I settled on the Beginning Access 97 VBA (Smith & Sussman - Wrox) and The Microsoft Access 97 Access Developers Handbook (Getz etal - Sybex) and the VBA companion book to the Sybex book as my early and ultimate references. I also bought the 2000 version of the Sybex developer's set (the pair of Access 2000 Developer's Handbook & VBA book) because I got an acknowledgment for having read and reread the 97 versions so many times that I pointed out a number of errors and suggested solutions and needed a copy to see my name in print. More than any other, these books got me started with programming in Access and are a starting point for any questions I now have.
That said, I don't think either of them is really a beginner's book for learning to use Accesss. I personally started with the Dummies book for Access 2 and later 97 and an Access 97 VBA for Dummies book as these were quite easy to digest. Microsoft Press has a number of good books for general use as well and I would suggest their book by John Viescas as a good overall introduction that doesn't get too deep into VBA programming. This book is quite detailed and covers the ground of normalization, form design, relationships, expresssions and all the basic stuff that you really should know before you start doing programming. If you search the MSDN library, they have excerpts of books and complete books available for reading online. A favorite of mine has been their Jet Programmers Reference (I didn't find it today but I'm pretty sure it's still there, I've read it at least twice and printed out everything I thought I might not remember). Another example that is pretty darn good is the 'Buuilding Applications With Access 2000' book at:
If you are using a newer (or older) version of Access, it is easy to browse and search the MSDN library for pertinent references.
I spent a great deal of time in the public library and at book stores like Chapters looking at and reading books. You can frequently get excerpts from books for download and if you use a p2p file sharing application like Kazaa, you'll find tons of books for download, frequently in Word or pdf format. Many of these books are specialized and not for the beginner but I'd imagine you could find many that are. Although I prefer paper format books, I love the option of searching content online and the portability I get with the copy on CD that some books provide.
It is difficult for a beginner to distinguish between fact and fiction and there is a great deal of opinion on user support forums. While reputable books by large publishing houses are generally quite reliable, it is always wise to test alternate approaches whenever you can.
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