First, let me say that I am an advanced computer user, but a novice in terms of using Photoshop. So I was in the position of having to teach myself the entire program from the ground up. While there are video tutorials available from some really good places, I never really liked learning that way and prefer a great manual instead if one exists. Luckily, I bought this manual after buying a couple of other ones, such as Photoshop CS4 Digital Classroom.
This book is exactly what you need if you are learning from the ground up. It provides a VERY well instructed process for each and every chapter in the book that takes you from the basics, such as introducing you to the User Interface to the more advanced functions of Photoshop. Each and every step is explained well and there are many photos that are referred to showing what they are talking about. Each photo is explained and there are descriptions of all functions they are referring to. Truly, if you follow my advice and read this book without skipping any steps you really can't go wrong. Also, I would encourage everyone not to skip certain chapters, even if you think they may not be useful because most likely some technique will be useful at some point later on.
I would also like to point out they cover Brushes very well in this book too, something that some books skip entirely or simply gloss over focusing more on those that are photographers. So, those looking at learning the art aspects of Photoshop certainly are not left out. There is even a real good chapter all about making creative text styles. That is another reason why I prefer this book to some others, it simply is one of the most comprehensive books I have read that is also concise.
You may notice there is no disc, but there is a web site for the Missing Manual books where you can download the files instead. I would advise to go ahead and download them for some of the examples they get to later on in the book. However, I will say it is not a BIG requirement you can get by without them.
This book is very thick, so don't be intimidated by the size when you get it. Just learn one chapter every couple of days and you will get through it OK. When I compared this book to another one I bought, Photoshop CS4 Digital Classroom, I much preferred this one. This book as I said is simply one of the best and most detailed around for learning Photoshop due to how well it is conveyed and laid out. The Photoshop Digital Classroom simply did not cover as much detail and is half the size or less than Photoshop CS4 Missing Manual. Yes, it is true the Digital Classroom book does have video tutorials on the included disc and has examples that give more than just what the book offers, but even after using that book I still felt the Photoshop CS4 Missing Manual was the better of the two by a good margin.
Bottom line is this book is the best I have found for anyone that wants a VERY good intro to Photoshop and learn from novice to intermediate skills. Once you have finished this book, you can then look at others which may focus completely on an advanced topic.
Hope this helps and good luck in your learning.