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Biomedical and Electrical Engineer with interests in information theory, evolution, genetics, abstract mathematics, microbiology, big history, IndieWeb, mnemonics, and the entertainment industry including: finance, distribution, representation






@var_tec If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you.


With school about to start, some thoughts on choosing your own


Mike, I’d written up a quick post on the Complex Analysis, but fell down on the job and didn’t cross post it here. I’m guessing the book with be Silverman’s Complex Analysis with Applications (Dover, 2010) since Mike’s used it before (even though the word “applications” appears in the title!)

Not to decrease anyone’s urgency, because we don’t know what kind of contract Webb signed, but I’m noticing that more and more academics writing textbooks (particularly in math), are retaining the rights to self-publish their work electronically (usually limited to distributing pdf copies from their own websites). Hooray for academic samizdat!

<blockquote>Nice Rama...thanks! Looks like the class is going to be complex analysis in the fall:

No mention of a book though...


<blockquote>On Fri, Jul 29, 2016 at 8:35 AM, Rama Kunapuli <> wrote:
Download this excellent book before it goes to press!
Rama Kunapuli</blockquote></blockquote>


A lovely little experiment in visual pedagogy in mathematics! We could certainly use more of these types of simple "explorations" particularly for younger math students who may not always be good at visualizing material. These seem reminiscent to me of Wilson Rugh's <a href="">java applets</a> for digital signal processing years ago.

Some of this pedagogy argument about slides likely fits better into the area of the flipped classroom versus non-flipped. Though slides may be great (particularly if students have copies of them beforehand to take notes on as is often done commercially by many biology textbooks which have 2-4 slides down the left side of the page and note space on the right hand side) for mathematics I much prefer having notes in <a href="">Livescribe</a> .pdf format with embedded audio. This allows a student to not only relisten to the entire lecture, where often a lot of complicated material (especially in higher level abstract courses) is said very quickly and isn't able to be written down even by some of the best transcriptionists with shorthand (and how many students know this anymore?), but they can skip around to parts they need more work on. As an example, download this <a href="">.pdf file from a Lie Groups lecture</a> and open it up in the most recent version of Adobe Reader to be able to see the visual and audio functionality.

The particular value often comes in seeing problems worked out in full detail with discussion, which some students need much more of than others. One of my favorite lecture experiences almost a decade ago was hearing an audible gasp from the classroom of undergraduates when Sol Golomb (USC) stopped in the middle of a complicated lecture on combinatorics and worked out a 4th grade simple long division problem on the board to get a final solution. Half the class had pulled out a calculator to get the answer and he'd finished before most of them had the first number input. The class learned more in that one minute of example than most did the entire lecture. Most of the best math is done in the "exploration" and practice than in a stripped down lecture as is highlighted in Ben Orlin's recent post: <a href="">The Essence of Mathematics</a>. While it's always lovely seeing theoretical mathematics as if it seemingly sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus, many students should see how the proverbial sausage (or laws) are actually made, especially at an earlier age.


There aren't a lot out there, but here are the ones I'm aware of:
*Thomas Cover (YouTube):
*Raymond Yeung (Coursera): (May require account to see 3 or more archived versions)
*Andrew Eckford/York University (YouTube): Coding and Information Theory
*NPTEL: Electronics & Communication Engineering

Fortunately, most are pretty reasonable, though vary in their coverage of topics. I'd be glad to hear about others, good or bad if others are aware. The top two are from professors who've written two of the most common textbooks on the subject. If I recall a version of the Yeung text is available via download through his course interface.


Shoniqua: This is a poor conspiracy theory at best.

Given the tight margins in publishing math texts, it's my experience that any but the top .01% actually make any real profit for the authors. Given my experience the vast majority of math textbook authors actually want to give away the answers and actually help students. in the past several years, I've directly emailed math professors who've written textbooks for help and advice and most of them have actually replied, not only promptly, but typically with more information that I requested about particular problems and often with full solutions, and in many cases they've sent met full sets of solutions for their entire texts and in a few other cases, they've sent me full electronic copies of their texts for free!

I'll also note, there's also been a growing trend for mathematicians to reserve the right to publish electronic copies of their books on their personal websites where they make them freely available to students.


