[nSLUG] Re: Buying books: I take it back, partly

Mike Spencer mspencer at tallships.ca
Wed Oct 17 15:07:41 ADT 2007

Donald wrote:

> It seems to be universal, and not surprising when you consider
> the volumes of texts they can't sell because they are crap....

Yeah.  I'm sure you noticed that sometime in the 90s, a fashion arose
for Great Fat Books on IT subjects.  I have some of those, a couple on
Linux and one on Perl.  They're all fashion, layout, hype and
dingbats.  The ASCII doc I got with Perl 4 for DOS is more useful than
the GFB Perl book.

> ...or they can't sell because the technology changed, and as I
> mentioned previous...

That was the downfall of the computer section in your average, general
bookstore:  GFBs on specific versions of Windoes or apps that obsolesced
almost before the books were on the shelves.

But there are a few dozen true classics -- such as K&R, The Awk
Programming Language, The Unix C Shell Guide  or that book on math
algorithms for C (I forget the title) -- that should be available to
any hacker or IT student.  In addition, there is an even larger number
of books that are either:

    + more or less timeless because they illuminate the background of
      contemporary thinking (Design for a Brain, Introduction to
      Cybernetics, Perceptrons, Chaotic Dynamics, Embodiments of Mind)


    + should survive as intro works even though current thinking and
      practice have gone beyond them (the 1986 Parallel Distributed
      Processing volumes, The Fractal Geometry of Nature, Chaos).

I wouldn't expect to find any of those in Bridgewater.  In an
academic center like Halifax, I would think that at least a *few*
profs would be keen on seeing such books available.  They would, of
course, sell slowly in ones and twos, not in dozens or hundreds, but
(putatively :-) wise elder scholars shouldn't allow eager learners to be
without them.

I don't know if Canadian tax law follows the US closely in this regard,
but the 1979 SCOTUS Thor vs IRS decision effectively crippled
bookselling in the US as we used to know it and Canada is, for most
purposes, an appendage of the US publishing industry.  See:


if you're interested.

- Mike

Michael Spencer                  Nova Scotia, Canada       .~. 
mspencer at tallships.ca                                     /( )\
http://home.tallships.ca/mspencer/                        ^^-^^

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