Some basic facts about calculus textbooks
Here are some observations I made when teaching calculus:
When I lecture on `purple diamonds' and there is a textbook section called
`purple diamonds', a plausible students' question is: which section are we?
Once I pointed out a gross misconception in an example of the textbook to a
more experienced colleague giving another section of the same course,
and he told me: usually, it's not a problem, the kids won't read it.
So I tried to figure out the reasons why students don't like calculus
textbooks. But I failed badly. I couldn't help observing how cool, hip,
and up to date calculus textbooks are:
- Glossy paper is a must. So is multi-color print.
So is a CD. (CDs are glossy by default)
- If a subject hasn't changed for 100 years, a new edition will
be due within 4 years at latest. The material will be the same,
some mistakes fixed, some new mistakes introduced (to necessitate
a new edition later), and some sections shuffled around to ensure
backwards incompatibility and render the old editions to trash.
The latest technology gimmicks will also be added.
- Any innovation in one textbook (smart or foolish) is likely
to be copied by competing textbooks as of the next edition.
Slight modifications that turn a smart innovation into a
foolish one are permitted, if the plagiarizer doesn't
get the punchline and the referee is too busy to read the
- The price of textbooks doesn't matter, if the professor gets
them for free.
The weight of textbooks is not a problem either, thanks to
the invention of on-campus housing.
If the same example needs to be repeated in slightly varied
dressing 20 times rather than 5 times, the weight will still not
be a problem, because, by then, we will have drive-in classrooms.
Fair Price for a Calculus Textbook
Actually, for a 1st year calculus textbook of abysmal quality,
$120.- is a fair price. What is not fair is that these bucks go
to the publisher as a sale price, rather than to the student as a