Are open textbooks the solution to high textbook costs?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Everybody knows that textbook prices have gotten way out of control.  Many freshman textbooks in biology, chemistry, math, and other subjects cost well over $200.   Especially at the introductory level where subject matter doesn’t change much and where the overall size of the market is large, there is only one possible explanation for a $200 textbook, and that is that the publisher knows the student has no choice but to buy it.

I commented on this problem 8 years ago, and nothing has really changed since then except that more people than ever are talking about the urgent need to fix this problem.  That’s a good thing, as far as it goes, but workable solutions must also be grounded in facts.

Continue Reading »

Forthcoming title: Python Programming and Visualization for Scientists by Alex DeCaria

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Sundog Publishing is pleased to announce the imminent publication of another book by Professor Alex DeCaria at Millersville University.  The title is Python Programming and Visualization for Scientists. The anticipated publication date is early 2016. Topics will include the following:

  • Basic Python programming
    • Getting started
    • Syntax and data types
    • Strings
    • Mathematical operators and functions
    • Flow control
    • File I/O
    • Numpy arrays
    • Functions and modules
    • Defining classes and methods
  • Plotting and visualization with Matplotlib
    • 1-D plotting
    • Multi-panel plots
    • 2-D plotting
    • Reading scientific data sets
    • Basemap
    • 3-D plotting
  • A few advanced topics
    • Regular expressions
    • Time
    • Fourier analysis
    • Miscellany
      • Interpolation, linear regression, and simple statistics
      • Smoothing of data
      • Numerical differentiation and integration
      • Physical constants
      • Matrices
      • Solving systems of linear equations
      • Special mathematical functions
      • Speed and optimization of code

The complete table of contents, foreword, preface, and index can be previewed here.  The book will include a considerable number of color figures.

We currently envisage this book as an 8.5 x 11 format volume with spiral binding to facilitate easy lay-flat reference while working at a computer.  There will be quick-reference charts on the inside covers. Other formats (e.g., traditional softcover, electronic) are also being contemplated, depending on anticipated demand.

As always, our marketing of new books depends partly on word-of-mouth and partly on publicity sent directly to prospective users and instructors.  Please let us know of any opportunities you are aware of reach the scientific python community!


iOS6.1 update for iPad, iPhone fixes broken e-book!

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

With the latest upgrade to iOS6 for the iPad, iPhone, and iPad Touch, the major problems affecting the rendering of equations in the ePub version of A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation appear to have been solved.

At this point we don’t know whether the fix was the result of a deliberate debugging effort at Apple or rather a byproduct of some other change, but we’re very happy to be able to recommend the electronic version again for those who prefer it over print.

iOS 6 breaks ability to display our e-Book on Apple devices

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

We are extremely disappointed to report that when Apple released version 6 of iOS for the iPad, they broke the ability of the iBooks version of  A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation to be viewed correctly.  It previously displayed perfectly on the iPad under iOS 5.1.1.

We  contacted Apple in October 2012 about this problem, and while they have expressed the intent of investigating and solving it, there has been no evident progress since then.

Here’s a screenshot of one page of A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation displayed on an iPad with iOS 5.1.1:

Here’s a screenshot of the same location in the text immediately following the upgrade to iOS 6.0.1  just moments ago:


The same problem affects equations throughout the book.  As you can see, the e-book is now unusable.   We hope that Apple will resolve this problem quickly.  In the meantime, we apologize to our customers, and we recommend that you do not purchase the book via the Apple Store until the problem with iOS 6 has been solved.

UPDATE (Feb. 6, 2013): With the newly released iOS6.1, the above problem has disappeared again (though a few symbols are now inexplicably rendered in boldface). It seems to be safe again to purchase the e-book version of A First Course in Atmospheric Science.


Taking the leap into e-textbooks.

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

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: Continue Reading »

Forthcoming title: “A First Course In Atmospheric Numerical Modeling”

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

May 3, 2012

We’re pleased to report that an important new textbook will soon be added to our lineup: A First Course in Atmospheric Numerical Modeling, by Alex DeCaria and Glenn E. Van Knowe.  Alex DeCaria is a professor in Earth Sciences at Millersville University, and Glenn Van Knowe is an atmospheric modeler at MESO, Inc., in New York.

This book will target advanced undergraduates in atmospheric science and will introduces students to the essentials of finite difference methods, numerical stability, numerical parameterizations, and related topics.

The tentative timetable is for this book to go to press by the end of 2012.  Additional information, including table of contents and how to request an examination copy, will be posted as it becomes available.

Update (July 23, 2013)

The book is now nearly finished and is scheduled for publication in September, 2013.  A detailed description may be found here.

Are you an instructor who might use this book for a course you’re teaching?  Request an examination copy!



Suspended shipping to Barnes & Noble College bookstores

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Dear Instructors and Students,

If your campus bookstore is a Barnes & Noble store, please be advised that Sundog Publishing is currently not accepting orders from those stores owing to what we view as an unreasonable requirement that their vendors utilize UPS Collect for all shipping of books.

There are five reasons why we view this requirement as unreasonable: Continue Reading »

Why we love the U.S. Postal Service

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

If you follow the news at all, you’re probably aware that the U.S. Postal Service has been facing serious fiscal challenges and that some in Congress have even advocated privatizing it.   Complicating the story is the allegation that the fiscal crisis is not the fault of the USPS at all but rather the product of punitive policies imposed on the agency by Congress.

We don’t intend to get into policies or politics here, but we’d like to make two important points:

  • It is currently much cheaper to mail books via the USPS than to send them via any other service.
  • It is also much less trouble for a small business like ours, with less-than-daily shipments,  to prepare books for mailing than it would be to use UPS or FedEx. Continue Reading »

Textbooks and the free market.

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Whatever you think of the “magic of the free market”, there are a few situations in which it indisputably breaks down (or would break down) if left entirely to its own devices. Mail delivery to Gnome, Alaska. Medical care for indigents. College textbook prices.

When it comes to both the availability and the pricing of a product, the Law of Supply and Demand works best (from the customer’s perspective) when (a) those creating the demand are also the ones paying the price, (b) when the demand is elastic — that is, when an unreasonable increase in price leads to a sharp drop in demand and thus in the supplier’s profits, and (c) the profit potential is sufficient to motivate a supplier to provide, or continue providing, an essential product or service even when the market is small. Continue Reading »