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Why Did We Publish New CCNA Cert Guide Books?

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Despite no CCNA exam changes, Wendell Odom and Cisco Press decided to revise their existing ICND1 and ICND2 books to provide new and improved features to the overall package. This article spells out what’s in the new books.
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So I get a call from my buddies at Pearson Education this summer. (They’re the publisher that works with Cisco to create Cisco Press). And they asked if I’d want to work on a new edition of the ICND1 and ICND2 books, even though we knew that Cisco wasn’t going to rev the exams in that timeframe.  The publisher wanted to revise the books for several reasons beyond just updating the text — reasons that I believe bring more value to the books. Were there things I’d like to change in the actual pages of the books, they asked? Absolutely — in fact, some of it was sitting there waiting for the next edition anyway.

So we revved the books to provide new and improved features to the overall package. This article spells out what’s in the new books.

Quick Summary

Here’s a quick list of major changes plus some new items:

Subnetting: Completely updated subnetting section in ICND1, plus better organization to the subnetting practice appendices.

Network Models: ICND1 contains a revised chapter on networking models.

VLSM, Summarization: Revised VLSM and Summarization chapters in ICND2 with more focus on how to apply the concepts to typical exam problems.

ACL improvements: Revised ACL chapters in ICND2, also with more focus on how to apply the concepts to the exam.

Simulator Lite: Both books come with the Pearson CCNA Network Simulator, Lite version, which lets you practice a small set of labs for no extra $$.

New exam engine, same great questions: The new books use exam software written by Pearson, the publisher, but with the same question content in substance as in the earlier editions.

Premium Edition EBook and Practice Tests: Each print book has an associated Premium Edition that you can buy (for about $12 after coupon if you already bought the print book). It contains a PDF, an EPUB formatted book (for iBooks/iPad, Nook, etc), plus more great practice questions.

The rest of the post gives you more detail about what’s in this list.

Printed Book — ICND1, Edition 3, 2011

One thing I changed in the book was to tweak small topics here and there. There’s always something in a book that could be made better. I’m always watching for these topics, and I keep a running list, and the previous edition had been out for four years, so I had a few items in the list. Sometimes, those improvements required a simple change, others require a re-write to a paragraph, and others required a bigger change.

Additionally, we completely changed the subnetting section. We got a lot of positive feedback on the previous edition (Edition 2, 2007) about the subnetting section. But it was also clear that the organization of the subnetting material could be improved, particularly for times when reviewing the topics, or using this book as your second source to learn subnetting. For example, the former single 85-page chapter did not work as well as it should if you had been to class, knew half of subnetting well, were fuzzy on the other half, and wanted to starting filling in the holes.

The new ICND1 book now has seven short subnetting chapters, six of which have associated practice appendices. If you’re learning it all from scratch, just read it sequentially, and practice. If you’re filling in holes, it’s much more obvious where to find the one or two pieces to read. And each chapter hits a small set of concepts, related processes, examples, and then practice.

See this link for more info on the new subnetting chapters.

I also made noticeable changes to Chapter 2, mainly to clarify some comparisons about TCP/IP and OSI.

Printed Book – ICND2, Edition 3, 2011

As with the ICND1 book, I did make small changes here and there throughout the book. However, I also made a couple of major changes as well.

Three topics in ICND2 can be approached in a manner similar to ICND1’s subnetting, because these ICND2 topics also have both major conceptual parts plus major process/math parts. So, I re-organized these ICND2 topics into shorter chapters, with some associated practice appendices, so that for each topic, you could learn the concepts, then learn the process to find the answers to typical exam questions, and then practice.

First, I took the previous edition’s single chapter “VLSM and Route Summarization” and split it into two chapters, one on each of these two topics.

For the new VLSM chapter, I’ve added some more examples, and added two procedures with specific steps:

  • How to find a VLSM overlap in a design
  • How to choose VLSM subnets.

For the new Route Summarization chapter, I kept a lot of the existing conceptual material. The big change here is the additional of a specific process to find the best summary route, with examples. Both the VLSM and Summarization chapters have practice problem appendices on the DVD as well.

(FYI, some of these specific processes are a direct result of occasional chatter on the Cisco Learning Network, by the way — thanks for the input, folks!)

For ACLs, I took what was one large ACL chapter in the previous edition and split it into two chapters. The first ACL chapter lets you get good at the basics first by focusing on numbered standard IP ACLs. Specifically, this chapter examines how to configure the wildcard mask, how to enable the ACL, the fact that the direction of flow matters, and the implied deny all at the end of the list. The second ACL chapter covers the rest. And because ACLs require some math with the wildcard mask, you guessed it, there’s a short practice appendix now as well.

