Taking the leap into e-textbooks.

We’ve been following new developments in electronic publishing pretty carefully, and we finally decided to test the waters with an electronic edition of our most popular textbook, A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation (2nd Ed.).

The e-book is now available through Apple iTunes and can be read on your iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone!  UPDATE (2/6/2013):  Be sure your iPad or iPhone has been upgraded to iOS6.1, as iOS6.0 temporarily broke the ability to correctly display equations.

A couple of salient points:

  • Although the EPUB format for electronic books is well-established, our ebook has a novel twist compared with most science e-textbooks you’ve seen so far:  our mathematical equations are rendered as vector graphics that scale (expand and shrink) with the surrounding text.  That means that if you change the font size for reading the book on your device, the equations will change size as well.  Most ebooks with equations use fixed raster images for the images.  These stay the same size even when you change the magnification of the text.
  • The price for the electronic edition is essentially identical to that for the print version, especially since standard domestic shipping is included in the price of the latter.  Unless you are overseas, you will therefore decide which edition you want based solely on
    • which way you prefer to read it, and
    • whether you want it for instant download or whether you’re willing to wait up to two weeks for delivery.
  • Contrary to the hype about how digital textbooks will save money,  we actually lose money by selling this e-book at the same price as our print edition.  Why?  Because Apple charges a 30% commission for selling an e-book through their online store, and that commission is a greater cost than our own cost of printing, packing, and mailing the physical book!  So we’re offering the book electronically solely as a courtesy to our customers and not because it will help our bottom line!

We look forward to seeing what the response is to this first electronic book offering, as that will help us decide how much effort we put into publishing ebooks in the future!


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