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No New Textbooks

  1. Aug 18, 2008 #1
    I was in the library today. Luckily, I can find almost any book on amazon at my schools engineering library. I was looking for a controls book in the controls section. I checked it out with the intention of 'try before you buy'. But I noticed that for every one controls book there are about (not exaggerating) 20-30 IDENTICAL books on the topic. I dont mean somewhat the same, I mean they downright STOLE the size, content, and page layout. Grab any controls book and look at the last chapter. Its probably chapter 13 and its probably on the z-transform. That being said, do we REALLY need 20-30 sub-par copy-cat books?

    I think there are a lot of professors out there that dont have anything real to do, so they rehash good works, making them suck in the process.

    There are a FEW exceptions. I know one professor who wrote a controls book on campus that really is VERY different from anything out there. Its an amazing reference with new material and insights.

    But seriously.....................................stop putting out all this crap. Clausius was right, everyone including the garbage man seems to write a textbook these days. :rolleyes:

    Big name competitors are:
    Statics/Dynamics is: Beer-Johnson Vs. Hibbeler
    Controls: Nise vs. Ogatta

    But if it were not bad enough that these 'big names' basically have the SAME book, there are 30x other people who rip off these books as well. So its a copy of a copy.....

    I'm willing to bet you there are similar examples in your field of study.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2008 #2


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    They have to. If they teach rather than do research, writing textbooks is one of the few ways to get the publications required to get promoted or tenured. Start convincing universities to give people credit for just being good educators and they might not feel so pressured to write sub-par textbooks.
  4. Aug 18, 2008 #3
    God, its so awful though. I mean, they LITERALLY rip off each others books. Chapter per chapter is the SAME damn material but of lower quality then the last book they ripped off.

    If we are to have a library, lets not fill it up with garabge just for the sake of filling them up.

    They should have online video lectures like MIT. Where they can win awards for good teaching. Walter Lewin should get a gold medal or something. Every teacher should be required to watch his online video lectures and learn.
  5. Aug 18, 2008 #4
    There are lots of unfortunate students who are forced to read that crap :devil:
  6. Aug 18, 2008 #5
    Oh yeah physics:

    Sears/Zemanski vs. Halliday-Resnick.

    Cengel vs. sonntag
  7. Aug 18, 2008 #6


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    Even worse, there was a topic that I was researching a few years back (in solid state physics IIRC), where I found the same error in the discussion of the topic in at least 2-3 of the books that I was using! The rest of the texts were reasonably different, but the freaking example they chose to illustrate a particular Fermi level topic (again IIRC) had the same error! I found a few other texts finally without the error (so they agreed with my understanding of the topic), but those other texts with matching errors caused me to waste way too much of my time trying to figure out if they were right after all.

    So much for a "classic example", eh?
  8. Aug 18, 2008 #7


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    Unless it's peer-reviewed, it doesn't count as a publication. Several faculty in the department I just joined are learning this the hard way. They've put a lot of time and effort into developing online learning materials...not lectures, but interactive materials along with videos to help students learn anatomy...but because they didn't do it through one of the two sites that provide peer-reviewing of educational materials prior to publication, they don't count toward their scholarship activities for promotion. It's ridiculous. I've played with the things they've developed, and they're really helpful. You can be teacher of the year every year and still not get promoted if you're not publishing anything. I'm not particularly worried, because I still have research on the side to get enough publications to qualify for promotion on the track I'm on, but people who don't have that because they're purely doing education (and if I didn't already have the research going on with great collaborators, there's no time to start it up with our teaching loads), it's tough to do anything other than write new textbooks.

    Though, I agree, it would be nice to do things differently if you're going to write a new textbook. I'm already thinking about that myself. At some point, that'll be expected of me as well, so I'm digging into what's already available and what's lacking to find a new niche.
  9. Aug 18, 2008 #8
    Ok here's what you do. At least, this is what my controls professor did. He's a full professor, but he's also highly respected in controls, so he doesnt need to write any books (I think he did it because he wanted to). He is the EDITOR of the book. He wrote one or two chapters in it, but he outsourced each individual chapter to various other controls authors (44 total). The result is that each chapter is written by typically two people. But the benifit is that they only have to deal with ONE chapter, so they make it very good, to the point, and with more insight.

    If I ask you to write one chatper, chances are you will give me a really nice end product; but, if I ask you to write the entire book, its going to get watered down. I dont think its possible for one person writting a book to have the umph of various authors.

    His book has text, equations and graphs. No color, and no nonsense. What's in there is only in there because its necessary. No fluff, whatsoever. It also has NO examples, AT ALL. Its not a textbook to learn from. There are no problems in it. Its simply there if you have an questions on a particular topic. It will tell you exactly what you need to know about that topic, no more no less. Its a really really clever and new approach to making a book.

    As for continuity, its NOT a text book. So one chapter DOES NOT depend on any other chapter. It stands alone. That's the beauity of it. If I want to read chapter 15, I DON'T need to read the chapters before it. So it does not 'feel' like more than one person wrote it. Remember, there's NO fluff in it -anywhere.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2008
  10. Aug 18, 2008 #9


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    That's how it's done for most advanced courses. To some extent, it's necessary too. Advanced courses are so individualized, you really need the books used for them to be collections of independent chapters that can be taught in any order, or even have the flexibility to pick and choose chapters to teach. But, those types of books are meant for graduate courses, or even for professionals in the field to read to come up to speed on an area they don't often follow but need to start exploring.

    For more introductory courses, though, you don't need that much detail, and it's more about how the material is presented, what illustrations are used, how definitions are explained, etc., and those are typically written by small groups of authors. Because the students in those courses do not necessarily have any prior knowledge of the subject matter, you need books that have a fairly fixed order of topics to explain each topic then build up to the next one from that.
  11. Aug 18, 2008 #10
    If they ask you to write a book, I would tell them you want to EDIT one the way my professor did. I dont know how it is in your area, but im sure there are countless books that are exactly the same as every other book like it. I think I'd just flat out say no if I was ever asked to write a text-book that's been done a billion times before.

    How come they don't all sue each other for stealing each others work?
  12. Aug 18, 2008 #11


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    It doesn't work that way at all. You don't get asked to write a specific text book. You just have to decide for yourself what approach you're going to take to it when you know they expect to see some books published in addition to research articles (or in place of for those without active research programs).
  13. Aug 18, 2008 #12
    How does one even write a text book? You need to have the format, colors, backgrounds. Even the plots are used with proprietary software by the publishers. Each book has its own style of graphs that is not excel or matlab or mathematica. Do you call up the publisher and say I'm going to write a book on x,y,z and they give you a guideline? Also, how long do these people spend on their books? If they need to be published, I can't imagine them spending more than a year on a book considering how much they suck.
  14. Aug 19, 2008 #13
    There are so many other ways
  15. Aug 20, 2008 #14


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    LOL, thanks for the laughs. Posted on the univeristy website of all things. Here's #2 on a long list of tricks:

    Something tells me Moonbear doesn't need any of those tricks....
  16. Aug 20, 2008 #15
    They don't sue each other for stealing each others work because there is no copyright on ideas. As long as they don't use exactly the same sentences, equations and structure there is no problem. Otherwise Newton's descendents would own the world...

    Be careful of "the old boys network". That's where old chums write good reviews for each others books, even though they all suck. Always go by the one/two star reviews on Amazon...
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