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New Science Books To Be Available Free Online

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the free-as-a-business-model-not-dead dept.

The Internet 95

fm6 writes "Bloomsbury Publishing, best known for the Harry Potter books, has announced a new series of science books that will be available for free online. Bloomsbury thinks they can make enough money off of hard-copy sales to turn a 'small profit.' The online version will be covered by a Creative Commons license which allows free non-commercial use. They've already had some success with the one book they've published this way, Larry Lessig's 'Remix: Making Art and Commerce thrive in the Hybrid Economy.' The series, 'Science, Ethics and Innovation,' will be edited by Sir John Sulston, Nobel prize winner and one of the architects of the Human Genome Project."

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969363)

w00t

Anything like this for maths? (1)

Medieval (41719) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969375)

Are there any good, free resources for learning Algebra and up?

Re:Anything like this for maths? (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969503)

Go to any used book store and grab an algebra, calculus, whatever textbook for $5. Basic math hasn't changed in a hundred years, so it's not like you're getting out dated material. In fact, text books have been dumbed down in recent years, so you're probably getting a better education that way.

This is how I learned calculus in high school, and then totally slept through it in college, making As.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969575)

Go to any used book store and grab an algebra, calculus, whatever textbook for $5. Basic math hasn't changed in a hundred years, so it's not like you're getting out dated material.

Not a bad idea. But watch out for those textbooks made in the 1860s. I heard that some of them will try to tell you that 2+2=goat.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (2, Funny)

ben0207 (845105) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969819)

Also I got some book (I think published in the mid 80s or so - at least there was a year in the title) which tried to teach me that 2+2=5.

Caused me a lot of problems, that did.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

algoa456 (716417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27977741)

Thats nothing: I picked up a computer science book and it tried to claim that a hundred and eleven (111) was actually 7 and worse that eleven was actually 3. At first I thought it was a typo, but no, that kind of nonsense was throughout the book.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969841)

Not a bad idea. But watch out for those textbooks made in the 1860s. I heard that some of them will try to tell you that 2+2=goat.

I know you're joking, but the Ray's Mathematics books were actually pretty good. You may end up learning some antiquated systems of measurement, but that won't hurt anyone.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (3, Funny)

bsane (148894) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970323)

I measure my fuel efficiency in rods per hogshead- the way god intended.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27971907)

mmm... hogshead

Re:Goat! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969985)

(RougeNeck)

"De Bible tells me, that the animals went on the Ark 2 by 2. Then the waters of the ocean would rise up and surround them.
So, lemme think, I think that makes for Goats at Sea."
(/RougeNeck)

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

sadler121 (735320) | more than 5 years ago | (#27972081)

I hear those textbooks from Indiana tell you PI is exactly 3...

Re:Anything like this for maths? (2, Insightful)

basementman (1475159) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969839)

You're post was doing okay until your true motives of bragging about how great you are were revealed in the last sentence.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970315)

He are post? Where's you're grandma?

Re:Anything like this for maths? (2, Funny)

Ragzouken (943900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970565)

It's "He IS post." Jeeze, don't you know anything about grammar?

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970679)

Sorry if that bothered you. Honestly I am no math whiz. I was just trying to anticipate objections that teaching oneself from a book would be insufficient, compared to live instruction. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

ebuck (585470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971437)

The proof is in the tasting of the pudding.

If you can do the math, and the math is right, then your technique of learning was successful.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970209)

I had some maths/geometry books (they're probably at my mother's house, somewhere) that belonged to my Grandad. He was an engineering apprentice in the 1950s, but there was stuff in there that wasn't covered on the A-level maths syllabus in the 80s. The way things are dumbed down, the cosine law is probably postgrad material these days.

Now get off my lawn!

Re:Anything like this for maths? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27970393)

Yeah I'm sure your cute little degree was easy to snooze through.

