by Annelies de Deugd
LEIDEN: INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ASIAN STUDIES, 1996
This booklet purports to offer the results of a year’s work collecting information found on the Internet regarding Asian Studies. It is divided into two uneven parts: a user’s guide and a directory. The first provides an introduction to the ways of gaining access to the Internet, from file transfer protocol (FTP) and electronic mail, to discussion and mailing lists, Telnet, Gopher, and the World Wide Web (WWW). The second and much longer part is devoted to listings of Internet resources useful to Asian studies arranged according to electronic lists, Gopher sites, WWW sites, newsgroups, library catalogues, electronic publications, and various associations, societies, and institutes. Each section is subdivided further according to country and theme, providing network identification, full list address, and brief description.
There is, alas, no index. Moreover, the organization of Part Two is unfortunate, because it allows for excessive and disruptive repetition of sites and information about subscribing to lists. This feature would be bad enough, but something worse is betrayed in these pages. Ultimately, no better evidence exists than this little book to reveal how problematic it is to publish in printed form material relating to the Internet and World Wide Web. Appearing in 1996 but conceived at least a year earlier, the utility of this brief guide to Asian resources on the Internet was rendered insignificant by the time it became available in 1997. Claims that the latest version of Netscape browser is 1.2 (version 3.0 has been available for nearly a year, and version 4.0, renamed Communicator, is in beta testing), that “the most used browsers at the moment are Mosaic for Windows, Lynx for DOS, and MacWeb for Macintosh” (p. 14), and that “newspapers are going to discover the possibilities of the Internet” (p. 15) are ample testimony to the problem. Furthermore, without testing each of the sites listed, there is no way to know which are still active, which have changed addresses, and which have ceased to function given the passage of so much time.
The International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden, which sponsored this project, has a Web site at http://iias.leidenuniv.nl. Noted in the Foreword, this address is, as it turns out, the most useful bit of information in the booklet under review. The Institute’s home page is a mirror site for the Australian National University’s Asian Studies World Wide Web Virtual Library (WWW VL), probably the most important collection of links to what is available on the Internet relating to Asia. ANU’s Virtual Library is where those interested in Asia and the Internet should turn as the best choice for the most up-to-date information. In the competition between print text and electronic text, the latter wins hands down in this instance.