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Free MIT Engineering Text For Download 207

An anonymous reader writes " The (sci-tech) Library Question is reporting, "The third edition of A Heat Transfer Textbook, written by John H Lienhard V (MIT) and John H Lienhard IV (U Houston), has been made available on the web. The book is an introduction to heat transfer, geared towards engineering students. It may be downloaded free of charge. The authors explain: We are placing a mechanical engineering textbook into an electronic format for worldwide, no-charge distribution. The aim of this effort is to explore the possibilities of placing textbooks online -- effectively giving them away. Two potential benefits should accrue from doing this. First, in electronic format, textbooks can be continually corrected and updated, without the delays inherent in printed books (second and later editions are typically published on a five-year cycle). Second, free textbooks hold the potential for fundamentally altering the economics of higher education, particularly in those environments where money is scarce."
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Free MIT Engineering Text For Download

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  • Good Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SeXy_Red ( 550409 ) <Meviper85&hotmail,com> on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:30AM (#9099055)
    This is a very good idea; it would be nice not to have to pay $500+ a semester for books. I am concerned that if this catches on, that a company would find a way to profit from the online books, bringing the college students back into the same situation that they're currently in, which is paying out the ass for basicly renting books for a semester (assuming the college has a book buy back program).

    Another thing, will schools then start supplying laptops or tablet PC's to view these text books on while in class?
  • by Denyer ( 717613 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:31AM (#9099057)
    ...on the part of people who complete the download form, this is also an opportunity for authors to gain feedback from parts of the readership demographic they wouldn't normally be in contact with.

    With some engineering and science -related courses suffering from low levels of interest, a wider availability of resources could (as the article suggests) draw out those who aren't applying for financial reasons, whilst giving others a taste of subjects and their potential uses in picking a career path and making a difference. After all, most people have felt they've had a good idea or two at some time or other... many have been discouraged only by the lack of readily available background knowledge.

    Yay for more open learning!

  • When can we start (Score:4, Interesting)

    by beachplum ( 777797 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:33AM (#9099061) Homepage
    Free textbooks online? The ability to continually update and correct errors and misinformation? Sign me up.

    Also, one of the big issues in textbook publication is that the information included sometimes can be determined by what state publishes the text - this is especially true in history and biology, both of which are full of political dynamite.

    Maybe eventually this will lead to a freer exchange of information.

  • While not having to carry around textbooks is nice, and I'm never without a Palm or laptop, I have to admit I always prefer reading printed text. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I just find printed text I can write on, fold, flip through, read in the sun, etc. to be a lot easier to read from.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:47AM (#9099095)
    We should see more books like that, because there might be geniuses who cannot go to universities or afford books. But if they lay their hands on free online books they might change the world.

    For example, Michael Faraday, received very little education. Everything he learned was from books that came to him as a bookbinder. Now lets say, he newer became a bookbinder. What would have happened? Wonderfull mind would not have been used for what it was used.

    Thats a great example, when right people get their hands on books which are in interest of them wonderfull things can happen.

    I hope we will see more online books. Now the education will be available pretty much to everyone who has access to a computer. Not only those who's parents rich, can afford them to send to best colleges in the world.

    Anyone aggree with me? or see my point?

  • by rokzy ( 687636 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @07:24AM (#9099180)
    I've heard people talk of these ridiculously high costs for books in the US before. in my experience it isn't true here in the UK: to me an expensive book is above 30, and a book above 40 has no chance. also I've bought ~6 books over my 4 year degree, mostly because I wanted to, you are never required to buy a book.

    in my courses (physics) the point of lectures is to obtain a set of notes good enough to work completely on their own in most cases. questions and answers are also provided by lecturers.

    without wanting to sound like a flame or anything, is it possible that in the US lecturers just can't be bothered or aren't given the resources to teach their pupils properly and so fall back on textbooks which the money-grabbing publishers are happy to exploit (I've heard tales of unnecessary book-CD bundles etc. all just to inflate prices).
  • by gnu-generation-one ( 717590 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @08:09AM (#9099278) Homepage
    "I've heard tales of unnecessary book-CD bundles etc. all just to inflate prices"

    "As stupid as I found the idea of printing a book about Web publishing, the idea of stuffing a CD-ROM in the back seemed to belong to a whole new category of stupidity. Macmillan initially wanted a CD-ROM, on the grounds that readers think such books have more value. I said that if we couldn't get some complete RDBMS packages for the CD-ROM then there was no point in having it (and in fact as my book came out Oracle decided to make all of its software available for download on the Web so there would not have been any point even if we could have gotten a full Oracle for the disk).

