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Buying textbooks as opposed to borrowing these

  1. Sep 23, 2014 #1
    Hi, my lecturer insists that I buy the brand-name textbooks from all of the branches of physics and to start a collection of these. He insists that using ebooks is not a good approach to learning.

    Now, he proceeds from the assumption that I will become an academic for whom these textbooks will be a lifelong asset. But, you never know what happens when to people. What are my chances of ending up being a physicist? Next to naught. This applies for everyone. You never know where life will take you. Why then bother spending tonnes of money on these books, if only you need to refer to only a chapter from his book and another chapter from that book?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Unless you have a honking big scholarship, the cost of college plus textbooks = cost of college + a few%.

    It seems like a very little money to ensure that if you want to know something at some future time you can find it.
     
  4. Sep 23, 2014 #3
    As it turns out, I do have a 'big honking scholarship' :D

    So, I guess I won't be buying any. :cool:
     
  5. Sep 23, 2014 #4
    What do you mean when you say ebook? Are you talking about an electronic copy of the book your professor is recommending, or are you talking about a different electronic resources which talk about the same subject?
     
  6. Sep 23, 2014 #5
    The pdf version of the textbook. For example, pdf renditions of Mandl, Griffiths, Jackson, etc.
     
  7. Sep 23, 2014 #6

    Rocket50

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    You should buy actual books that you'll need for the whole class. If you only need a chapter of it, then electronic versions are fine. However, if you need the whole book for a semester, you probably should buy it. You should also consider used books - they are much cheaper.
     
  8. Sep 23, 2014 #7

    Doug Huffman

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    I did not become a physicist, but a nuclear engineer and technician and I cherish every one of my textbooks that I kept. Some years ago my wife insisted that I downsize from about 100 feet of bookshelf to 20 feet and make room there for any subsequent purchases. I keep the classics and great textbooks (E. T. Jaynes' Probability Theory: The Logic of Science, Karl Popper) in print and the new stuff in e-book.
     
  9. Sep 23, 2014 #8
    Ah. I could understand if your prof was saying "Use Griffiths rather than that random set of lecture notes you found online," but I don't see why it's a huge issue that you would want to get the book in electronic form (hopefully legally...). Just be aware that there are some pros and cons.

    On the plus side, electronic books are cheaper and much easier to carry around. With electronic books, you can feasibly carry your entire library around with you on your laptop. It's tough to carry around more than 2 or 3 paper textbooks in a backpack. However, I personally find it's harder to read from a screen, and sometimes the math formatting on electronic copies can be really screwey, making the book unreadable (Kindle books are bad for that). And like your prof is alluding to I guess, there is a chance your book will end up being in an unusable format eventually (e.g., I don't know what happens to my Kindle books if Amazon goes out of business). Honestly, though, even as someone who uses textbooks a lot, I find that most textbooks have a short lifespan anyway. I use them a lot for a year or so, and then I never touch them again. For those super-amazing textbooks that I refer back to for years, I wouldn't be upset about paying for both electronic and paper versions since I'm getting so much out of them.

    I think it comes down to personal preference. Personally, I like to have hard copies of books I know going to use a lot, but I do use ebooks quite a bit as well. Some people are a little set in their ways, but I think there are good arguments for both.
     
  10. Sep 23, 2014 #9

    SteamKing

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    If your lecturer was an author of the books he is urging that you buy, I could understand why he wants you to purchase an actual book, because he would get some sort of royalty. Otherwise, he sounds whack.

    You can find scanned copies of various technical reference works on the web, including a large collection of public domain material in the Internet Archive. There is no difference in the content between the printed version and the scanned version of these books, so I am puzzled by your prof's warning against using ebooks.

    As a disclaimer, I had collected many printed reference books myself earlier in my career to build my own reference library. But after I became disabled, I could no longer access my book collection, and I was forced to look online for versions of these same books which I could download and view using my computer, because I still need to refer to them in my work.
     
  11. Sep 23, 2014 #10
    I got as many used books as I could in college....I don't know how a student nowadays could afford all new books. However, now that I"m on the other side of the equation....I only get royalties from new books. ;)

    I have an extensive engineering library....aeronautical books I inherited from my dad, and 40 years of electronics books I've accumulated (or written) on my own. I never regretted the acquisition of any book...other than the thought of having to move them all if I ever downsize. :)

    Eric
     
  12. Sep 23, 2014 #11
    You can always check the library if you do not want to own a personal copy at the moment. I've always managed to find a variety of reference material there.
     
  13. Sep 23, 2014 #12

    IGU

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    Dead tree implementations of publishing are pretty much dead. I'd go e-books all the way. Searchable beats any other considerations nowadays.

    However, borrowing is always better than buying to start. Many assigned textbooks are junk, used for bad reasons. For example, if you study calculus out of Apostol it's a keeper, but if you study out of Stewart it's rubbish the day you get it. Avoid those sorts of expensive mistakes.
     
  14. Sep 27, 2014 #13
    You may want to read http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/
    Basically, there may be some advantages to reading on paper, in terms of long-term retention etc. Searchability is a big argument for ebooks, but for textbooks I think it is overrated. If one needs to look something up quickly, say a definition in linear algebra, well, that's what wikipedia is for. Basically, in the ideal case one shouldn't just jump back and forth in a textbook, one should try to learn things in their right context.

    That said, there are a lot of overpriced and rather bad textbooks out there, so I don't think your lecturer's position is reasonable either. Basically, you don't want to ruin your personal economy, but you also want to make sure that you actually get a good education. If you learn well from ebooks, then keep going for now, but do note that the higher-level books are generally more important to buy and keep as a) the material isn't as widely available, b) is easier to re-learn from the same resource instead of some other book using other arguments and unfamiliar notation, and c) chances are that's they are part of the field you actually ended up in, hence being useful as a reference.
     
  15. Sep 27, 2014 #14

    symbolipoint

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    At least some support exists for how some of us feel about eReaders compared to traditional paper-bound books. Listing that article is encouraging about the importance or NORMAL textbooks.
     
  16. Sep 28, 2014 #15

    cgk

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    I find these recommendations odd. Both from the lecturer of OP and the other posters. During my entire university education and academic life I never once bought even a single textbook. While possibility of obtaining information in "dead tree format" is clearly useful, this is exactly what university libraries are for. And if you go for this route, you are not even stuck with whatever textbook you bought---you can read through a number of different textbooks and pick the one which works best for you for a particular topic.

    Owning physical stuff, especially lots of books, is also a liability. If one actually does go for an academic route, then *not* having to move 100kg of books when having to move once per year on average is quite helpful.
     
  17. Sep 28, 2014 #16

    symbolipoint

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    What an unusual situation! All the college and university students I ever met or saw bought most of their books, and always in paper/traditional form.
     
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