOL currently supports modem speeds up to 2400 baud; when 9600 baud communications will be added is anyone's guess. The software comes on one disk, and the installation is a strait forward, one step process, which only took me a few minutes. Your first sign on takes longer- it took me about 20 minutes to go through the process of signing on, selecting my access numbers, and choosing my on-line name and password. Fortunately, as the book assured me, this first connection is on AOL's dime. America Online lives up to most of its hype. It provides a Mac interface, including most standard keyboard commands and the like, without need for any additional software. It offers the features most people would expect from an on-line service: over 28,000 Mac software programs, message boards on numerous topics, fax and US mail capabilities, an Internet e-mail gateway, on-line magazines, and so on. For the most part, I only used the software files and the internet e-mail. The other sections seemed interesting, and I did try them out, but at $3.50 an hour, you have to decide if they are really worth the cost. For me they weren't. Searchable magazines and encyclopedias are nice, but when you have a free public library nearby, on-line advantages become less important. Of course, most people know the basics about AOL. What people want to know is how useful this book is, and whether it is worth its $34.95 price. Most people who are already familiar with the basics of on-line communications will probably find much of this book a little simplistic. It seems to have been written with a first time, easily confused user in mind. Everything is discussed in metaphors that a new user can easily understand. Most of the manual covers things which you could find on your own, given the intuitive interface. It may take you slightly longer, but you will eventually find it. Also, the book has obviously been written with a very pro-AOL viewpoint, always praising the usefulness of each section, the people who work for AOL, and the value. Never does the Author enter into a critical mode, comparing AOL with other services, or questioning whether certain services are worth the price. On the other hand, it does include useful information on FlashSessions and the Download Manager, two powerful features which are slightly less evident, as well as useful keyword listings and a command-key reference. From all my criticism, you would think that I do not consider the book a good value. Quite to the contrary, I find it to be well worth its $34.95 price. It includes a coupon good for 10 hours of on-line time, which in itself would cost $35. So even if you use the book only rarely, and read only part, it has already paid for itself. Note that if you are not already a member of AOL, it is to your advantage to first order a free membership from AOL, which includes a startup disk, miniguide, and ten free hours of on-line time, then use the coupon provided in the guidebook to add to that time.
Copyright © december, 1993 by Scott Ohman