Book Review - Talk Is Cheap: Switching To Internet Telephones by James E. Gaskin
Want to say good-bye to your plain old telephone service with the high cost of taxes, add-on fees, and long-distance? Check out James E. Gaskin's book Talk Is Cheap - Switching To Internet Telephones (O'Reilly). I certainly learned quite a bit from this book...
Contents: How Internet Telephone Calls Work; Your Internet Phone; Free Internet Phone Features That You're Paying For Now; Choosing Your Internet Phone Equipment; Vonage And Other Broadband Phone Carriers; Skype And Other Computer-centric Services; 911, Alarms, And Other Outgoing Calls; Tips, Tricks, And Techniques For Advanced Users; Go Wireless; Index
As more and more people switch to broadband internet access, there's an emerging option for telephony services in the home. Using your internet connection (DSL or cable), you can switch to internet telephony, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and go all digital. Gaskin does an excellent job in explaining exactly what this is, how it works, and the pros and cons of switching to a service like this. He's a pretty strong advocate of VoIP, so you can pretty much figure out where his bias is going to lie.
The book focuses on two major types of internet telephony: phone-centric and computer-centric. In the phone-centric area (using your phone much like before, but only through an internet service) he uses Vonage as the primary example of what to expect. On the computer-centric side (no telephone, just headphones and speakers attached to your computer), he uses the Skype package as the leader in that area. In this growing technology area, it's impossible to write a book covering every option such that it won't be out of date before it's printed. To Gaskin's credit, he does a good job in covering the current playing field, as well as giving enough detail to figure in new options as they emerge.
Even though you can come away from a book like this thinking all is rosy, that's not quite the case. There are very well documented customer service issues with Vonage, and no player in the field is mature enough to get it right as often as Ma Bell does. Still, if you're an early adopter of technology, this is definitely an area you need to check out. And if you have no exposure to residential VoIP up until now, I'd recommend a copy of this book to get you up to speed quickly.