Beginner's Chinese has some good points. It comes with two CDs featuring native speakers -- one for the lessons and one for Chinese syllable practice. Simplified characters and pinyin are provided together for all material in the book. Each lesson has a good collection of exercises for translation, ad hoc response to questions, and grammar. A Cultural Insights section that addresses some aspect of Chinese society caps each lesson. The book has a pinyin-Wade Giles cross reference that is very helpful for English-speaking students.
But there are definitely areas for improvement. This is a second edition. The third edition could be a great book. First, the CDs. The CDs are indispensable, but each lesson takes up only a bit over three minutes. No time is left between sentences for the student to practice pronunciation. (The words can be pronounced if the student hurries.) And then there is the organization. On the CDs, first comes vocabulary, then sentence patterns, then conversations. In the book, the order is sentence patterns, conversations, then vocabulary. It would be nice if they were consistent and went through the lesson in order. Much more use could have been made of the CDs, but here we get into a critique of the book itself.
In general, there is not enough practice material. For example, in each chapter there is a list of "supplementary" words and expressions. These are not used in the spoken exercises except to pronounce them once on the CD.
In the place of more practice material each chapter has extensive "language points" where the author sometimes belabors subtle linguistic points that, in my opinion, could be done without in an introductory text. Here also is where speech patterns are discussed. In the actual Sentence Patterns section introducing each lesson, each "pattern" is given once, leaving the student to infer what the patterns are. Most have the impression that the pattern sentences are just a collection of unique sentences. Here is where more material should be added by giving additional examples of each pattern where such is possible.
1. Remove the "supplementary" words and expressions section and just include it in the lesson vocabulary if individual words are important enough to include.
2. Make explicit what the pattern is for each pattern sentence.
Provide up to ten or twelve examples with each pattern using all the vocabulary introduced to that point.
3. Remove some of the show-off linguistics discussions and save them for a class on Chinese linguistics.
4. Include all the expanded practice material on the CDs with time for the students to repeat each sentence. Since this may disrupt the continuity of the Conversations, I would suggest recording that section twice: first at normal conversation speed without breaks for comprehension practice; then a second time with a pause after each line so students can practice pronunciation. If something has to go, do away with the Chinese syllable practice on the second CD, and continue the lessons on that CD. It's more important for the students to get their syllable practice on their actual vocabulary rather than be able to recite the universe of abstract ba, bo, bi's.
If you are an instructor, realize that you are going to have to make up additional material to provide pattern and "supplementary" vocabulary practice and listen to student complaints about the CDs. And hope the students don't lose their way or become discouraged trying to plough through the abstruse Language Points.