# FeaturedInsights The Birth of a Textbook - Comments

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1. Dec 23, 2017

### vanhees71

Well, my colleague finished the book about a year ago and is still struggling with the production process, with several rounds of disappointing proofs he gets back, and the process is very slow. Of course, also in his case, he worked with LaTeX, and the result looks very good (as expected from LaTeX), but obviously the production office transfers it to another system (maybe xml), and already their things can get easily worse. The last proofs he got had completely mixed references like pointing to wrong equations, cluttering the literature/reference lists etc. etc. It's annoying technical things that all work well with his LaTeX version (also using a style provided by the publisher, i.e., it looks indeed like the books of this publisher). I don't understand, why they do not simply take directly the pdf from the LaTeX and print it. They also publish it as ebook. With this publishing company, my experience with the ebooks they offer is that you can use the pdf version only anyway. The epub versions, I've seen, are all failures, particularly leading to bad quality of formulae up to the degree of unreadability.

Recently I finished my habilitation thesis. I wrote it in LaTeX without any trouble, including two reference lists, a lot of formulae and figures and putting the published papers at the end (it's a socalled "cumulative habilitation", where you write a longer review-like summary of the published papers of the subject and then attach these papers). Of course, I didn't do the printing with a publisher but just sent my pdf to the university printing office, who also bound it for a very good price. It's of course not as nice as a real book, but at least all typos and mistakes are my own and not that of some production office of a publisher...

2. Dec 23, 2017

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
I believe that this is essentially what CRC Press does (at least in my case). I provided a print ready pdf according to their style files, they add the necessary surrounding pages (such as the copyright notes etc) and print it. To be honest, I clearly prefer this way and I am sorry for your colleague's problems. For me the process was very streamlined. The proofreaders read my pdf and provided me with their comments rather than making changes to the pdf. Whenever I did not agree on some comment in the proofs it was open for discussion. I made the changes I agreed with, which I think improved the text, and made my case for why the other changes should not be made or why I proposed a different change. They accepted all such arguments.

This is essentially what is done for PhD theses in physics in Sweden (called "compilation thesis" - freely translated). It is in fact exactly how I wrote my thesis.

3. Dec 23, 2017

### vanhees71

That also makes a lot of sense. If a PhD student has published papers in peer-reviewed journals, it's another proof of the value of the work, and one should be allowed to write the PhD thesis in this way. In our university, as far as I know, this is not yet possible, i.e., you have to write a full thesis in addition to papers. Fortunately for the habilitation you have the choice to write a quite long thesis or a cumulative one, where you put the most important papers you published on a subject with a somewhat extended review-like summary. I think that should also be possible for the PhD.

4. Dec 23, 2017

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
In Sweden, at least at my university and all I have seen, you have a choice. Most theory students just write an additional introduction and then put their papers. In hep experiment it is more common to write the thesis as a monologue for obvious reasons. I had 7 papers in my thesis, the usual would be something like 3-6 depending on the extent of each publication.

5. Dec 23, 2017

### vanhees71

Indeed, I always wonder, who from the ~1000 people of the big collaborations has really written the papers and how you can make everybody agree with what's written ;-)). I've been once involved in writing a review with the entire working group (10 auhthors), and it wasn't so easy to get everything together in a coherent way, starting from different conventions used. The rescue was to use a version-control system (I think it was SVN at the time) ;-))).

6. Dec 23, 2017

### Staff: Mentor

That goes way back to the dawn of computers. Customers (or in this case publishers) each make their unique choices for hardware/software/formats and force everyone else to adapt to that. Try submitting your tax forms to your government in the form of GIF files.

I wrote and sold software in the 70s. The proliferation of platforms and OSs back then was much worse than today. Our staff's efforts were divided roughly 80-20. 80% conversion to multiple customer platforms. 20% to the actual features of the software that add value.

7. Dec 23, 2017

### vanhees71

Well, obviously it's possible with @Orodruin 's publisher, CRC Press. I don't see, why one shouldn't simply use the print-ready pdf file produced by LaTeX for printing out the book. Why should publishers bother to transfer it to another format, which is always bound to more errors? Isn't it even more economical for them to have a print-ready file from the author, letting it go through the review process, proof-reading/lectorate and then being sure that precisely this version is then printed?

8. Dec 23, 2017

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
To be fair, if I had not written in LaTeX I would likely have had to convert it to LaTeX (of course, this is just a guess). On the other hand, I cannot see anyone writing a physics or math textbook in anything else so that may be irrelevant.

9. Dec 23, 2017

### vanhees71

My colleague of course also wrote his book in LaTeX with the class file provided by the publisher (and why not telling you that it's Springer, whose textbooks often look indeed as being typeset in LaTeX). At the end it went to production, and they messed all this nice looking LaTeX up, including references to formulae, citations, figures, etc. etc. To me this is explainable only by the assumption that they use the LaTeX source file, provided by the author, and transformed it into something else. That's at least what they do with journal articles (not only Springer but also at least APS and I think also Elsevier, but I must say that with Elsevier I never had any typographical or other technical issues.

10. Dec 23, 2017

### StoneTemplePython

It only took you $\approx 1.5$ years to get the book written. Congrats.

I am curious: how long did you think it would take, when you first started -- either as a point estimate or some kind of range bounds? I would have guessed much more than 1.5 years, but I haven't done the work and gathered any data here.

