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531 votes
Accepted

Why would an academic write a textbook for free?

As the author of this particular free textbook, I can say that the previous answers have covered things pretty well. "Introduction to programming using Java" started in 1996 as a set of class notes ...
David J. Eck's user avatar
  • 2,576
205 votes

Should I seek professional help because I have a lot of math books?

Personally, it seems to me that he was just making a joke. Awkwardly, perhaps, but still, just a joke. Your personal library seemed to him (and me) to be so "over the top" that it was hard ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 343k
184 votes

Should I send professors money for illegally downloading their books?

With that in mind, would it be appropriate to simply send those odd 10 dollars to the author of the book that I am illegally downloading? First, I would be concerned about your legal exposure. You ...
cag51's user avatar
  • 64.7k
176 votes

Why would an academic write a textbook for free?

I don't know why Eck made his book freely available, but I can tell you why I make my course materials freely available, and will continue to do so even if I ever take the final step of turning them ...
JeffE's user avatar
  • 98.2k
128 votes

Should I send professors money for illegally downloading their books?

I find the moralistic tone of some of the other answers a bit distasteful, and also unhelpful. It’s pretty clear to me that you didn’t come here to ask for a general lecture about the pros and cons of ...
Dan Romik's user avatar
  • 184k
114 votes

How to deal with professors who don't follow the text

If your undergraduate lectures were perfectly predictable, following the book exactly, and you showed up perfectly prepared to each one, then they were actually completely useless. You could have just ...
knzhou's user avatar
  • 3,807
94 votes

Do universities maintain secret textbooks?

I have never heard of a textbook being "secret" in the sense that it was being kept intentionally hidden to give students of one organization an advantage. I have often, however, encountered draft ...
jakebeal's user avatar
  • 187k
93 votes

Is it acceptable to email an author to ask for a copy of his book that is currently out of print?

A question like this is almost always acceptable to ask. I cannot imagine that somebody will take offense at this, and I expect most academics appreciate high-school students looking for help and a ...
Jeroen's user avatar
  • 8,148
91 votes
Accepted

Is it acceptable to use working hours to read general interest books?

It's socially acceptable to do (almost) whatever you want during academic "free time". Ultimately what matters are the results you produce, and as long as you're able to do that most people will not ...
Allure's user avatar
  • 122k
90 votes

As a PhD student, how do I benefit from reviewing a book my adviser is writing?

You'll gain his trust, if you do a good job. You will also gain a deeper understanding of the material as you'll read it thoroughly not just to learn it, but also having to think about how the ...
Shake Baby's user avatar
  • 4,082
86 votes

Should I seek professional help because I have a lot of math books?

I own at least 4,000 physical books... True, some of my faculty colleagues own nearly none, and some treated me as a lending library. :) Prior to the existence of any sort of electronic books, at ...
paul garrett's user avatar
  • 86.4k
86 votes
Accepted

Can anyone with a PhD write a textbook?

Anyone with or without a PhD can write a text book. Yet independently of how well-known the author is, text books are not particularly well-selling items, since the audience is very narrow. And even ...
user33593's user avatar
  • 904
83 votes
Accepted

Why do textbooks often include the solutions to odd or even numbered problems but not both?

This allowance is a custom to allow instructors to give homework where the solutions to some questions were not provided directly to the student (at least not in the book - this was from a time where ...
BrianH's user avatar
  • 21.3k
82 votes

Can authors email you for free PDFs of their textbook sold for profit

I am the author of a textbook. The book retails for $50. I get 50cents for every copy sold. I do not own the copyright on the book and it would be illegal for me to sent you a copy, even if I had a ...
Ian Sudbery's user avatar
  • 36.5k
78 votes

Is it ethical to share with students a book draft that the author no longer makes publicly available?

If the author can be contacted, ask them politely whether you may distribute the manuscript that used to be available online, explaining the purpose of your request and the size of your class. Perhaps ...
henning's user avatar
  • 35k
78 votes
Accepted

Will people translate obscure books for free?