Publisher: New PCPT Exam Software

Outwardly, when you buy the previous editions (2nd editions), the CD that comes with the book includes exam software with lots of practice questions. Under the covers, two distinct pieces exist: the exam software, and he exam databases that hold the questions. The CD actually contains the exam software (supplied by Boson, www.boson.com, in editions 2), with a license code on a piece of cardboard inside the CD case. The publisher then supplied the question content; in the case of the old editions 2 of the books, I wrote a large percentage of the questions.

The new book follows the same basic model. The DVD (there’s no CD this time; only a DVD) contains the exam software. The questions are substantively based on the previous edition’s questions, with only some small changes here and there. And as before, you install the software, and use the license code that comes with the book.

The big change in this case is that the publisher is using exam software called Pearson IT Certification Practice Test (PCPT), which is exam software developed by Pearson. I’ve  seen the PCPT software, and it appears to do a nice job as well.

So, same basic model, the question database is substantively like what was in the old edition, but now you now use the PCPT engine. More importantly, it enables the next two features listed in this post.

Publisher: DIKTA Questions “on the DVD”

I’m a literal kind of guy. The DVD doesn’t contain any questions; you download them. However, when you buy the book, as part of the deal, you get more questions than you did in the previous edition.

The book lists pre-chapter quizzes, called “Do I Know This Already” (DIKTA).  In the previous edition, those questions were only printed, and were not available for review via the testing software. For this edition, the publisher also copied the DIKTA questions to some question databases, so when you review with the new edition, you can review these DIKTA quiz questions as well.

Publisher: Premium Edition — eBooks, Plus More Great Questions, Really Low Price

Another reason to create a new edition of the books was to start using the PCPT software, which in turn lets the publisher start selling Premium Editions of the books. But before you tune out, this is particularly interesting as far as an option for getting more test questions.

First, you really can tune out if you’re 100% sure you have no budget left at all, because it does cost more $$.

The publishing world is changing with the proliferation of specialized and general eBook readers (Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iPad, etc). That market has been progressing and changing, and probably will more. In this case, Cisco Press has combined eBooks with practice tests. Let me spell out the basics, using the ICND1 Premium Edition as an example

  • You get electronic versions of the ICND1 book – PDF and EPUB, which lets you read the book on a computer and most any other device (exception: Amazon Kindle)
  • You get additional practice exams – enough to support two additional ICND1 exams and two additional CCNA exams (additional compared to what you get with the printed book)
  • the PCPT exam software has hyperlinks from the questions to the book PDF. For both the questions that come with the Premium Edition, plus the questions you already got by buying the printed book, the PCPT software will link to the PDF book page. If want to read more about the topics in a question, just click from the exam engine, and see the supporting content.

The best part? If you buy the print book, you get a 1-time use coupon for 70% off list price of the Premium Edition. (The list price of the Premium Edition is the same as the price of the book, or $39.99.) That’s $12 after the discount. All those practice tests, plus the Ebooks, for $12 more, is a great deal. (Yes, I get paid if you buy it, so I am motivated, but it’s a good deal.)

And to be clear… when you buy the printed book, the DVD does *not* include a PDF of the book. To get a PDF, you need to buy the Premium Edition.

Look for the ICND1 Premium Edition here, and the ICND2 Premium Edition here.

Publisher: Premium Edition Enables DVD Content Delivery

In the old days, when you bought an eBook version of a book, and the book happened to have CD or DVD based content, you often did not get that extra content.

Fast forward to today: The Premium Edition products solve that problem! Say you don’t want the printed books, but prefer electronic books – but you suspect that you’ll miss some content if you don’t buy the printed book. The Premium Edition (PE) product solves the problem! You get it all.

First, the PE product delivers everything it can in eBook formats (PDF and ePub). It delivers the PCPT exam software, and licenses for all the same exams that come with the print book, plus additional exams. Then, for any other content on the printed book’s DVD, you can read more about how to download the content.

Note that the mechanisms for different types of content may require you to take additional steps, but it’s all there, according to Cisco Press. You don’t get a physical DVD, but you get a way to download the DVD content. In particular, you get the videos, and you get the lite version of the Simulator.

Publisher: Network Simulator Lite

The printed books each come with a Lite version of the popular Pearson Network Simulator. These Lite versions of the software have a handful of lab exercises related to each book, respectively.

The Sim Lite software helps for both books, but it’s particularly useful for those just starting their ICND1 or CCNA reading. Most people buy a book, start reading, and then start figuring out what they need to start practice their hands-on skills. Having the Sim Lite lets you get started learning those hands-on skills while you’re still figuring out what you’ll do throughout the process, whether it’s upgrade to the full Sim product, or buying real gear, or other options.  (See this link for web pages and blog posts related to figuring out how to get hands-on Cisco skills.)

Conclusions

As you can see, the publisher really had a lot going on with the changes to these books, far beyond my updates to the text. I think each book has more value now than before — I hope you’ll agree.

If you'd like to read more about these updates, see my following blog posts:

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