OK, I've got to say this up front: I really don't like electronic books. I prefer the ease and portability of paper... having said that, there is a nice advantage to ebooks that you don't have with paper: easy searching. In paper books, an index usually serves that function. But an index is limited to the words entered into it. An electronic search opens up the possibility to search for phrases, dates, or anything else you want. And this is the big advantage to having Chris Reed's USAF Chronological History and Guide to Resources electronic book. The 'book' is a Windows compatible CD-R containing a password protected PDF file that requires Adobe Acrobat (downloadable free from Adobe) to read. The title pretty much sums up the subject matter of the book. It's a straight chronology of the US Air Force from its inception in July 1947 up through March 2003. Events are listed as they happened by date. There are all sorts of obscure (at least to me) but interesting events: such as a C-47 making a forced landing in the Yukon Territory, with the crew being rescued by a glider that is landed, then snatched back into the air by a C-54 transport. This occurred while another C-47 crew had been forced to land on the Greenland icecap. Their rescue, however, was a little more problematic: a B-17 sent in to rescue them crashed on the ice, marooning the B-17 crew. Two glider rescue attempts went awry before the survivors were rescued by a JATO equipped C-47.
While you can get lost just skipping through Air Force history, you can also use the search capability of Acrobat to find specific items. For instance, my father was in the B-47 squadron that accidentally dropped a nuclear device on Mars Bluff, South Carolina in the late 1950s. Since I couldn't remember the exact date or anything else, I just searched for "Mars Bluff" and immediately found the entry. Pretty cool. That got me to thinking maybe I could find all the nuclear bomb incidents just by searching for "Broken Arrow." Unfortunately, that term is only used twice in the entire ebook... so much for the easy way.
Following the chronology is a Guide to Resources: a bibliography of selected articles from contemporary magazines and newspapers broken down by aircraft type (attack aircraft, bombers, tankers and transports, etc. with each type subdivided into individual aircraft: P-80, B-47, etc.), conflicts (Korea, Vietnam, Panama, etc.), and general reference. This isn't a comprehensive bibliography by any means: there are few books or sources other than newspapers and magazines listed in the guide.
The Image Gallery finishes the ebook. Like the Guide to Resources the image gallery is divided into types, with each type subdivided by specific aircraft, missile, or drone. Most of the images are photos taken at air shows or museums, with supplemental stock images courtesy of NASA. You can even print them if you want a hard copy for reference use. Most of the details shots in the gallery are of USAF weapons systems. However, there are better sources of images for the space and X-plane modeler than the gallery in this ebook.
Included with USAF: A Chronological History and Guide to Resources is a bonus ebook: US Nuclear Missiles: History and Guide to Resources, covering everything from testbeds to ICBMs. Each chapter gives a short history of the various US nuclear missile programs and even includes descriptions of projected, but not implemented, programs, such as the Polaris ASAT. These histories are much more readable in the story sense than the USAF chronology: I pretty much read them from the beginning to end, unlike the USAF chronology, where I was tempted to skip around.
There is a Guide to Resources for the missile book. Like the USAF Chronology, the resource guide is divided into newspaper and magazine articles for each missile project, with photos being especially noted. The missile guide includes some web site references tossed in for good measure. (You'll have to manually enter the web site URL into a web browser, though: they aren't clickable links.) There is no Image Gallery since the gallery for the USAF Chronology contains the missile imagery under the "Weapons and Drones" category.
Thanx to Chris Reed for the review copy.