I'm one of the people that doesn't use meetings, or the online tools. I use this forum a lot and I google what I need to know. If you need the meetings then go, but everyone is different. Some people need the accountability of a meeting each week and enjoy the features of the meetings. I can't really afford it and I am one of those people that doesn't think you should really have to pay in order to lose weight, but that's my opinion. I know meetings have helped many people, including my MIL. But, if you don't have the extra money to spare, you have all you need here and from google.. but again this is all my opinion.
I know some recommend going to one meeting just to see if you like it or not. I think that's a good idea before committing to meetings and then not enjoying them or not making all of them.
WW is a really awesome program. It is definitely simplified calorie counting. It is very easy to follow. I get by without the books by just calculating everything. I have memorized my normal foods (milk, bread, egg, butter, etc.) and the stuff I don't know, I just calculate. If you by chance have an iPhone, there are some cheap app's that can calculate and keep track of points each day and the 35 flex points.
and you will find that whatever route you choose, you will find amazing support around here!