on July 4, 2012
Ahem, I am not exactly sure that Magento is indeed the world's "most popular open source e-commerce platform" as claimed by the blurb on the book's back cover. That notwithstanding, the text gives very detailed explanations of many features it has, of interest to anyone writing or designing an e-commerce website.
Chapter 5's discussion about configuring the package to actually process buy orders from website visitors is the crucial interaction. You should regard it as so because the ultimate intent of your website is to sell something. This chapter is where Magento interacts with the outside world for payment processing. This is split into off-site and on-site methods. The off-site has the ability to hook to eBay's PayPal Express or PayPal Standard or with Google Checkout. While end users (customers) might have their own opinions about the relative merits of these off-site providers, the book advises that you as a merchant could have different concerns. We are warned that PayPal has higher merchant fees than those imposed by the normal credit card agencies.
The sheer complexity of having to explicitly integrate your website management software into several payment systems is mitigated by using Magento. To some web administrators this could well be the single most important advantage of going with Magento.
Leaving aside payment processing, the rest of the text describes the building of the web pages. How you can implement an entire product catalog. Where this could have a top down structure of categories leading into sub-categories and so on. Other CMS offerings have similar abilities. The actual building of such web pages has essentially been commoditised, though you can scarcely expect a book like this, or any book on a particular CMS package, to emphasise this.
But Magento does have a spiffy little feature. It can automatically update a price on a web page that is in a major currency, where the price is a function of an authoritative price in another currency. For example, suppose the latter is the US dollar. You pay your suppliers in US dollars, and, say, you are based in the US. But since you have a website, anyone can visit from across the world and you certainly don't want to turn away any business. So a product webpage could show the price in euros, say. Magento can compute this as a function of the daily exchange rate between the euro and the dollar. It consults a third party Web Service which has the data. Then Magento updates the euro price on your web pages. So once you have this set up, it is all automatic. Nice.