For many of us that went and got engineering degrees; particularly computer engineering degrees , we had to put in a bit of work. Working problems about modern wireless communication or something as solidly important as transform theory tends to need a better book than those little $5 Bernstein Bears books you read in college.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

haystor (102186) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971147)

The real math classes didn't have numbers, not those silly engineering classes with real applications.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

pwfffff (1517213) | more than 5 years ago | (#27972179)

Looks like someone has a fat college loan they're awfully proud of paying off ;)

Re:Anything like this for maths? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27971461)

"...Basic math hasn't changed in a hundred years, so it's not like you're getting out dated material. In fact, text books have been dumbed down in recent years, so you're probably getting a better education that way..."

Umm...is this American for 'a long time'? BASIC maths hasn't changed very much in the last 4000 years. If you want to work with a base10 notation including 0 then you'll find that has been going for over 1000 years (though base60 has much to commend it)

I reckon the best teaching book on calculus ever written was published in 1905 - if you ask nicely I'll give you the title. Its byline - "What one fool can understand, another can" was taken as a motto by Feynman, who knew a good teaching text when he saw one....

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 5 years ago | (#27972105)

A good used bookstore has got to be one of those things that I always look for when I move into a new area. In the 60's there was a great little no name used bookstore in Chicago (on the window it just said "used books") run by a bearded hippie named Lothar and his cat Leo, my friends and I would sit around on folding chairs in the evenings and discuss everything from Communism to Symbolic Logic, drink coffee and eat cheese blintzes. Used bookstores are a necessity and should be patronized and nurtured.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 5 years ago | (#27972745)

Neat trick - when I slept through Calculus, I made Zs. :-)

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27973005)

Basic math hasn't changed in a hundred years

Of course, that's using the "Year counting 2.0" formula invented last month.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969561)

A free introductory Calculus book (a CC license):

http://www.math.wisc.edu/~keisler/calc.html

There is a free complex analysis book:
http://www.math.uiuc.edu/~r-ash/CV.html

A free algebraic topology book:
http://www.math.cornell.edu/~hatcher/#ATI

Wikipedia has lots of math articles that are very useful for some purposes. I'd be interested if anybody knows of any other resources.

If you just need "cheap", Dover publications puts out lots of inexpensive math books ($10-$20 for material that could be $100+ elsewhere). Google for their website or just check Amazon. Note though that these are mostly older books, which means, for the most part, that they are much more rigorous than current books.

Be aware that if by "algebra" you mean elementary algebra (what you learn in middle/high school), algebra means something different to mathematicians, so a textbook on algebra may not be what you want.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

MattXBlack (1534971) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970399)

Be aware that if by "algebra" you mean elementary algebra (what you learn in middle/high school), algebra means something different to mathematicians, so a textbook on algebra may not be what you want.

Would you mind explaining the distinction?

Re:Anything like this for maths? (2, Informative)

SlashDotDotDot (1356809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970573)

Would you mind explaining the distinction?

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algebra [wikipedia.org] :

Elementary algebra is often part of the curriculum in secondary education and provides an introduction to the basic ideas of algebra, including effects of adding and multiplying numbers, the concept of variables, definition of polynomials, along with factorization and determining their roots.

Algebra is much broader than elementary algebra and can be generalized. In addition to working directly with numbers, algebra covers working with symbols, variables, and set elements. Addition and multiplication are viewed as general operations, and their precise definitions lead to structures such as groups, rings and fields.

Scan through the section on abstract algebra [wikipedia.org] farther down the page.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27972025)

Would you mind explaining the distinction?

The other replies to you gave you some links that may be helpful. For something more direct:

Elementary algebra, roughly speaking, studies the operations of multiplication and addition on the real numbers. But it turns out that other systems have operations that resemble multiplication and addition. These are called rings. Other systems have just multiplication but not addition. These are called groups. Modern algebra studies systems like these. It turns out that this is a very effective way to study many types of structured systems (for instance, symmetry is examined using algebra). Sometimes the operations are not what you would think of as "multiplication," but in fact work much like conventional multiplication.

Modern algebra developed in the 19th century as mathematicians increasingly studied abstract systems rather than concrete cases.

A post above refers to abstract algebra as "college algebra." To my knowledge this is not standard. At my university anyway, the class called "college algebra" is in fact a remedial elementary (high school) algebra class.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

mshannon78660 (1030880) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971303)

Just have to say - I went to UW Madison in the 80s, and Kiesler's Calculus textbook was notorious. It was only used by him. Those that were able to take his class, and get through it with a passing grade, ended up with a good understanding of calculus - but the drop and fail rate in his class was significantly higher than in the classes that used the other textbook (don't have it in front of me right now, so I can't tell you whose it was).