    I asked Macmillan to put in the standard CD-ROM pocket but fill it with a black cardboard disk, said disk to be printed with the URL for the book's virtual CD-ROM (http://demo.webho.com). Macmillan said that would be more expensive than a real disk so we ended up printing the inside back cover with a nice "no CD" symbol underneath which ran my text:

    Would you really want to take Web publishing advice from someone who had to burn a CD-ROM to distribute his software? Come to http://demo.webho.com for electronic versions of the source code examples in this book, for live demos of the software in use, and for the packaged source code to larger systems. IMHO, this URL is better than a CD-ROM. You can't lose it. You can't scratch it. You can't leave it in your office when you need it at home. You can give it to your friends and still keep it for yourself.

    People laugh when they read this so I think it worked."

    Philip Greenspun [greenspun.com], writing about his book Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing [greenspun.com]
  • Re:Quality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mar1boro ( 189737 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @08:22AM (#9099300) Homepage
    Time spent writing a text, if it is good, increases the writer's reputation.
    A well regarded and published professor is money in the bank for a university.
    A professor who "pens" a text that becomes one of _the_ texts in his field
    can elevate his university's stature tremendously. Imagine if we cut out the
    middleman. A university handles the electronic pulishing duties.
    In your case the text becomes "The cperciva Text." It can be updated
    indefinitely. Continuous peer review. Continuous contributions
    from that university's professors forever.

    I'm not going to propose the details for an entire compensation system.
    It is way too early in the morning for that. I think though, that the lessening
    of text costs would only be one of many benefits. Dynamic texts could change many things.
  • Even better... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dysprosia ( 661648 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @08:50AM (#9099366)
    How about open, realtime editing, creation, correcting, and updating of free, GFDL'd textbooks? It's already here: check out wikibooks [wikibooks.org].
  • by MarkWatson ( 189759 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @09:55AM (#9099563) Homepage
    I have written several published books - overall a very fun experience, but for one thing:

    I would occasionally get emails from people teaching classes to students who no-way could afford to buy my books (usually in 3rd world countries). These teachers would ask for permission to copy a few chapters for class distribution - something that I did not have the right to do.

    My solution to this problem was to write 2 free web books using a Creative Commons license (I was the featured commoner about a year ago).

    I still write books for publication, but to be honest, writing free books under a CC license is way more satisfying.

  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @10:01AM (#9099582)
    I teach at a large university and my colleagues and I have spend some thought on open-source multimedia textbooks - not PDFs, which are almost completely inferior to their paper counterparts, and take no advantage of being consumed through a computer.

    It was our idea that we should start with an introductory physics text, say, basic mechanics. The ultimate product would be an .iso disk image which contains not only a textbook, but recordings of key lectures, some highly compressed video and simulations of certain experiments, perhaps rendered in a GPL 3D graphics engine (where physical principles would be programmed in, and students could manipulate the setup and observe realistic changes in the results).

    This would be a large and publicised project, and one that could/should attract enough NSF funding to cover its modest costs. (I've seen the NSF give money to much more frivolous ideas!) The initial text might be a "donation" from a cooperating professor, and the audio/video lecture fragments would also be solicited recorded in the classrooms of truly excellent faculty. (Nobody I talked to about this said he/she would refuse.) The various programs and simulations that need to be written would come from contracted, qualified and paid programmers and graduate students. (And perhaps volunteers.) All their code would be GPL.

    Once the project gets going, a working group, organized much like an editorial board, would solicit and review new submissions and alterations. There can be arbitrarily many exercise problems, as well as detailed explanations of their solutions.

    These would fully take advantage of the digital format. One weakness of paper textbooks is that by their nature, they have space for only a few fully-solved and explained sample exercises. This would not be a limitation of an electronic text. In fact, how to solve an exercise could be explained in several different ways by different instructors, maximizing the chance the student would "get it". I imagine an interface where next to each step, there is a small "how does this follow?" button. If pressed, it opens a small window describing the motivation of a certain transition.

    Many of these details and elaborations could be contributed by users of the textbook. Like any major software project, there would be a moderated online forum to discuss issues related to the textbook. Ultimate decisions about how the text should be updated (the regular "distributions" of the GPL material) would be made by the editorial board. In academia many professors participate in editing journals pro bono, and we could expect something similar here. Feedback on the various aspects of the text would be solicited directly from students and instructors, and the editorial board would post "requests for updates" with specific issues that need to be addressed to make the project a better learning tool.

