GIS For Dummies, by Michael N. DeMers
I must admit at the outset that I am not part of this book’s target demographic, which is people who are working for companies or who run companies that are looking to adopt one or another GIS software program as a way of using layered geographical data as a part of their business plan. Although as a reader I have always been deeply interested in geography and even if I am a somewhat technically inclined person in terms of my own work experience, the sort of data that is talked about here is not something that I have any particular influence in. That said, even given this I was definitely able to find some interesting potential aspects that this particular book could be useful in the sort of business I do as a way of helping to determine the most profitable geographical areas to a much more narrow level than is currently done. And when I can see something that is of obvious potential use, it is not hard for me to champion and support such exploitation of geographical data for fun and profit, given my own fondness of looking at geographical for my own personal amusement apart from commercial concerns.
This particular book is about 350 pages and is divided into six sections and numerous chapters. The author begins with an introduction that defines the target audience of this book and then moves into a discussion of how GIS is geography on steroids (I), even if the author is intent on not endorsing the use of such products, with chapters on the scope of GIS (1), as well as how maps show information (2), and how to read, analyze, and interpret maps (3). After that there are five chapters that show how geography has gone digital (II), dealing with such matters as how to create a conceptual model (4), how to understand the GIS data models (5), how to keep track of data descriptions (6), how to manage multiple maps (7), and how to gather and digitize geographical data (8). There is then a discussion on how one retrieves, counts, and characterizes geography (III), with chapters on finding information in raster systems (9), finding features in vector systems (10), and how to search for geographic objects, distributions, and groups (11). This leads into a discussion of the analysis of geographic patterns (IV), with chapters on measuring distance (12), working with statistical surfaces (13), exploring topographical surfaces (14), working with networks (15), comparing multiple maps (16), and map algebra and model building (17). After that the author discusses GIS output and application (V) in such areas as the production of cartographic output (18), as well as non-cartographic output (19), and how GIS is used by organizations (20). Finally the part of tens (VI) comes where the author discusses 10 GIS software vendors that may or may not still be in business (21), ten questions to ask potential vendors (22), and ten GIS data sources, mainly government ones (23), after which there is an index.
This book’s approach is a familiar one if you know and like the series as a whole as much as I do . Even if GIS seems unfamiliar to many, I found it to be quite enjoyable to learn about given its intersection of two things I care a lot about–namely the usefulness of geographical information and ways of combining this information together on different layers and with textual information via relational databases like SQL. Even if this book was not aimed at me, and even if it is not something that I would find myself immediately looking for as a solution to business concerns, this is something I could totally see myself involved in and in supporting and in working in, and that is something that I found to be deeply interesting and worthwhile. And for those readers who like me share an interest in geographical information and how it can be profitable for businesses, this book and others like it is definitely something that I can warmly recommend.
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