Re:Anything like this for maths? (2, Informative)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971889)

Warning: The Keisler calculus book you mention uses what's called "nonstandard analysis", involving "hyperreal numbers", and is very different from what you learn in most calculus courses. This isn't to say that it is a bad book - in fact it is a very good one. But nonstandard analysis, while valid, hasn't really caught on since it was invented by Robinson in the 1960s in spite of some vocal advocates. Just be aware that after this book, some of the things in the ordinary high school or college Calculus-I book are going to be unfamiliar. And while rote manipulations with hyperreal numbers aren't too hard to learn, to understand them rigorously involves abstract math and set theory much deeper than that needed for the real numbers and limits of standard calculus (see the Epilogue of the book).

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27975207)

And while rote manipulations with hyperreal numbers aren't too hard to learn, to understand them rigorously involves abstract math and set theory much deeper than that needed for the real numbers and limits of standard calculus (see the Epilogue of the book).

I disagree. Actually, if you want to understand the plain old real number system deeply, it involves quite a bit of abstract math and set theory. For example, if you look in a freshman calculus book, they never prove things like the intermediate value theorem, because it requires a deeper understanding of the foundations of the real number system than a freshman in college is going to have. For an example of how deep and strange the theory of the reals can be, see Chaitin's number [wikipedia.org] .

Nonstandard analysis isn't harder or deeper than calculus using limits. It's really just a different language for talking about all the same ideas.

I also disagree with you about "rote manipulations." Keisler actually does quite a good job of teaching the conceptual side of the hyperreals. Euclid went to his grave without knowing Cartesian coordinates; that doesn't mean he didn't understand geometry. Gauss and Euler used infinitesimals without ever learning about the hyperreal numbers; that doesn't mean they didn't understand infinitesimals. The Keisler book gives a very nice, self-contained axiomatic treatment of the hyperreals, in much the same way that the Elements gives a self-contained axiomatic treatment of geometry.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 5 years ago | (#27976013)

From a college freshman point of view, yes, the "depth" of abstraction for needed both standard and nonstandard are probably the same, i.e. unapproachably abstract. From a set theorist's point of view, the axioms of ZF set theory are sufficient to construct real numbers, whereas you need a conservative extension of ZFC to be able to model NSA. I mastered the Dedekind construction of reals without difficulty, but am still struggling with the rigorous foundations of NSA - although that's my problem, I just need to get motivated and find the time. :)

As for "rote", it may have been a poor word choice, I just meant that a typical student doesn't have a rigorous understanding of what's behind NSA, but the same could be said of reals, too, I suppose. I do agree that Keisler does a good job of developing an intuitive feel in his book- - at least it seems so to me, who is not in the shoes of a beginner. But the post above my GP post is from a former Keisler student who seemed to indicate otherwise. It would be useful to understand just what the difficulty was that the failing or dropped-out students had - was it the teacher, the book, or something more intrinsic to NSA? One possible problem is that a new number system has to be mastered instead of just the reals that a beginner is already roughly familiar with, and the rules for handling mixtures of standard and nonstandard numbers in the same expression might seem strange and daunting.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_non-standard_analysis [wikipedia.org]

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27979949)

the axioms of ZF set theory are sufficient to construct real numbers, whereas you need a conservative extension of ZFC to be able to model NSA.

That's incorrect. Standard ZFC is sufficient for NSA. You may be thinking of Internal Set Theory, which is one way of approaching NSA, but postdates NSA by several decades.

It would be useful to understand just what the difficulty was that the failing or dropped-out students had - was it the teacher, the book, or something more intrinsic to NSA?

One story I've heard is that Keisler's course was disorganized. The book was handed out on purple mimeograph sheets, and the first 20 minutes of every lecture was filled with a grad student reading off errata, which the students were supposed to correct on their copies.

