Sed is the ultimate stream editor. If that sounds strange, picture a stream flowing through a pipe. Okay, you can't see a stream if it's inside a pipe. That's what I get for attempting a flowing analogy. You want literature, read James Joyce.
Anyhow, sed is a marvelous utility. Unfortunately, most people never learn its real power. The language is very simple, but the documentation is terrible. The Solaris on-line manual pages for sed are five pages long, and two of those pages describe the 34 different errors you can get. A program that spends as much space documenting the errors than it does documenting the language has a serious learning curve.
Do not fret! It is not your fault you don't understand sed. I will cover sed completely. But I will describe the features in the order that I learned them. I didn't learn everything at once. You don't need to either.