Stephanie Brain writes "Have you ever considered building your own online store and entering into the booming e-commerce arena? If you have, you may have come across some of the many open-source software available for downloading from the Internet. One of the most popular of these is OsCommerce which has been developed since March 2000 and has a full team of staff dedicated to its development. It is overseen by the founder, Harald Ponce de Leon and today there are around 6000 live, registered OsCommerce sites and 70000 registered community members, many of whom are active on the OSC forum you can log on to. This forum can provide a wealth of information when you come up against any obstacle when developing your own OsCommerce website." Read the rest of Stephanie's review.
Back in October I started working with someone who had already downloaded the OSC software and had the basis of an online store installed. I will be running the store, however my first task was to change the whole look of the site and make improvements to it before launching NetTechShop properly. Having read the OsCommerce blurb which promotes the simplicity of using OSC, I felt sure that I could quickly get to grips with the "simple" programming language of PhP and HTML and have the site ready in a month or two. I was sadly disappointed! By the end of November last year I was getting desperate, having spent hours making modifications to the coding on the database only to either break the site completely or find it had not made one jot of difference to the look of the site. I searched in vain for OsCommerce For Dummies.
My pain was somewhat relieved when I discovered that a book was going to be published on OsCommerce by Packt Publishing and I put my order in immediately and breathed a great sigh of relief.
Strangely such a book has been lacking until now. You can find plenty of books about Php programming and MySQL or HTML, but try to find a book which is easy to understand for someone with less than a University or College IT qualification background and about OsCommerce in particular and you will search long and hard.
David Mercer's book is the book you have been looking for and is available in either a beginner's or professional edition. It is written in a straightforward, easy to understand manner, yet does not compromise on technical knowledge and provides all the essentials of getting your website up and running with OsCommerce.
The book covers: installing MySQL, PHP, Apache and OsCommerce and testing them, configuration and customization of your store, working with data, taxes, payment and shipping, securing your store, installing more advanced feature using contributions from the OsCommerce website and deployment and maintenance of your site.
Before going onto the technical aspects and explanation of OsCommerce, Mercer explores the whole area of e-Commerce, what is required of a website store to make it a success, the arguments for using an open-source solution such as OsCommerce and the decision making issues any business faces when deciding if OsCommerce is right for them.
This manual was everything I hoped it would be and with its many illustrations, including screenshots of the files you will be changing on an OsC website, I found that anyone with even the most basic understanding of website design, would be able to get to grips with designing a website store using OsCommerce. I had the professional edition and found it really easy to just dip into when I needed to know some aspect of the design process. The book's content is well laid out, in manageable chunks with bold headings, which are clear about the content and the index is comprehensive.
One of the things I really liked about the book was that it addressed the problems, error messages and frustrations you are likely to come up against in the process of building your OsCommerce site. Those were the things that made my head spin the most before I got the book and although you should be able to find out about many of your error messages and problems on the OsCommerce forums, it can take quite a time to search and plough through all the replies. It is much better to find the most common problems in one place with practical solutions.
Another important chapter which is covered in depth is the installation and testing of a payment module. The most popular of these, Paypal is covered in the book and detailed instructions are given on how to get it working correctly, again something which sounds easy on paper, but can cause endless problems if you do it wrong. There are other payment providers and gateways which can be integrated onto your OsCommerce site by installing other so-called "contributions" from the OsCommerce website and Mercer explains fully how to download these contributions and get them functioning correctly.
I am sure that this book will prove to be an essential resource for anyone contemplating starting an online business with open-source OsCommerce software and hopefully will avoid them spending wasted energy in the initial stages just trying to figure it all out. After I received my book, the only wasted energy I spent was wondering why the front cover was emblazoned with juicy oranges!"
You can purchase Building Online Stores with osCommerce from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.