The information here seems to indicate that NSA is educationally beneficial: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influence_of_non-standard_analysis#Education [wikipedia.org]

We Need a WikiTexts Project (1)

slarrg (931336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27974841)

I was just thinking we need a WikiText project that would create textbooks by grade and subject. The elementary school textbook publishers already only grab various prewritten texts and compile them into textbooks and the results are pretty poor but I'm certain Wikipedia contributors could do a better job.

Everyone knows this is the best calculus book.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27977383)

Silvanus Thompson's Calculus Made Easy

Published in 1910. Still in print. Copyright free.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calculus_Made_Easy

Re:Anything like this for maths? (2, Informative)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969715)

Are there any good, free resources for learning Algebra and up?

There are plenty of sites and free books online that will get you through calculus. For (elementary, not linear or abstract) algebra, a Google search should net you hundreds of sites. For higher subjects, http://www.theassayer.org/ [theassayer.org] should get you started.

As Hatta suggested, used bookstores and thrift stores are good for cheap high school-level textbooks. Don't count on finding anything higher than calculus texts, though. If you're looking for texts to study abstract algebra, set theory, game theory, et cetera, you may have to visit a university library to find physical books.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970121)

Wikibooks [wikibooks.org] has texts covering most of these areas. Quality varies, not unlike Wikipedia in the early days.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27973661)

By early days you mean the first half of the 21st century?

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

Petaris (771874) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970699)

Try here: http://www.hippocampus.org/ [hippocampus.org]

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27972165)

Here [theassayer.org] is a catalog of a few hundred free math books.

Re:Anything like this for maths? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27973637)

Are there any good, free resources for learning Algebra and up?

I haven't used any of them, but there are quite a few free (gratis and/or libre) mathematics texts available online. Some are here [opentextbook.org] , and you can probably find more by Googling.

Lookout below... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969395)

Snape kills Dumbledore.

Science Says: Religion is Bullshit (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969403)

Turn off your brain and let some out of touch religious ideologue tell you how to live your life.

Re:Science Says: Religion is Bullshit (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#27973909)

"Turn off your brain and let some out of touch religious ideologue tell you how to live your life."

I checked with my personal religious ideologue and he says that he's not out of touch and that you are going to Hell.

Undercutting Bloomsbury (3, Insightful)

telchine (719345) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969417)

Unless I'm mistaken, the Creative Commons Noncommercial licence allows you to charge a fee for the printing and distribution costs as long as it's not for profit. What's to stop some ant-capitalistic individual from setting up a non-commercial organisation to distribute the texts cheaper than Bloomsbury, thus preventing them making a profit?

Nothing! (1)

billlava (1270394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969479)

Short answer - nothing, but if all they're doing is undercutting Bloomsbury by only charging for costs, where's the profit motive? People will take douchebaggery only so far. Once you leave the internet, nobody is going to go that far when no profit is involved.

Re:Nothing! (5, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969701)

It is still considered non-commercial use if you use these books to teach kids science, then sell the kids?

Re:Nothing! (2, Funny)

genghisjahn (1344927) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970717)

In all this talk of who can do what under which license...has anyone stopped to think of the children? You have? Oh...okay. Carry on.

What country still has slavery? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970771)

It is still considered non-commercial use if you use these books to teach kids science, then sell the kids?

What remotely developed country still recognizes the sale of kids?

Re:What country still has slavery? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970813)

> What remotely developed country still recognizes the sale of kids?

Canada and Norway.

Re:What country still has slavery? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971953)

[citation needed [slashdot.org] ]

Re:What country still has slavery? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27972757)

2 things.

1. Whoosh.
2. Generally laws are written for things you can't do, not things you can. And I'm not doing to dig up some citation indicating what I posted was incorrect :-)

Re:What country still has slavery? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27973895)

Generally laws are written for things you can't do, not things you can.

And one thing you can't do is trade children like they're young goats. My question was: What developed countries either have not abolished slavery or have reinstated it?

Re:What country still has slavery? (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971563)

I don't know what a 'remotely developed country' is, but selling young goats is pretty much lawful about anywhere in the world, IIRC.

Now if you are selling/transporting them across state or country borders, you may have some paperwork and regulations to follow.