Download Anthony Knapp's free Algebra textbooks


It actually looks like you're missing one of the biggest -- and now, according to the Supreme Court, legal -- new loopholes for cheap textbooks.

One of the most important changes in the textbook market that every buyer should be aware of: last year in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. [] the US Supreme Court upheld the ability for US-based students to buy copies of textbooks printed in foreign countries (often at huge cut-rate prices) [see also Ars Technica:]. This means that searching online bookstores in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc. will often find the EXACT same textbooks (usually with slightly different ISBNs, and slightly cheaper paper) for HUGE discounts in the 60-95% range.

To stick with your math example: I recently bought an international edition of Walter Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis (Amazon $121 for $5 (and it even happened to ship from within the US for $3). Not only was this 96% off of the cover price, but it was 78% off of Amazon's rental price! How amazing is it to spend almost as much to purchase a book as it is to ship it to yourself!? I'll also note here that the first edition of this book appeared in 1964 and this very popular third edition is from 1976, so it isn't an example of "edition creep", but it's still got a tremendous mark up in relation to other common analysis texts [] which list on Amazon for $35-50.

Hint: Abe Books (a subsidiary of Amazon is better than most at finding/sourcing international editions of textbooks.

The same Calculus textbook you mentioned as a Sixth Edition can be easily found in paperback for $55.44 (I only did one search to find it, but I'm sure a little elbow grease might cut the price further) and ships within the US for less than $10. And because many students are apt to take the multi-variable calculus course as a follow up, this textbook also includes that material as an added bonus as well.

The other option you leave out is purchasing the fifth edition, which isn't substantially different from the 6th edition and which can be easily found for less than $6 in good condition and including shipping.

Of course all this belies the true discussion of the how's and why's for why the textbook market is overpriced in the first place. For some of those ideas and suggestions of how we can fix them, I've written a short essay: "To Purchase, Rent, or Pirate? The Broken Economics of Textbooks in the Digital Age"


Far better than some of these band-aid solutions is to focus on the underlying economics of the problem and remedy those. Giving the end purchasers (aka students) and not the professors (aka middle-men) the power to choose books will drastically help to level the playing field. I've written some more specific thoughts and hints here: "To Purchase, Rent, or Pirate? The Broken Economics of Textbooks in the Digital Age"


This is a great article pinpointing the primary issue along with some more helpful advice on fixing the larger textbook problem than most of the traditional ever-green articles that hit the wire just prior to the start of a new term! However, if Congress is going to take steps, they may be better off trying to regulate the industry back into a more competitive shape, but this as unlikely to happen as the current Congressional plan. Instead, I'd recommend that students, professors, and universities fix the problem for the publishers by changing the word "Required" to "Recommended" in every syllabus in the country. Doing this would help allow students to pay as much for textbooks as they do for the average bestseller, which average about $15 and generally doesn't go over $40, even in hardback.

I've written some more specific details and thoughts on the roots of the issue here: "To Purchase, Rent, or Pirate? The Broken Economics of Textbooks in the Digital Age" for those who'd like to delve more deeply into the problem and potential solutions.

Thanks BI, for helping to not only highlight the problem, but to push solutions. Given the thesis of Cesar Hidalgo's recent text "Why Information Grows", one of the greatest business issues America faces is making it easier for information to disseminate within our culture, and the excessive cost of textbooks and education is going to have drastic effects on our culture and country in the coming century.


The issue of taxes on textbooks is just a drop in the bucket given the price increases over just the last five years. We need to encourage a restructuring of how textbooks are sold - perhpas changing the word "Required" to "Recommended". I cover some additional thoughts here: "To Purchase, Rent, or Pirate? The Broken Economics of Textbooks in the Digital Age"


Great quote in the Telegraph:
"The economics of college textbooks is very different from anything else," says Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan. "Professors select the books, and students have to pay for them, so the normal market mechanisms aren't at play here. Publishing companies charge whatever they can get away with, which is unsustainable."


I love that economics professors are starting to speak up on the issue I've always harped on, though it would be nice to see more in depth advice and suggestions to remedy the problem. I've highlighted a few things that students, professors, and universities can do here: "To Purchase, Rent, or Pirate? The Broken Economics of Textbooks in the Digital Age"