My professor (say Mr. X), a theoretical physicist, is in charge of a course on Math Physics in the undergrads. He had co-authored a book on Statistical Mechanics but he never mentioned anything about it to us, since it had no part in that course on Math Physics.

Now, that course was 2 semesters back. And in this semester, I have to study Statistical Mechanics, and this course is conducted by another professor (say Mr. Y). Mr. Y named a few standard books that almost all universities follow (Reif, Greiner, Huang) but not Mr. X's book (BTW X and Y are not enemies). But I came across X's book in google books and I liked it very much. But there is no soft copy of the book available on the net.

What I want to know is:

Should I ask Mr. X to give me a soft copy of that book?

The book is not old at all ( published in Dec 2016 ) and well available in the market. I dont know whether it sells good or not, since it was published only 10 months back and very people among my friends and seniors know about this book (although Amazon shows it out of stock). The book is really good and I have a nice relation (as student and teacher) with Mr. X. But there are commercial sides also that he might think, regarding the book.

So will he be offended if I ask him about a soft copy of his book?

In that case, how should I approach him?

  • 5
    Does your school library have one? If not, perhaps you could ask to borrow a hard copy.
    – Dawn
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 12:31
  • @Dawn No it doesnt have one. Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 13:07
  • 6
    Have you considered asking your librarian to buy a physical copy for the library? (You might be surprised by how much librarians can value that kind of feedback.) Or, alternatively, suggesting to the professor that they donate a physical copy to the library?
    – E.P.
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 21:45

2 Answers 2


As an author I'd feel uncomfortable when someone asks me to share a digital copy of my book. I find it very much different from sharing digital copies of papers. An author of a journal paper gets these days a digital offprint (basically a pdf file), which one can share privately with colleagues. However as an author of a book you get (at least in my discipline) several free hard copies, which one can distribute among the dearest colleagues, but as their number is finite one may not be not always willing to share these with students. Sharing digital copies (which can be the technically last proofs the author gets before the book is printed) of the book may be a breach of the contract the author signed with the publisher, and one would feel uneasy if one has to choose whether to break the terms of the contract or to say no to a nice student interested in one's work. So if I were you (and as I myself do when I miss a book written by someone I know well) I'd try one of the following: 1) request that your library purchase a digital (or print) copy of the book; 2) order the book via interlibrary loan; 3) buy the book. Otherwise you may send the author a nice letter saying that you are very much interested in their book and asking if they could advise you how to get hold this hard to find publication. (But again if you are at a university that has a library with access to ILL it would imply that you find it easier to trouble the author rather than order the book via ILL; hence I'd resort to this solution only if you are at an institution that doesn't provide other access options [which is surely the case in many countries with undeveloped library systems], and your request would look more reasonable if you explain in more detail why you cannot get the book without the author's help).


If you are asking whether it will get you in trouble, the answer is no. You are allowed to ask questions at an institution of higher learning. Never be afraid to ask questions, unless it’s illegal. For example, if you were to approach this professor and say that you couldn’t find his textbook on any of the popular pirate sites like the pirate bay, yeah, that might get you in trouble.

But asking if you could get a copy of his book would not get you in trouble given the assumption that you attend there. He might be willing to loan you a copy given that you are trying to learn. But could he get offended? Definitely. If he took the time to research and publish this work, and you do not want to pay for it, that could definitely offend him. It won’t get you in any trouble, but it also could be seen as a little bit rude because you didn’t think his work was worth it enough to purchase. You have to understand, around 50 years ago, there wasn’t the World Wide Web like there is today where you can just go find everything and hopefully get something without paying for it. If you wanted something you bought it, publication or otherwise.


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