No clever title, this 
Here is a despairing rant about the cost of textbooks and how my attempts to do something about it have been frustrated by bullshit:

I wrote forall x because existing logic textbooks were ridiculously expensive and were rapidly reissued in new editions so as to kill the market for cheaper, used copies. My book is written to be a physical book. It has practice problems, solutions in the back, reference tables, and content which is best accessed by thumbing back and forth between various sections. So I allowed students to buy it as a course packet, paying only the printing cost.

Because other people beyond just my students might want to use it, I made it available for download on the internet. Faculty at dozens of schools have used it as a course text, and lots of people have used it for independent study. To reiterate, electronic availability was just for distribution to the broader world.

When the copy shop across the street from campus closed, I let the campus bookstore sell the course packet. The first semester I did this, they charged a reasonable $10. The second semester, they jacked that up to $20 without letting me know. So I started using the copy center on campus instead. Last year, the copy center closed. The only place that will sell course packets off campus is several miles away, and students grouse if I ask them to schlepp over there.

So for this coming semester, I asked the campus bookstore to determine how much they would charge. The answer: $27.15. For 160 pages. That are covered by an open license. I was told, "That price is solely based on production costs."

My reply: "The course packet service you are using simply lies about production costs. It's the worst kind of bullshit."

So I am just going to point students to the PDF and encourage them to print their own copy. Many of them won't, which will be a mistake. They would do better in the course if they had the textbook in an accessible form. Working practice problems on scratch paper is easier with a workbook than in front of a computer screen. But they could pay 15 cents a page for printing and still save money over what the bookstore would have charged.

[ 2 comments ] ( 5204 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink
Two data points on brevity 
Regarding the lengths of things that I've written, the manuscript for the unstably named book on natural kinds is about 75K words. My dissertation was just 43K words.

[ add comment ] ( 4507 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink
Title bout, round two 
My book on natural kinds is in the hands of the publisher. It was to have been titled Carving up the world: Scientific enquiry and natural kinds, but yesterday I learned about a just-published collection of essays titled Carving nature at its joints: Natural kinds in metaphysics and science.

The collection from MIT Press includes a wide range of essays from the 11th Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference, so it really isn't direct competition for my focused monograph on natural kinds. Yet the title, as my publisher says, is "a little close for comfort."

In short, I need a new title.

Brainstorming this morning led to the following list, plus others too terrible to record. Do any of these sound like books you would want to read?

1. The philosophy of Planets, mallards, and other natural kinds

2. Natural kinds and the structure of the world

3. Pragmatism, realism, and natural kinds

4. What about natural kinds?

5. Science, philosophy, and natural kinds

[ 2 comments ] ( 5742 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink
The FOE digest for 2011 
I continue the tradition of taking the first sentence from the first post of every month in order to generate a summary of the year's blogging; cf. 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

I: One thing that commentators on Descartes fret about is who the "I" is who narrates the meditations.

II: In elementary school, there was a unit on letter writing.

III: When writing problem sets for Intro Logic, I try to use interesting topics.

IV: Brian Leiter is calling for a boycott of Synthese.

V: Last week we had the final class meeting for my 17th+18th Century Philosophy course.

VI: Last month, I discussed the unprofessional and craven reply by the editors of Synthese to the petition protesting their unprofessional and craven behaviour.

VII: When there were first calls to boycott Synthese, I was in a bit of a bind.

VIII: Two computer scientists at Stanford are going to be teaching a free on-line course in AI.

IX: I have played around with Google's Ngram Viewer before.

X: Today marks the end of this blog's year six.

XI: A few weeks ago, I did an exercise in my intro course in which students read descriptions of two scenarios, answered some multiple choice questions individually.

XII: I have just sent off the final manuscript for my book, Carving up the world: Scientific enquiry and natural kinds.

Teaching (in general) and the Synthese debacle (in particular) dominate the round-up, with the usual smattering of stuff about life on-line.

[ add comment ] ( 4637 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink
Digesting the whole Wikipedia 
In the most recent issue of First Monday, Royce Kimmons has an interesting analysis of community contributions in Wikipedia. His results suggest that most particular entries are the work of separate contributions by a small number of people, rather than the efforts of an ongoing community. The cool thing is that it is a systematic study of all Wikipedia entries and histories.
Abstract: Wikipedia stands as an undeniable success in online participation and collaboration. However, previous attempts at studying collaboration within Wikipedia have focused on simple metrics like rigor (i.e., the number of revisions in an article’s revision history) and diversity (i.e., the number of authors that have contributed to a given article) or have made generalizations about collaboration within Wikipedia based upon the content validity of a few select articles. By looking more closely at metrics associated with each extant Wikipedia article (N=3,427,236) along with all revisions (N=225,226,370), this study attempts to understand what collaboration within Wikipedia actually looks like under the surface. Findings suggest that typical Wikipedia articles are not rigorous, in a collaborative sense, and do not reflect much diversity in the construction of content and macro–structural writing, leading to the conclusion that most articles in Wikipedia are not reflective of the collaborative efforts of the community but, rather, represent the work of relatively few contributors.


[ add comment ] ( 4718 views )   |  [ 0 trackbacks ]   |  permalink

<<First <Back | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | Next> Last>>