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Re: Hardcopy or electronic books?

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  • Subject: [mg62299] Re: [mg62293] Hardcopy or electronic books?
  • From: George Woodrow III <georgevw3 at>
  • Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2005 23:18:27 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

I'm an old guy, so this may color my preferences. I still prefer  
hardcopy for most real books.

However, I do use the build-in electronic version of the Mathematica  
book more often in practice. The electronic documentation in Apple's  
Xcode is even better organized, and much better than the 15+ volumes  
of Inside Macintosh that it replaces.

However, I'd never read a novel on my computer, and probably not a  
math text. I use a powerbook, but there are places I can take a real  
book that I would never take my powerbook.

On the other hand, I have some technical books with an ever  
increasing list of errata and refinements, so I'd really like to  
download a current pdf copy.

I guess the three factors that would make an electronic version  
better are:

1.	Will I be searching for information?
2.	Will the document be frequently updated?
3.	Will the electronic format permit 'live' computations and graphics  
(a la a Mathematica notebook).

I think that there may be a fourth -- what is the shelf life of the  
information? I've weaned myself away from printed documents for  
software (sometimes I had no choice ;-) ) because the information in  
the books have a short shelf life. However, Id see no need to have an  
electronic version of Moby Dick, the Feynman Lectures, or The Blue  
and Brown books.

As for Mathematica-related books. I'd say that if the book required  
Mathematica, and the reader would likely be using the book in  
connection with the program, then the electronic version makes the  
most sense -- especially since it could be updated, and possibly  
integrated into the Mathematica help system.

However, if the book's primary focus was Math, Physics, etc., and  
only used Mathematica as an adjunct, then I'd say that hard copy is  
better. Perhaps a supplement of Mathematica notebooks would be useful  
to present material so that the reader does not need to do a lot of  

There is an overriding issue not covered -- is the book worth  
reading. I've read through, or at least seen a lot of Mathematica  
related books (and a lot of other technical books), and frankly, most  
of them are not worth the effort. Bad writing has always existed, of  
course, but at least with a published work in the past, there would  
be editors working on the material, and there would be a threshold of  
quality. Now, even printed materials use camera-ready copy prepared  
by the authors, with (it seems to me) little editing.

It is very easy now to self publish.

The good news is that if junk is published in electronic form, at  
least no trees were killed.

george woodrow

On Nov 19, 2005, at 5:54 AM, Steven T. Hatton wrote:

> In an ongoing correspondence with an author of books related to  
> Mathematica,
> the subject of hardcopy verses electronic media came up.  I contend  
> that
> hardcopy remains valuable even though books can easily be distributed
> electronically.  I have several books in electronic form, and find  
> that I
> do not tend to read them.  I much prefer having books in hardcopy.   
> Having
> the electronic form, especially if they consist of Mathematica  
> notebooks is
> certainly valuable, but does not replace the functionality of  
> traditional
> books with paper pages.
> What do others think about this?
> -- 
> The Mathematica Wiki:
> Math for Comp Sci
> Math for the WWW:

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