Only a handful of people I've met in the fluid power industry had the luxury of receiving a formal education in fluid power. These select few received a degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering or California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo. Neither school offers a BS in fluid power any more.

The vast majority of us got our education in fluid power after taking a job in fluid power. This post-employment education may have come from attending classes by held by Vickers, Rexroth, Parker, or a distributor. Other opportunities come from continuing education classes at colleges and universities throughout the country.

Then there is always self-learning — probably where most of us obtained the bulk of what we learned. We hope Hydraulics & Pneumatics provides a steady diet of useful information in your continuing quest for knowledge in fluid power.

And even though I've had a hand in producing every edition of the Fluid Power Handbook & Directory since 1988, I still refer to it often to check on a quick detail about a valve or circuit or get contact information on an unfamiliar company.

Other forms of self-learning include textbooks, CD-ROMs, and websites. The problem with books is that most people won't read one from cover to cover except for maybe a steamy novel.

CDs can be more effective if they are interactive,but unless you exercise discipline, you may not get beyond the first few lessons.

Which brings us to e-books, one of the newest forms of self learning. E-books are books that you read online, download to read later, or print to read whenever you want. Our first e-book is now ready. It's called Fluid Power Basics, written by Bud Trinkel and edited by H&P editors Dick Schneider and Mary Gannon. Bud is a certified fluid power engineer, author, fluid power consultant and instructor, and has been a frequent contributor to H&P and our on-line forums.

Fluid Power Basics contains 22 chapters starting with basic physics of fluid power, then moves on to components, schematic symbols, simple circuits — and there's even a quiz at the end of each chapter. The quizzes are real time savers, because you can take the quiz before reading the chapter. If you answer every question correctly, you probably won't need to read the chapter. We'll release a new chapter every two weeks or so.

To check it out for yourself, go to our website, www.hydraulicspneumatics.com, and click on the E-book button in the navigation bar.If you like what you see, you might want to sign up for our Fluid Power e-newsletter. Every issue of the e-newsletter will announce which new chapters of the e-book are available for viewing and downloading, and a hyperlink will take you there.

So in less than a year, you can read Fluid Power Basics from cover to cover.