He may be onto something though.
Judging by my stepdaughter's friends, it may be easier to teach algebra to young goats than to teach human children/teens...

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969541)

Where are they going to find customers? If all they want is cheap reading material, it's all on the web for free. The only reason to pay is to support the project; Bloomsbury is banking on good will here. Bootleggers won't have any good will to capitalize on.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969745)

They might be counting on some people buying the hardcopies just for the sake of having them in printed form. I don't understand it myself, but apparently not everyone is comfortable reading long articles or books on a computer screen.

If you only want to support the project you'd be far better off just donating to it, thus saving the cost (in money and resources) of printing up an unwanted book. On the other hand, if you actually want the printed book, the legal copies provided by the "bootleggers" offer a less expensive alternative.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

Thoughts from Englan (1212556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969827)

Perhaps they are counting on Schools to buy 30 copies per class - still cheeper than providing each kid with a computer.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

jonnat (1168035) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969989)

I don't believe that the only people willing to pay for the textbooks will do so simply for altruism. There is a value in the printed edition apart from the content.

Moreover, distributing free digital copies may generate enough visibility that their sales could surpass those of less publicized titles.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 5 years ago | (#27972631)

Well, people buying the books out of goodwill, but also there are a lot of situations where a book is more convenient than a computer.

Like, if you've got an hour commute in public transport or a car pool. Or you think a great way to study a subject is while sitting in a rowboat in the middle of a lake with a fishing pole propped beside you.

I don't think there's any question that eventually most instruction will be by ebooks. But I'm pretty sure there will always be a market for deadtree books, too.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (4, Insightful)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969613)

What's to stop some ant-capitalistic [sic] individual from setting up a non-commercial organisation to distribute the texts cheaper than Bloomsbury...?

What about this do you consider "anti-capitalistic"? Actions need not be motivated by currency to be compatible with capitalism; rational self-interest includes such factors as goodwill and self-esteem in addition to the direct and indirect exchange of material goods and services.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970089)

What's to stop some ant-capitalistic [sic] individual from setting up a non-commercial organisation to distribute the texts cheaper than Bloomsbury...?

What about this do you consider "anti-capitalistic"? Actions need not be motivated by currency to be compatible with capitalism; rational self-interest includes such factors as goodwill and self-esteem in addition to the direct and indirect exchange of material goods and services.

I'm not even sure why anyone would call that anti-capitalism - it's actually model capitalism. To make a business for profit that stimulates competition is one of the definitions of capitalism. And if they are so good at that to charge for a product which then drives someone else out of business that is providing that same product for free is the gold star achievement of capitalism.

In fact providing stuff for free so that everyone has access to it without competition is really socialism, so setting up a competing business is really curtailing the anti-capitalism of Bloomsbury.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970739)

Actions need not be motivated by currency to be compatible with capitalism; rational self-interest includes such factors as goodwill and self-esteem in addition to the direct and indirect exchange of material goods and services.

Maybe it's capitalism and rational self interest that aren't fully compatible. Capitalism means capital. If bootlicking raises more capital than guitar playing, the pure capitalist licks boots. Self-esteem and such doesn't enter into it.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

Moe1975 (885721) | more than 5 years ago | (#27976751)

Absolutely!

Wish your comment could be modded to +10.

MOW

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969815)

The profit margin on this would be razor thin, as opposed to their usual titles while hogging as much materials, manpower and distribution ressources as a full-profit title... so lack of profit would kill that idea as soon as the numbers get crunched.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (2, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969929)

Nothing, I suppose. But why would they bother? To punish Bloomsbury for making free copies available?

Besides, it's not as easy as your making it sound. Bloomsbury does this stuff on a huge scale, so their costs are lower. And that's assuming the other version is printed using traditional methods. Unless your hypothetical economic terrorist was willing to spend a lot of money up front for a print run, they'd have to rely on a print-on-demand system, which has pretty high unit costs. Not break-the-bank high (POD has gotten pretty cheap) but not low enough to compete with a regular printer, never mind undercut them.

