This is not a typical e-book; it is a free, web-based, open-source “textbook” available to anyone interested in using mapping tools to create maps. This e-text focuses primarily on Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—a geospatial technology that enables you to create spatial databases, analyze spatial patterns, and produce maps that communicate more effectively. While this GIS textbook is principally an introduction to GIS, most of the chapter’s concepts are applicable to other geotechnologies including remote sensing, global positioning systems (GPS), Internet mapping, and virtual globes.
Creating good maps and analyzing spatial data is a time consuming and challenging practice, but recently, a new set of powerful mapping tools has enabled almost anyone with a computer to make maps easily and to perform at least some low-level analyses. The results, however, are not encouraging. Most of the new mapmakers do not have adequate training in mapping concepts and spatial analysis principles, and their maps are often improperly designed and do not communicate easily nor effectively. This e-text—GIS Commons—seeks to help you analyze spatial data and communicate more effectively. In short, GIS education is our goal.