This is a free online textbook offered by Saylor Foundation.
'Essentials of Geographic Information Systems integrates key concepts behind the technology with practical concerns and real-world applications. Recognizing that many potential GIS users are non-specialists or may only need a few maps, this book is designed to be accessible, pragmatic and concise. Essentials of Geographic Information Systems also illustrates how GIS is used to ask questions, inform choices and guide policy. From the melting of the polar ice caps to privacy issues associated with mapping, this book provides a gentle, yet substantive, introduction to the use and application of digital maps, mapping and GIS. Maps are everywhere - on the internet, in your car and even on your mobile phone. Moreover, maps of the 21st century are not just paper diagrams folded like an accordion. Maps today are colorful, searchable, interactive and shared. This transformation of the static map into dynamic and interactive multimedia reflects the integration of technological innovation and vast amounts of geographic data. The key technology behind this integration, and subsequently the maps of the 21st century, is geographic information systems or GIS. In today's world, learning involves knowing how and where to search for information. In some respects, knowing where to look for answers and information is arguably just as important as the knowledge itself. Because the authors designed Essentials of GIS to be concise, focused and directed, readers are encouraged to search for supplementary information and to follow-up on specific topics of interest on their own when necessary. This text provides the foundations for learning GIS, but readers are encouraged to construct their own individual frameworks of GIS knowledge. The benefits of this approach are two-fold. First, it promotes active learning through re/search. Second, it facilitates flexible and selective learning, i.e., what is learned is a function of individual needs and interest. Since GIS and related geospatial and navigation technology change so rapidly, a flexible and dynamic text is necessary in order to stay current and relevant. Though essential concepts in GIS tend to remain constant, the situations, applications and examples of GIS are fluid and dynamic. The Flat World model of publishing with the MIYO (Make It Your Own) customization platform is especially relevant for a text that deals with information technology. The authors can keep the text updated easily, and you, the instructor, can add content on the technology that you find timely and relevant to the book with a few clicks on the mouse. Though this book is intended for use in introductory GIS courses, Essentials of Geographic Information Systems will also appeal to the large number of certificate, professional, extension and online programs in GIS that are available today.'