It's amusing: all the technologies we're such geeks about rely on economies of scale. Yet nobody around here really seems to understand the concept.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970963)

In principle, nothing. In practice, how many "anti-capitalist individuals" are there who possess superior logistical capabilities compared to an experienced publisher, and aren't out gunning for any of the (numerous) far more exploitative players?

While media companies, especially in the music and video business, have gotten the reputation for being extremely easy to undercut, this is only because they have clung to outdated distribution methods and very high prices for "IP" which has a marginal cost of near zero with newer technology. If, however, the publisher is charging very little for the "IP" and you are also trying to produce a physical product, undercutting will be surprisingly tricky. Economies of scale apply, logistics is not for amateurs, and they almost certainly have far more experience, far better supply chain contacts, etc. than anybody besides another for-profit publisher.

Re:Undercutting Bloomsbury (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27978499)

Motivation. Transparency. A lot of things that are NOT TECHNICAL.

"off of"? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27969463)

Why does every second slashdot summary use the strange phrase "off of" instead of "from"? Is this considered correct in the US?

Quality? (3, Insightful)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969469)

I really like this, and shows that this company has a better understanding of the big picture when it comes to the dissemination of ideas. My question though is to the quality of these books. I've found often times text books to be poor presentations of science, either making it boring, inaccurate, or just a poor presentation in general. Though quality aside, I still applaud their efforts to make knowledge more freely available.

Re:Quality? (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969943)

My question though is to the quality of these books.

Not your intended meaning, but whenever the subject of electronic versions of books comes up, at least those of a non-fiction type, I'm left wondering why the "quality" of bound book is considered the same as its electronic version. It's the same, but different, right?

There's a lot to be said for making available free versions, but my own opinion is that an electronic version of any book should be free, or at least offered as a promotion of the real thing. I can spend an hour on usenet and download most anything that's been published of a technical nature, but instead, I regularly buy bound books from Amazon.

Maybe in the next few years things will be different (given the ongoing success of Kindle and friends), but until then, a free electronic version, at least for me, has a value close to zero.

Re:Quality? (1)

jonoton (804262) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970449)

If they're being edited by John then they will be of the highest quality.

I work in the institute that he founded and know the high regard that he is held in the scientific community.

Re:Quality? (3, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971067)

RTFA. These aren't textbooks. They're a series of books on science and ethics edited by a Nobel Prize winner.

Re:Quality? (1)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971331)

You're right, they're not explicitly textbooks but rather science books aimed towards an intelligent audience. This doesn't rule them out for being used in a class room in a text book based fashion. The fact that they're written by a Nobel Prize winner still doesn't invalidate the point that they might be dull or poorly presented take Stephen Hawkings early books for example.

Sudden breakout of common sense (5, Informative)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969619)

I expect that Bloomsbury will indeed make a small profit.

There are many books that are sold profitably even though their contents is available in its entirety online and is redistributable. Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] has the complete works of Shakespeare [gutenberg.org] online, a text in the public domain that anyone can print. Yet thousands of print copies of these works are sold through bookstores every month. The same can be said of other classic works now in the public domain, as well as some editions of the Bible, and most classical music scores.

I believe this situation is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Unlike audio and video recordings, which by their nature require some type of playback device, books are self-contained and offer certain advantages over even the most advanced and unrestricted reading device.

Re:Sudden breakout of common sense (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969803)

I will send them 50 bucks in check form. This is one of the greatest 'outbreaks of common sense' in any publishing industry in the past 20 years. Some of these fields I keep abreast in can easily cost over 2000 dollars a year just in books because they have such a limited mostly 'well-funded' academic audience. This will allow theoretical work to reach a far greater amount and variety of people and hopefully engage in a more robust and full discourse as some fields have become 10 people yelling at each other while the rest of the world yawns.

Re:Sudden breakout of common sense (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970203)

Shakespeare? A minor part of this market. Go into a bookstore, and anything you see that was written in English more than a century ago is very likely available on Gutenberg. Because if a book is at all popular, somebody's bound to scan it in.

And in many cases, even if the book isn't popular. Which, from my point of view, is Gutenberg's main (make that only) virtue: a lot of their content isn't available any other way. And I, for one, never bother with the Gutenberg version if I can afford another version.