(This is touching on the planning fallacy and a favorite real life error from Kahneman when he was in a group trying to create a textbook -- his group estimated 1.5 to 2.5 years to get the book to completed even though data indicated north of 7 years, and it in fact took 8 years to get said textbook to market ).

11. Dec 23, 2017

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
I am not sure I had an estimate. Since I was already teaching the subjects since some years I was pretty much already up to speed subject wise. I had written a bunch of lecture notes in different subjects before, so I pretty much knew that the time scale was years. Of course, it also depends on how much time one is willing to put into the project. This was essentially a hobby project that I played with for almost every day during my free time when I did not have anything better to do.

That being said, I got an idea of the time scale from extrapolation pretty early on.

Depending on the size of the group, it may very well be possible that too many cooks spoil the broth.

12. Dec 23, 2017

### Wes Tausend

Congratulations Orodruin,

I really do not know, nor can I imagine the trouble one may go to publish an entire book, an excruciatingly accurate, protracted manuscript that one hopes can long be proudly quoted here on PF or anywhere. Someday I hope too, to say something, to leave something worth remembering.

It seems I expend a great deal of effort to make a single post on PF that is anywhere near bullet-proof, and often fail. Perhaps more effort is in order for me. In that, you are an inspiration to do better just because you shared your interesting journey to build a much larger such edifice. Thanks for your insight. --Wes
...

13. Dec 23, 2017

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
Here is a heads-up to anyone who wants a shot at winning a copy: The PF Photo Contest thread featuring a copy of the book is now open for submissions.

14. Dec 23, 2017

### Staff: Mentor

The actual number of scientists writing the papers is typically small - rarely more than 5 with large contributions, and they will split up the work (“X does the introduction, Y does the data selection, ...”). Afterwards you have several rounds of discussion and comments - first from other members of the analysis group, then from the larger working group your analysis is a part of (e.g. “Higgs” if you study some Higgs decay) and/or dedicated reviewers from this group, later the whole collaboration.
It is not always possible to make everyone happy. Sometimes you even get directly contradicting wishes. Choose one version and move on. Most of the 1000+ authors won’t add comments, but if the proposed paper is popular you can get 50+ sets of comments to go through.

(If this gets a longer discussion I’ll move it to a separate thread.)

15. Dec 23, 2017

### bapowell

Congrats Orodruin!! What an achievement!

16. Dec 24, 2017

### Amrator

Congrats, Orodruin. I'm a third year physics major, and so I will definitely order a paperback (I can't afford the hardcover as of right now).

17. Dec 24, 2017

### vanhees71

I've ordered it yesterday directly from the CRC website :-)).

18. Dec 25, 2017

### Math_QED

Congratulations! I can't imagine how time-consuming it must have been to write such a marvelous book, containing years of expertise and knowledge. I hope the hard work pays off well!

19. Dec 25, 2017

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
How do you know it is marvelous?
(Although I did my best, I think I will let others judge that ... )

20. Dec 25, 2017

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
I like to TOC:

Vector analysis.
Tensor analysis.
Modelling physical systems using PDEs.
Function spaces.
Series and transform solutions.
Green’s functions.
Variational calculus.
Calculus on manifolds.
Classical mechanics.
Electrodynamics.
Special and general relativity.

Reference https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/the-birth-of-a-textbook/

I could have used such a book more than 40 years ago. Instead, I had to sit down with the university course catalog and figure out which mathematics courses I need in parallel with the physics courses I wanted to take. As far as I know, there was no coordination between the mathematics and physics departments, although I think the applied math group coordinated with physics and other sciences somewhat. The lack of coordination between physics and math frustrated me in high school, because it seemed clear that one had to be proficient in calculus to apply it in physics. I had to a lot of self-study early on.

21. Dec 26, 2017

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
Note that this is not the actual table of contents. It was the intended contents in my first draft. Since then I removed electrodynamics and relativity and added a chapter on group theory. The actual table of contents can be found on the CRC Press homepage. However, I have attempted to use examples from relatively basic physics throughout the text.

22. Dec 26, 2017

### Math_QED

I read the insights article! Of course, I didn't read the book (yet), but let's consider it an educated guess, considering what I know from the forums ;)

23. Dec 26, 2017

I note that the book was relabeled from "introductory" to "for graduate students or advanced undergraduate students". I presume that means in physics. If one is not a physicist, how much mathematical background is necessary to be able to follow the explanations?

24. Dec 27, 2017

### Torg

I am happy you wrote a book. I think it will be an excellent and very useful book. Congratulations!
Does the book discuss tensor analysis, or could i read the contents?

25. Dec 27, 2017

### Orodruin

Staff Emeritus
To follow everything, you would need to be proficient in multivariable calculus, linear algebra, and introductory courses in differential equations. Complex analysis will also help at some points. The text is written with a focus on the physics applications of the mathematics. Most of the physics used (that is not introduced specifically) also relies on relatively basic classical physics. Of course, the difficulty varies from chapter to chapter and the first few chapters should be rather accessible with just calculus and linear algebra.

Yes. Tensor analysis in a Euclidean space (but in general coordinates) is included in chapter 2 and calculus on manifolds is covered in chapter 9. A list of chapters is available on the CRC Press homepage (there is a link at the bottom of the Insight).