Eyewitness Companions: Scuba Diving is one in a whole series of "Eyewitness" books, each of which describes all aspects of a hobby or passion. I initially hesitated buying it because it is fairly expensive and seemed to cover the same scuba diving basics -- equipment, physics, physiology, navigating, marine life, different types of diving, photography and video, places to go and so on -- as various other scuba intro books. Yet, I found myself picking it up again and again in the bookstore because it is different from any other diving book. And eventually I bought it.
What sets Eyewitness Companions: Scuba Diving apart is its presentation. For starters, it's sort of a hybrid between hardcover and paperback with some genuine innovations. For example, the front and back covers have three inch flaps that double as a quick and handy table of contents and also as a built-in bookmark. Very clever. The second big difference compared to many other diving books -- many of which are a bit bare-bones -- is the gorgeous layout and design. Here, again, Eyewitness is a hybrid, one between a book and a magazine. Virtually every two page spread has at least three superb photographs, illustrating and explaining the topic at hand. And photos are not just printed as plain rectangles in a box. No, they are pathed, they fade in and out, the are combined, overlayed and neatly labeled and described. Typography and organization are first rate, all geared towards providing information clearly and concisely, but also in an interesting, appealing way.
As a result, while the narrative and explanations are simple and straightforward, you simply get more in this book. Instead of a brief chapter on a topic, you get a thoughtfully subdivided and excellently edited version that describes all aspects, has beautiful photos, several illustrations, how-tos, equipment close-ups, and often sidebars, graphs and charts. The section on freediving, for example, not only describes the sport and shows excellent pictures, it also has a clever graph that illustrates diving depths as they relate to the Statue of Liberty and Big Ben. All of it is professional quality. Yet, whereas magazines are often all style and little substance, Eyewitness Comnpanions: Scuba Diving skillfully uses all those visuals to merge information and illustrations into a polished, informative publication that's as close to multimedia as a printed book can get.
Travelers will enjoy the over 60 description of popular dive locations, sorted by continent. Each, of course, with pictures, statistics, and relevant information. Sections on underwater life are equally interesting, with great pictures and many interesting facts and tidbits.
This is a unique book that is really much more than the sum of its parts. It's an excellent example how an almost magazine-style approach to book design can result in something that is both informative and a real pleasure to read. -- C. H. Blickenstorfer