Why? Because I hate books where italics, boldface, and other typographical cases are all expressed in ALL CAPITALS. If I'm reading anything that old, it's for pleasure, and this clumsy typography destroys a lot of the pleasure of reading. When are they going to figure out that there are rich text formats that are more accessible to more users than plain text files?

Re:Sudden breakout of common sense (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971081)

When are they going to figure out that there are rich text formats that are more accessible to more users than plain text files?

They already did. Search this edition [gutenberg.org] for "How can I have done that".

Re:Sudden breakout of common sense (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27972293)

OK, they've finally recognized the problem. But instead of dealing with it, they're trying to kludge around it — and failing miserably. For example, here's the way they render the mailing label at the opening to chapter 2:

ALICE'S RIGHT FOOT, ESQ.

HEARTHRUG,

NEAR THE FENDER,

(WITH ALICE'S LOVE).

For the way it's supposed to look, check out this page [sabian.org] Notice that the Gutenberg version is in all caps, even though the original is in mixed case. The ASCII version spaces out the lines correctly, but uses all caps to indicate italics. Obviously the HTML version was created by taking the ASCII version and feeding it through a filter that tries to guess what tags correspond to the Gutenberg text idioms it sees. It can handle simple conventions like the one you pointed out, where "'How CAN I have done that?'" stands for "'How can I have done that?'" But it can't handle ambiguity (sometimes all caps stands for bold or all caps!) or complicated formatting.

Re:Sudden breakout of common sense (2, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27973369)

You are aware that usage of italics, bold, and all caps is a question of style and not consistent from book to book in the first place?

Seriously, who cares? Once you can distinguish between narrative, dialog, thoughts, and inner monologue then what difference does it make?

Re:Sudden breakout of common sense (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27974519)

Who cares? Somebody who wants to read the book the way the author wrote it.

All is convention. Doesn't mean communicating one way rather than another doesn't matter, you very nice person.

Re:Sudden breakout of common sense (2, Insightful)

brasselv (1471265) | more than 5 years ago | (#27973085)

Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] has the complete works of Shakespeare [gutenberg.org] online, a text in the public domain that anyone can print. Yet thousands of print copies of these works are sold through bookstores every month.

This is indeed true as of now, because many DO see some value in having a printed copy of Shakespeare (myself included).

Think of a different scenario.

You have two buttons on your Kindle. One buys a copy of The Tempest from Amazon or iBooks, for 2$. The other button downloads The Tempest from Gutemberg - for free.

Assuming that you don't own Amazon stock, and that everything else is equal (format, download speed, etc.), which button would you press?

Any work put on a Creative Commons license today, won't make any money in the future, once digital is king.
As publishers want to make money, I believe this model, while interesting, can't take off.

We desperately need a realistic, viable business model, rethought from the ground up, that faces the digital distribution reality - and that at the same time avoids the publishing industry to fall in the same trap as the music industry.

Unfortunately, I have not seen such model just yet.

Education? (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969863)

Is Education able to be classified as, 'non-commercial use'?

My property taxes and student loan payments suggest otherwise...

Some National Academy Books also free (3, Informative)

CharlieD (162102) | more than 5 years ago | (#27969939)

If you go to the National Academy Press web site, http://www.nap.edu/about.html [nap.edu] , you will find that many of their books are available in PDF format, and that many of those can be downloaded for free. To find what you are interested in, use the search box in the upper left hand side of their about page. Since we taxpayers paid for most, if not all, of the work being presented, perhaps they all should be free.

Re:Some National Academy Books also free (2, Informative)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970193)

Interesting.

Only five books from that site are listed as free at the Online Books Page though:

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=National%20Academy%20of%20Sciences [upenn.edu]

Do you have a list of free books there beyond that? If so, you should send it to John Mark Ockerbloom so that he can add them.

William

Re:Some National Academy Books also free (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971009)

Since we taxpayers paid for most, if not all, of the work being presented, perhaps they all should be free.

Maybe we paid for the work, but we don't pay the money used to operate the web server, which is not owned by the government. As they explain in their FAQs, they need some revenue to cover their costs.

