My first thought in the latter case is: why? How can these books turn a profit? What do they contain that would be so valuable to a minecraft player?
I got a collection of the handbooks by Scholastic, which were approved by the creator company, Mojang. I intend to see what they could explain about Minecraft that is apparently hard to find on the internet.
Book one: Essentials
What are the essentials of minecraft? Punch stuff to get materials for crafting. Punch a tree to get wood, and marvel as the tree then defies gravity! Punch dirt, and it does the same! Punch sand, and die of suffocation when it falls on your head!
Though seriously, the essentials book is pretty much the tutorial a first time user of minecraft needs. The game doesn't explain anything, from how to get materials to what you do with them when you get them. The book itself isn't bad.
...However, they made a very strange decision with the book, which makes me wonder why they bothered to make it in the first place.
You see, in addition to the developer interviews, there is an interview and tips from youtube Minecraft let's player, Captainsparklez. Now, on the surface that makes sense; he plays a lot of Minecraft, and is well known for doing so, so it'd make sense to put info from him in the book.
However, it is for the same reason that I find it bizarre. If the audience reading it doesn't know about Captainsparklez, they aren't going to care what he says, or just wonder why he's so special as to be interviewed. But, if they know Captainsparklez, they don't need this book. If they want to know how to play, they'll watch his videos, of which he has a lot of. So you see the conundrum:
The internet is free (kinda; at the very least there are ways to access it without paying for it personally), and houses all the info on minecraft in a myriad of places, be it in video, wiki, or forum. Why would you buy a book to explain what the internet can already?
There are some possible answers, but none of them are really all that good...
This book holds nothing for veteran players; which is to be expected, it is a beginner's guide. But everything in it, in my view, should've been rolled in with the book on combat in my opinion, which is book #3, and I'll get to after the next one.
Overall, I see no reason to get this book. If you want to learn minecraft, there are a lot of free ways to do it. At best this is a reference guide for some of the crafting recipes, but you'd be hunting for them.
The next book however, is a lot more useful.
Book two: Redstone
Redstone is one of the most complex game mechanics I've ever seen, though it is simple in theory.
Redstone is basically a wire. It can carry a current a certain distance instantaneously. A redstone torch can provide a signal that is constantly on unless it is shorted out by another torch. A button provides a second long signal; a switch has a toggleable on/off position; and a pressure plate has a signal that is on as long as the plate is depressed, same with the trip wire. Finally, there is the redstone repeater, which can increase the distance redstone can travel, and can have the signal be delayed a few seconds.
Simple concepts; so how is it complex?
It is complex because people are able to build computers with it. I am entirely serious.
Redstone is programming and engineering. People go to college for years to learn how to create such complex systems, and they can be replicated in Minecraft.
The redstone book contains examples like this, of the power of redstone, but sticks to teaching some of the more basic concepts that are still very complex.
I ranked the previous book as for being for pure beginners only, and this redstone book is strictly for advanced users. Mid level users can do some interesting things with redstone, and the book shows you how, but advanced users are the ones who can truly unlock the infinite potential of redstone.
Redstone, and book number 4, were the books I expected to be the most worthwhile, considering there are some really difficult things to grasp with redstone. The book is a great beginners introduction, and midlevel's reference guide for becoming advanced.
Now, there is the argument again that all the info in the book can be found on the internet... But admittedly the book is very handy and informative, with a lot of clear visual guides, which can be lacking in net guides.
Overall, this book is my favorite of the four, and probably the one most worth your money; provided you can remain interested in minecraft long enough to reach the advanced stage of redstone.
Book three: Combat
This book is on how to fight in minecraft, everything that will help you do that, and what your end goal likely will be.
There are many monsters in minecraft, and this book gives a rundown of each of them, in addition to tactics on how to fight them. It also tells you about the two bosses of the game and how to find and fight them.
The book also explains potions, another quite complex system in the game, as there are many different variables you control when brewing potions. The potions section I found to be the most useful thing in the book, though the ways of fighting the bosses would prove useful to someone who's never fought them before.
But like I said, the rest of the book is basics, and is quite frankly info that'd be more useful in the essentials book. As such, the combat and essentials books should've been made into one book. It's not like it'd be overly long, the books are 80 pages at most.
Though that thought brings me to the last book in the collection...
Book four: Construction
Construction consists entirely of instructions on how to make specific buildings, and ideas based on community creations. Which is pretty much what you'd expect from the book. It gives tips on how to vary the ideas
The idea of the book isn't bad. Minecraft is like a big tub of Legos; the possibilities are overwhelming to the point where you can be stifled into creating just what is simple. This is the same problem with other construction games; if you don't have a heading and a strong plan, you aren't going to get everything you could out of building in the game.
The contents of the book are fairly solid; enough instructions to help you complete the creations therein, and tips on how to create your own stuff. The only problem is the length.
They planned this
Length is a problem for all fours books. They are all 80 pages long. At standard cost, they are 8 dollars each; that's roughly a dollar for every ten pages.
Just for sake of the argument and lack of knowledge on the true cost of production, lets say they make double the cost of production on a sale, meaning the book costs 4 dollars to make. Lets say the pages cost 2 dollars, the covers costs 1, and 1 goes towards the initial cost of production. Now, let's double the pages to 160 by combining essentials and combat, or redstone and construction. Pages now cost 4, and maybe the cover costs say 50 cents more for a bigger spine. the cost of production would then be 6.50, which would bring the purchase cost to 13 dollars if it is doubled. That price is still reasonable. However, the reason why they aren't combined and sold at that price is because they wanted four books.
In the back of essentials, they mention the three following books were coming soon. They had four books planned form the start. So, instead of getting 26 dollars for getting two books of 160 pages each, they get 32 dollars for four books of 80 pages each. The collection of the books isn't a bundle sale either, it normally retails for 32 dollars, I got it on sale for 24. (I beat the odds!)
They made the books piecemeal and short, in order to make more money.
Now, return ot the fact I mentioned before all minecraft info can be found for free on the internet. The people who least need these books are adults, thus why they are marketed towards kids. That is why I am going to call them a rip off. These books prey on fanatical children and parents that don't know any better.
For reference, the unofficial guides sold near these were substantially thicker, upwards of 400 pages in a large format. They were specialized as well, but they had more meat behind them, at roughly the same price.That is the problem with these books; they were made with the intent of getting money from children first, and explaining the game second.
This problem isn't limited to Minecraft; there are many other game guide and books whose intention is to get money before the content, insert joke about textbooks here.
Let this review be a warning to those considering getting the Minecraft handbooks: they are not all worth it.
This is my ranking of the books in terms of how useful they are:
The collection in not worth your money. If you want a handbook on any one of the topics, get it, as it does a decent job of covering the topic.
As a guide to Minecraft, the books are decent at least, great at most. But as a product they are not worth their cost. Get them when they are discounted on a clearance rack like I did if you're interested. And in the future, when your kids are begging you to get a guide book on the next big game, I suggest looking through it before buying. If it seems really short, and there are others in a series about the game... don't bother with it. If the game is somehow popular enough to where they think they can sell guides piecemeal, there are likely unofficial guides around as well that'll prove to be more worth your while.
This has been Fixer Sue, discussing media that very rarely gets reviewed (for good reason mostly).