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There are books with scientific content, very broadly cited in bibliography that haven't been printed by any publisher for decades (as far as I am aware). Plus hardly any copies have ever reached my country. They are now very hard to find and very expensive, though necessary for my studying (see Computational Complexity, Papadimitriou or Computers and Intractability of Garey and Johnson).

I can find some of them in my school's library (one copy most of the time) but I can only borrow them for 20 days (no more than that in a row). I have tried to reach publishers in Greece so I could get information on whether they could publish them but never got any answer. I don't like the option of illegal downloading, because it's unethical too, but buying from Amazon is too expensive. I need these books for my studies. Moreover I would like to have them in my personal library. Are all the above the only legal choices I have?

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  • Your university librarian should be able to obtain a copy for you. That will not help if you want to own the book. Nov 10, 2023 at 20:49
  • What about this draft of another Computational Complexity pdf book
    – mkennedy
    Nov 10, 2023 at 22:30
  • For what it’s worth, Papdimitriou and Stieglitz has been republished in paperback by Dover within the last 10 years or so. Nov 11, 2023 at 0:42
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    @mkennedy Yes I am aware of this draft. But in classes of computational complexity we are taught some reductions that are not present in this draft. And I have only found them in the books mentioned above. Nov 11, 2023 at 8:12
  • @BrianBorchers I don't know if it has all the reductions that Papadimitriou's book has. I will look it up. Thank you very much! Nov 11, 2023 at 8:14

2 Answers 2

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For one book at least (Papadimitriou - born in Athens), you might consider writing to the author himself at Berkeley. He might have suggestions for some others, as well. You might even consider pointing out the problem in general and see if he might have ideas for a local solution for you and others at your university.

I once gave several boxes of books to a person who was paying to have them shipped to Kenya where there is a similar issue. Some US academics might have copies of older books. Many retiring academics might be willing to give up parts of their library, as I was. Shipping cost is a problem, however.

Some faculty members even periodically put out a box of books for students to grab. If you can somehow make a connection to them or their universities it is possible something could be worked out.

Some publishers will respond to requests for inexpensive (even free) copies of some books. It needn't be a Greek publisher. And some have subsidiaries that print lower cost versions various places around the world. These are priced more in line with local economies (though still expensive).

Living authors might respond to a request for a pdf with a promise of not passing it on. Their license from a publisher might permit it. Some have been given a few free copies of their work.

Professors in your country who can obtain grant money might (possibly) be able to get funding for books that they can lend or give to students. You and other students might try to work with the university to try to provide a solution. Money is always an issue, of course, but an appeal to a publisher from a university might be possible. And, lobbying to increase library funding is worth the effort.

Used copies in general are available, though, again, shipping costs are high.

Even in the US, the cost of books is a burden to students. This is partly due to the small market for advanced books that are expensive to produce.


Note that none of the above are especially likely to succeed. It is a problem throughout the world.

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  • It looks like he moved to Columbia in 2017.
    – mkennedy
    Nov 11, 2023 at 2:19
  • Thank you for all the options! Some of them would have never crossed my mind! I will try them one-by-one. Though I am afraid that it might take more than one semester to finally get even a rejecting answer. So I am hoping for a solution for younger graduates. Grant money sadly is not an option. Here universities are public and have great issues even for office supplies (sponges, chalk, markers). Plus graduate students aren't entitled to free books and I am alone in this effort. Even teachers advise us to download the free pdf for these books. Nov 11, 2023 at 8:09
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  • "I don't like the option of illegal downloading, because it's unethical..."

At the risk of being condemned, I shall nevertheless say this: not everything illegal is unethical. Knowledge belongs to mankind. This is the reason why my two coauthors and I have no objection against pirate copies of our highly cited 900-page monograph being present on the internet. On at least one occasion, we could have requested a certain website to remove the copy, but we chose not to. Spread of knowledge is more important than copyright. Call me names.

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  • Are you the copyright holder, or did you yield that?
    – Buffy
    Nov 12, 2023 at 14:38
  • @Buffy We never yield it. Nov 12, 2023 at 15:31
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    If you are the copyright holder and make no objection to free distribution then you are, in effect, giving a, perhaps unannounced, license to all for the work. That is actually commendable. Your publisher might not agree if they have unmet expenses, but that is a private matter between you.
    – Buffy
    Nov 12, 2023 at 15:49

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