What format? (2, Interesting)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 5 years ago | (#27970351)

If it's not .epub [openebook.org] , they're not very good. Why? It's industry accepted, prevalent open-standard for ebooks. Even Adobe uses it over .pdf.

Re:What format? (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27973269)

I'm a geek, who reads ebooks, and I've never heard of it. What are the benefits of your epub vs html, txt, and pdf?

Does it successfully block all forms of DRM and all forms of execution?

Re:What format? (1)

skeeto (1138903) | more than 4 years ago | (#27998373)

I never heard of it, but it seems interesting. The spec [hxa.name] is straightforward, royalty-free, non-proprietary, and is basically a bunch of standards put together. The content of .epub books is just XHTML and CSS. However, I can't find any free software that can specifically work with epub.

The dark side to it is that it uses the OEBPS Container Format [openebook.org] (OCF) for metadata. OCF reserves a "rights.xml" ("restrictions.xml" would be more apt) for storing DRM information. That means when you see a .epub file you won't know if it is defective or not without closer inspection, which may not be possible.

I guess PDF is the same way. The spec has some very trivial DRM built in, but other people have managed to hack some DRM on top of it, so any given PDF may also be defective.

I'd really rather see an ebook format analogous to Ogg, where adding DRM really isn't possible.

Re:What format? (1)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 5 years ago | (#28040673)

However, I can't find any free software that can specifically work with epub.

There are at least two. Adobe Digital Editions [adobe.com] which is reputed to be a pretty thorough implementation of the .epub standard by a lot of people who wrote .epub creation tutorials, though I haven't tried it myself. And FBReader [fbreader.org] which is an open source multi platform program that is well suited for portable devices like the Illiad, smartphones, Nokia Internet tablets (770, 800, 810 tc.), and android, but also runs in Windows, and Linux. Its implementation is not perfect, but the books look just fine and will pull the author & title information from the .epub for you so you don't have to do it manually when adding the book to your library.

Personally, I use FBReader on my N810. I have it configured to look roughly like this [imageshack.us] (red on black preserves night vision and doesn't leave nearly the afterimage that black on white or white on black does when reading in bed at night) though there's no toolbar in fullscreen mode. Here [fbreader.org] are some screenshots on other platforms.

The benefits are its an open standard and you can fairly easily create your own .epub books that follow the standard.

Now Americans can ignore science for free (1)

revjtanton (1179893) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971375)

As our dissociative nature with science and logic becomes entrenched in our Psyche a offering like this only fuels my quest for ignorance and misunderstanding. Why should I shell out good $$$ for "learning" through conventional schooling when I can just read these and interpret them however I want and argue loudly and incorrectly when drunk? Thank you Bloomsbury...thank you.

Accio eBooks (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | more than 5 years ago | (#27971837)

It'd be nice if next Bloomsbury could convince JK Rowling to release her Harry Potter books in an e-format, even PDF.
Not for free, necessarily, but at least eBooks are great for searchable reference. She has a serious hangup about releasing her work in electronic format.

repeat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27972309)

This is a repeat of an article from a few weeks ago.

Buy these books (2, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27973241)

If you really and truly support open access to books and information then buy these books.

This is the content industry finally hearing those of us who have protested to the industry attempting to lock down content and refuse to update their business models to embrace modern copying technology instead of fighting it.

If you don't recognize this as a pilot project to test the waters you are a fool. Everyone buy at book in this series, even if you don't really want the thing. Consider it a donation to the principle and vote with your dollars.

JQ Johnson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27976253)

A few more open textbook resources:

Open textbook catalogs
http://www.flatworldknowledge.com
http://www.textbookrevolution.org
http://www.maketextbooksaffordable.org

Examples

Maths
Calculus and Linear Algebra http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.5597602.0001.001

Statistics
Introduction to Probability http://www.dartmouth.edu/%7Echance/teaching_aids/books_articles/probability_book/book.htmlÂ
Elementary Statistics http://cnx.org/content/col10522/latest/
Introductory Statistics
http://www.psychstat.missouristate.edu/introbook/sbk00.htm
Online Statistics http://onlinestatbook.com/

Economics
  Introduction to Economic Analysis http://www.introecon.com/

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