You say: In addition, I know if I spoke multiple languages, and I came across an important book in one language that has NEVER been translated to my other known language, translating it would be ...
Adam Přenosil's user avatar
74 votes

What can I do with like-new, recent-edition textbooks that I'm not allowed to sell?

Ask your employer. You should be able to work out a solution both parties are happy with pretty easily. The obvious one is to sell the books and then give your employer the profits. If they don't ...
Allure's user avatar
  • 122k
71 votes
Accepted

What are the motivations for publishing new editions of an existing textbook, beyond new discoveries in a field?

Publishers want new editions so that they can make money selling copies of the new edition and reduce the market for used copies. The new edition might be significantly updated, but in many cases the ...
Brian Borchers's user avatar
70 votes
Accepted

Do teachers generally refer to hard-to-comprehend books?

One possible reason is that I feel the style of textbooks have changed in the last years, so that newer books are sometimes easier to understand (use more modern-day language and symbols, is ...
user111388's user avatar
  • 2,263
68 votes

Why do " 'inclusive' access" textbooks normally self-destruct after a year or so?

Rent seeking. Replacing durable goods with artificially consumable goods is very common because it is profitable. Every industry that can is switching to a software-as-a-service model because they ...
Anonymous Physicist's user avatar
62 votes
Accepted

Is it OK to publish a book as an undergraduate?

Go for it, and see whether you can get one of your professors to do a technical review. That technical review, acknowledged in the preface, will lend weight to your book. If you have professors who ...
Bob Brown's user avatar
  • 26.9k
61 votes

Is it acceptable to email an author to ask for a copy of his book that is currently out of print?

I don't think I can improve on the answer of JeroendeK. It is fine to ask. But I think it is unlikely to be successful as the prof may not have a copy to be spared. But there is an alternative open to ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 343k
59 votes

Why don't more academics write textbooks?

As in the other comments and answer: it's a lot of trouble, doesn't generate money, and doesn't generate status, either. In fact, it often generates anti-status, for various reasons: because of the ...
paul garrett's user avatar
  • 86.4k
59 votes

Do teachers generally refer to hard-to-comprehend books?

Faculty (and people in general) do not have time to read multiple books that describe the same thing. So they will suggest the book they have read, not the best book. Further, it is unlikely for two ...
Anonymous Physicist's user avatar
59 votes
Accepted

What's the meaning of "Topics in ... "?

"Topics in" usually means that the content is not meant to be introductory (i.e., the reader is assumed to already have some prior familiarity with the subject), and not meant to cover &...
darij grinberg's user avatar
57 votes

How do textbook authors and professors cook up homework/assignment questions?

You missed scenario f, which I suspect is the most common: The professor has been teaching this class and refining the textbook/notes for years, and developed homework questions out of problems that ...
ff524's user avatar
  • 109k
56 votes

If an author does not intend to make much revenue from a book, why not make it open-access?

There are a number of reasons why not to, and they stem from the reasons one might want to publish a book, even if you aren't making much if any money: The prestige of the publisher matters. For many ...
Fomite's user avatar
  • 51.8k
56 votes
Accepted

What can I do with like-new, recent-edition textbooks that I'm not allowed to sell?

As an academic librarian, I am frequently asked similar questions. First, please don't just drop them off at the library. Unwanted donations are a significant problem at libraries—it's very difficult ...
1006a's user avatar
  • 3,677
54 votes

Found mistake in my professors book: Tell her or publish? If so, how?

First: Slow down. In the academic world, books are simply collections of known things presented in a unified fashion. In fact, in some disciplines, it's almost unheard of for someone to release ...
eykanal's user avatar
  • 48.2k
53 votes

Is it ethical to ask students to proofread a textbook?

Is it ethical to give a grade (or extra credit) based on student feedback? I think the key question is, will reading draft material from your textbook help students towards their understanding of the ...
Caleb Stanford's user avatar

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