    Well, we thought about many more details of implementation, but they are boring and you guys might have better ideas anyway. The point of the whole project would be primarily to have a supplement to introductory college-level classes, but the uses go far beyond that. The textbook would be designed to be self-learner friendly, something a motivated high-school student could easily work through. It could be duplicated cheaply and en masse (at first it would be a set of CD-ROMS, eventually transitioning to DVD-ROMS). In places where poverty, georgaphy and cultural factors limit access to higher education (which includes parts of the USA), people will still have simple computers and can cover the $2 for a burned DVD-ROM.

    Of course, the idea would be to get one "hit" textbook and then reuse the software and other infrastructure to make more. Not only would this textbook require sequels, but also a demand for a calculus textbook in the same format. These are ideal fields for getting the project rolling, because introductory math, physics and chemistry textbooks don't get obsolete very quickly. How this project would be paid for re

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 09, 2004 @11:28AM (#9100015)
    Let's face it. Textbooks in the US cost an arm and
    a leg. Whereas in India for e.g, textbooks are
    relatively quite cheap. Since textbooks there are
    published in English, and many of them are of
    equivalent quality -- I have seen my University
    Electronics design textbook -- in a local library
    here, if open publishing of textbooks takes off,
    the following benefits could occur:

    1. Bring down the cost of printed textbooks to a much more affordable level.
    2. Give exposure to authors outside of the US.
    3. Raise the overall quality of books because of
    more competition.
    4. Students of other poor countries have cheap
    access to US books and similarly US students have
    easy access to books published outside of the US
    -- getting a whole new perspective, so to speak.
    5. Open text books even if not published in
    English, may be partially machine translated and
    partially by volunteer effort -- a la HOWTO's and
    open source docs today -- reaching a much larger
    audience than the original native edition.
    6. Monopoly of big and expensive publishing houses
    is broken.
    7. We might see quotations in books from non
    English speaking countries ;-) I am tired of
    seeing authors repeatedly quote Shakespeare and
    other Anglo-Saxon authors or stuff like baseball
    and other US games in books which no one outside
    the US really cares for.
  • Re:posting textbooks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @11:49AM (#9100135) Homepage
    Also, I find it unlikely that this will really catch on, simply because most of the professors I've dealt with simply would not consider a textbook like this, or wouldn't even be aware of it.
    I've written some open-source physics textbooks [lightandmatter.com] that have been adopted at eighteen schools. Not trying to blow my own horn -- I just wanted to provide a counterexample.
  • Re:Noble Effort (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:03PM (#9100249)
    The editors play an important role, and losing their involvement would reduce the overall quality.

    The publishers, on the other hand do not provide the typical services that justify their share of the profit; promotion of the books is non-existant. When distribution is all they are left with, where do they add value?

    My biggest gripes with the hard-copy texts is that (a) they cost so much you have an incentive to sell them at the end of the class, and (b) they are so darn heavy that every time you move you have to consider if you really want to keep them.

    I think it would be great if a school would publish a DVD with all required texts for a "reasonable" price of $100. It can still help fund the writing efforts to a small degree, and give something tangible to students (and alums if they really made something good!).

  • by Dr_Emory ( 181130 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:09PM (#9100289)
    The National Library of Medicine makes available a number (maybe 25?) of the electronic versions of print textbooks on a variety of topics. This can be an excellent resource. Check it out. [nih.gov]
  • I was a part of a "research project" funded by the U.S. Department of Education for $750,000 that was to do exactly what you are saying here. We were trying to develop multimedia development tools that could be used to help instructors put together instructional multimedia software.

    The software we developed (I was the programmer on the project) was used for several classes on campus at Utah State University [usu.edu], where the project was based from, under the direction of Dr. R. Kent Wood (he has since retired). Our primary emphasis was more toward K-12 learning, but it proved to be quite popular with several computer-based learning groups including C.A.L.I.C.O [calico.org], a group of individuals working on acquiring forign language skills through computer-based learning.

    There are several issues that need to be dealt with in regards to multimedia development. Some of them have been solved compared to what I was dealing with in the past, but some still are huge problems:
    • Multimedia standards - This is one of the areas that due to the emergence of the World Wide Web and other generally open applications has pushed this forward quite a bit. MPEG, PNG (MNG), and other standardized formats have really made a difference over the zoo of incompatable formats that there were even 10 years ago. There is still need to do more work in this area, and there are some items that really need review. Multimedia game design and the entertainment industry, unfortunately, are the major drivers of this sort of activity.
    • Accessable Multimedia Materials - Due to the "eternal" copyright of many multimedia types (photos, audio clips, cinema in all its flavors) are copyrighted and impossible to use as "fair-use" for educational purposes except on a very limited basis. Court ruling on this strongly favor the media companies and make it almost impossible to use anything that is available. The Google image search is essentially worthless if you want to use it in any instructional software that would be used for more than a single section of a single course taught at only one university. I would love to see a Multi-media variant of Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] where you could get central repository of multimedia items (a clip art library, music clips, video, etc.) that would be guarenteed to be totally public domain or released in some copyleft arrangement. There is quite a bit on the internet, but it is scattered around and really needs to be put together. There are some collections (I happen to have some content I'd like to donate) that simply needs to be put together, scanned, and released. If I had infinite resources and time I'd like to do this, and if it isn't going by the time I get close to retirement, I may get this going myself anyway. I just need to feed my family for now.
    • Authoring System Support - There needs to be a standardizing the "glue" format that holds all of this multimedia information together with Unicode-based text that is appropriate in a computer-based learning environment needs to be worked out. HTML and its variants are pretty good, and there some fairly decent "authoring" tools available such as Authorware or Director, but these all have some hard limitations. The High Schools that I've seen are typically either using HTML or Power Point (I am not kidding here either) for routine stuff that is developed. University-level instruction is totally non-standard and often includes custom software written for the one project, which eats up almost all the time and resources of the project. Ideally I'd love to see an open-source project that would help put this sort of instruction together. It needs to be easy to use, but powerful enough that if you are willing to learn (with a shallow learning curve) you can get progressively more features to the point that you can write the entire authoring environment in itself (aka be Turing complete). Nothing I know of has this capability at th
  • Re:Incentive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Flyboy Connor ( 741764 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:35PM (#9102224)
    This may differ from country to country. I live in Europe. I wrote a textbook once, which netted my department about 20,000 dollars. That money was paid by the publisher (contract-basis, 20,000 even if the book would not sell one single copy), who had some extra funding to release a book on this particular subject matter. The 20,000 did not completely cover my salary, but for several reasons we still decided to do it. We got nothing from the book sales, but that would not have been much anyway.

    Some universities have better funding than others. Those that have good funding may allow their professors to write textbooks. Those that do not, either will have to skip writing textbooks, or have to find extra funding.

    The profits an author gets from writing a textbook are (a) fame, (b) good course material, (c) a chance to be recognised as the top specialist in the field, (d) if very lucky, a bit of money on the side. Unfortunately, where I live an author is never allowed to keep the money for himself; it all has to go to the university. But, for me, if the university does allright, I do allright.

  • by tyrantnine ( 768028 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @10:09PM (#9103249)
    All Computer Science and Electrical Engineering majors at the University of Texas are required to take EE316 (Digital Logic Design) at the University of Texas. The class textbook was written by the professor of the course (Charles Roth) and with software included costs approxmiately $140 new. The Text is on its fifth edition and I believe a lot of the changes are for no reason other than to force students to buy new books. At the beginning of the semester (the only time one sees one of the professors in this self-paced class), the other overseeing professor made it a point to encourage everyone to write in the book when answering homework problems -- quite obviously so students would not be able to sell them back. I thought that was bad enough when I swallowed the price myself, but they even had the gall to send out an e-mail to all sections of the class saying everyone had an important decision to make: Whether or not to sell back the text! And of course, it was a good idea not to as this book is a valuable reference to keep, yadda. Anyway it sort of sickened me that the profs of the course were so brazen about it. It's an excellent text, no doubt, and it has to be since the class is self-paced (meaning, the textbook is your only real source of instruction), but its horrendously overpriced and updated to new editions with odd frequency. If all thats not enough, a 20 page "course supplement" must also be purchased for the class to nick you for another 5 dollars - why this is not availible as a PDF (or whatever) it pretty obvious. Anyway, perhaps authors dont make much from texts, but Charles Roth at UT-Austin appears to be doing his best to pad his retirement (which is coming soon). As for me, fortunately this book will be good for at least another semester, so fortunately I will be able to get back some of the $140 I spent on this book... if I ever need a reference, I'll go buy a copy of a previous edition for $5 from one of the hoardes of prior EE or CS students at UT who got nailed on a semester a new edition was coming out...

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"