Book of the Month
The Complete Guide to Basic English
Learn Beginner English Phrases and Vocabulary

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Author: J. Gerber



This month's review is a two-in-one special. We are reviewing not only a particular book, but a Kindle digital edition of the book delivered instantly to a tablet reading device. So both the book and the overall reading experience will be assessed. Digital books are an ever-increasing segment of the market, and it is easy to see why. Once signed up to Kindle on the computer, downloading the book took a matter of seconds - rather than days or weeks of waiting for the book to turn up in the post office. Once downloaded, the book was immediately available on a linked tablet device (we used an android Samsung Galaxy for this review). The first impression was that the book seemed to fit easily onto the screen, and it was generally easy to navigate with hyperlinks and the slider at the bottom. Looking up words was easy as a quick tap brought up the tablet's built-in dictionary. One very annoying feature was that sometimes the hyperlink for particular chapter headings instead brought up an advertisement for the author's online English courses. (This may be an issue with this particular reader as the advertisement was on the previous page.)

This particular book is available only on Kindle. It is a short book, technically of 64 pages, but page numbers vary depending on your digital device. This book would also be very readable on a modern smartphone. While many paper versions of EFL textbooks cost up to $30, this little book is just $3. However, the saying is that 'You get what you pay for', so is this book worth the price? Well, for a start, some better proof-reading would have helped here. A disclaimer at the beginning which says 'This book is for entertainment purposed (sic) only' does not inspire confidence. This might be a typing error. However, the author later makes a plural with an apostrophe ('saying goodbye's') - a mistake one would expect of an elementary-level student rather than from someone teaching the subject. While there are a a good number of other such errors, the book overall does what the sub-title says. It provides basic phrases and vocabulary, and does so well and clearly. The book is somewhere between a phrasebook and a basic English guide. It mentions that occasionally the reader will need to use (for example) the past tense, but it does not teach this. Often though, the author has instead put a link to online material which gives further detail.
One inexplicable omission is the lack of even basic illustrations. For example the section on 'Colors' (US English is used throughout)lists the most common colours, but without putting a patch of that colour next to each word. While print books often do not use colour to save costs, a digital book should have no such problem. Yet this book is black-and-white text throughout. As well as colours, the other sections of the book give the basic, essential vocabulary for everyday topics such as hobbies, weather, numbers, animals and money. There are thirty-three topics in all, presented in no particular order. Again some consistent editing would help - for example capital letters are explained as 'big letters' but words such as 'responding' and 'cite' are given without any definition.

Who is this book for? This book will not really help a student to learn English. However, this is not the purpose. Instead it is a handy guide to common vocabulary and expressions. A beginner would do well to have this loaded on a smartphone so that (for example) the section on meeting people can be called up and reviewed just before a social occasion.

Verdict: Good idea - but needs a professional editor
Assessment 4/10
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