jump to navigation

Free My Text Books! March 2, 2009

Posted by gordonwatts in physics life, university.

the_raw_feed_on_kindle-BIG[1] I love the idea behind the Kindle. I don’t own one and I’m not planning on owning one anytime soon… unless…

As I’ve gotten older my eyes have followed my father’s: fantastic until 40, and then fall off a cliff. It won’t be long till I’m wearing trifocals. 🙂 But the more rest I give my eyes – or, the more exercise I give them by looking around at objects at different distances – the better they feel. I stare at computers and books all day long. And so I don’t read much in the way of books at night. A few magazines perhaps, but not often enough to warrant the $360 dollar price of the Kindle.

But what I really want are my text books in electronic form. There is nothing like a well written text book to learn from. The web just doesn’t hack it (yet?) in this department. I can find little nuggets of information but there is almost never any context. But if I want to be taken from basic lagrangians, through group theory, to the Higgs mechanism in some detail… well, I a text book is my best source for that.

I’ve got some 80 of them, taking up a significant bit of my shelf space. They almost never leave my office here at work. The furthest they sometimes make it is home and back. And they are much less useful because of that. There is only one reason for this: they are heavy!

Wouldn’t it be great if they were electronic? I’d be happy to pay the same price for them, so long as I could put them on my various computers. I could display them on my big computer screen, and use my Tablet to take notes or create a lecture. Or even better, if they were in some sort of PDF format (or similar) I could write on them on my tablet and leave myself little margin notes! I’d be quite willing to put up with some DRM as long as it didn’t prevent me from reading it on my various computers.

Scanning through Amazon’s library of text books (as you might expect, I can find almost all the textbooks I need there) I’ve yet to see even one that I could get in electronic form – in any electronic form. What a pity!

Eventually this will happen – I just wish it was faster. And when it does I suspect it will be something like the folks older enough to own vinyl or VHS. Everyone will be forced to re-purchase the books in electronic form. Good thing these text books can be put down as tax write-offs!



1. Rarian Rakista - March 3, 2009

I own the Sony PRS-700 and I love it. With a SD card slot and a Sony memory stick slot for 50 bucks I have 16 gigs of memory which allows me to carry around 2000 textbooks including 200 physics and 100 mathematics textbooks.

The kindle with 2 gigs of internal memory and complicated DRM system is a pain to deal with if you use it for anything besides reading novels and newspapers. Some physics textbooks weigh in at over 500 megs so with the kindle you would be forced to redownload that file over and over again as you have no way of keeping it locally. For now the kindle remains a toy for those who have any ambition to use it as a textbook reader.

2. Gordon Watts - March 3, 2009

So — where do you get the text books?

3. theoreticalminimum - March 3, 2009


There is a very large repository of textbooks (almost exclusively in pdf and djvu formats) at http://www.gigapedia.org. You just need to sign up, and all downloads are completely free. Every physicist’s favourite textbook is definitely there.

I own a Lenovo Thinkpad X61 tablet, and I use a relatively cheap software “PDF annotator” to annotate pdf files (but it works superbly). It’s available for free trial. However, there is still the need to have an application which can be used to annotate djvu files, which is a more complicated story usually.

The next best thing any tablet pc giant like HP or Lenovo can do is integrate e-ink technology in their notebooks.

4. Gordon Watts - March 3, 2009

Really!? Ok — I’m going to go check that out.

I have an X61T as well, and can’t live without it. And I also use PDF Annotator – a fantastic tool, I agree.

Are the djvu files for the textbooks?

5. Gordon Watts - March 3, 2009

Ok – what books did you get from there? Several of the text books I’m using for my current particle course weren’t there (I didn’t register, I just started typing things into the web page search box).

6. theoreticalminimum - March 3, 2009

Have a look here: http://www.citeulike.org/user/NitinCR
~90% of the books featured can be found on gigapedia, unless the links for downloads have been removed. Make sure you’re searching in “gigapedia” and not “google” (I guess you figured that one out already).

7. Gordon Watts - March 3, 2009

Hmmm.. I typed “The Black Hole War” into the google search box at the top of the gigapedia web page and it came back with no results. Several othres had the same result. Am I just unlucky? Also tried “Introduction to Electrodynamics” and that failed too.

8. theoreticalminimum - March 3, 2009

Register.. I’m really not sure what the database of this search engine is.. I have just tried these same searches, and no result on my side too. I didn’t know about this.. I use rss feeds to keep up to date with what is posted there, so I haven’t used the search engines a lot lately.

9. theoreticalminimum - March 4, 2009

I suppose you worked it out 🙂
Did you find what you were looking for?

10. Gordon Watts - March 4, 2009

Sorry — not yet — ran out of time, had to pay attention to something else. I’ll try again this evening later after I slaughter my inbox.

11. Meredith Dill Rodehorst - March 9, 2009

It’s such a small world – I just started working at a small publishing company in Dec. that creates online courses, mainly for poli sci and now English comp. My boss suggests checking out http://www.coursesmart.com, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: