Compression of audio and video has enabled the digital revolution in media that we are all immersed in today, and has been used for many years. Just about all of the audio or video you are exposed to now has been digitized and compressed. Not just what you see or hear on a computer or a mobile phone, but also DVD, cable TV, often even radio. So compression of audio and video is an important and powerful topic, in a way that few people seem to really understand. So a book like Ben Waggoner's Compression for Great Video and Audio has a lot of potential for usefullness and impact.
There are a bewildering array of methods that can be used to compress audio or video, and a range of ways to deliver that content. The wealth of information this book offers on a wide range of topics is its strength, and is enough to make this book attractive to many who are interested in this topic.
And it's organized in a way that will be useful to those both new to the field and those who have some knowledge. Trying to hunt up this information on the internet won't give you what you need, in a reliable way. It's presented here in a more complete and clear way than you'll find by searching.
But as someone once ironically commented, the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from. That's where this book has gaps. The big questions in compression often involve difficult choices and tradeoffs. In fact, fundamentally compression is all about difficult choices and tradeoffs - how much bandwidth or storage are you using, how do you allocate it to video or audio, and so on. While there's some good and very general advice, this Second Edition doesn't go far enough in helping users make decisions to complete their projects, such as: What codecs should I use? What bitrate should I use? How should I trade off between bitrate used for video and for audio? While in many cases these decisions may be made by the organization you are part of, or the hardware or software platforms you are using - that will not always be the case.
Further, the treatment of audio is cursory and needs to be significantly enhanced. Again, there is some good information and advice, just not nearly enough of it for a book promises to cover that topic well.
So Compression for Great Video and Audio has lots of good information, and some wise advice. I didn't find much that was wrong (and that's a risk in this field - there is an incredible amount of information that's just wrong in many discussions of compression). That's enough to recommend the book. But there are a lot of gaps, and the title seems to promise much more than the book delivers. This book is worth the price, but it isn't a complete guide to Compression for Great Video and Audio.