I bought Scot's book hot off the presses, since it's the first major SharePoint 2003 book. When I got it, I breezed through it, and I'll be honest - I was unimpressed.
Well, I had reason to browse through it again, and this time I just sat down and started reading it. That's when I realized - certain book publishers that use multiple authors had taught me not to bother reading computer books through, as they were so disjointed they worked better as technical manuals. So that's what I'm used to - being able to flip a few pages and find the thing I'm looking for.
Scot's book is different. It harkens back to a day where you could actually read through a book and learn a new technology in a structured manner. If you take the time to read the book from start to finish (it doesn't take long - if you skim the tutorials you can probably get through most of it in a single evening) it's a good thorough introduction to SharePoint. And I mean thorough - there are tutorials on building web parts, working with page templates, creating data views in FrontPage, integrating Windows Single Signon...
(Incidentally, I'm not trying to cast aspersion on one method of publishing over another - I'm simply trying to indicate the different “reading philosophies“ each may require)
He also has a nice walkthrough for creating a new portal from the ground up - laying out areas, sites, as well as explaining users and groups.
All in all, I give this book a healthy thumb's up for anyone who wants to learn SharePoint admin and development - for the first book out of the gate, it's an excellent reference to have.