Imagine a giant encyclopedia whose entries aren't in alphabetical order. To look up zebras, you would need to track down somebody who knows what page they're on. That's about the situation with Internet, a loose global computer network made up of thousands of subnetworks run by universities and government agencies. People hooked to Internet can communicate with 5 million to 10 million fellow users on every continent and tap into data on space suits, literary criticism, or local weather forecasts. But because Internet has grown piecemeal, there's no central index listing how everything can be found.
Finally, though, some worthwhile guides to Internet are coming out. One, There's Gold in Them Thar Networks, is by Jerry Martin of Ohio State university's Academic Computing Services in Columbus, Ohio. The 40-page document is free and points readers to some of the most useful data sources. For more thorough treatment, there's The Whole Internet Catalog & User's Guide, by University of Illinois computer expert Ed Krol. The 376-page book is $24.95 from O'Reilly & Associates, a publisher in Sebastopol, Calif.