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Proximity fuze

For a while now, I've been planning to write a book. Or actually, several books. I like to write, and I believe I have produced something like two or three rather hefty, WoT-sized books if I add up all my writings on Calcuttagutta, so I feel pretty sure I have it in me to write one or more books. I just haven't had time yet. And thus, my plans to become an author have remained at more or less the same level of completion, or rather uncompletion, for years. However, I have recently realised something important about the nature of things, and this discovery has the potential to make me start writing, although not one of the books I originally planned to write.

I am currently lecturing a physics course at the university. I lectured the same course last spring, and I will lecture it again next spring. This is the first time I'm lecturing a course for the second time, and while preparing my lectures over the last few weeks, I have discovered two things:

Firstly, it is seriously awsome when you are able to find your notes from last year, and even more awsome if you are still able to read them.

And secondly, the probability of finding, and indeed being able to read, notes written one year ago would be greatly increased if I had typed them up nicely in LaTeX and kept them on my computer.

In other words, what I have discovered is an excellent incentive to write a textbook for the course I'm teaching. And when I think about it, I seem to remember rather a lot of my textbooks saying something in their preface about how the athour essentially expanded the lecture notes for their course a bit, and that was that.

Of course, the problem, as Camilla pointed out to me earlier, is that if you publish your lecture notes, then you can't really use them as lecture notes anymore. Or, you can, but then you will be one of those boring lecturers who read aloud from their book, and we don't want that. Never the less, I might actually be closer to writing a book than ever before. Exciting, isn't it?

-Tor Nordam


Camilla,  23.02.10 00:38

This sounds a lot like what my supervisor keeps telling me: you don't write a PhD (which is, really, a book); you write a series of short things and then the PhD just happens.

Roh,  23.02.10 19:06

I think I would take the risk of being a boring lecturer/professor for the cachet of having written my own textbook.

You could, in theory, wait until you're promoted a bit and are no longer lecturing at that level - or till the time you're nearing that sort of promotion - and then publish. This is an idea, yes?

Tor,  23.02.10 22:15

I suppose. But the advantage of having the book printed while I'm still lecturing the course is that I can list it as the official textbook, thus ensuring that I will sell at least 50 - 60 copies per year. Which isn't really a lot, but still.

Then again, I have always felt there is something dodgy about professors who use their own book as textbook in a course they teach. When the lecturer has written the book, you only get one point of view on the course material. It doesn't feel Fair and Balanced™, in a way.

Kristian,  24.02.10 08:36

If you make a book, do whatever you can to promote it.

Tor,  24.02.10 20:39

I belive organised gambling is illegal.

Kristian,  24.02.10 23:31

Don't get you. Anyway, if you actually spend the time needed to write a book, you should have the confidence to use it. Otherwise, you should never have written it.

Camilla,  24.02.10 23:38

Making a book = bookmaking = taking bets.

Also, Kristian, I disagree. There is nothing more tedious than a lecturer whose lectures are the same as what the book says. Lectures should be there for a different perspective, not for repetition or for people too lazy to read the book.

Camilla,  25.02.10 00:41

To clarify, I mean that if you are going to write a book based on lecture notes, and use it as the basis for the class, you need to make new lecture notes. That is of course not the same as saying that a lecturer cannot use his own book. But I believe that when you write a book on a subject, you will try to say what you think is important on the subject, and when you give a lecture on a subject, you will do the same; and if you are the same person in both instances, these will overlap too much for there to be any point in going to/reading both.

Kristian,  25.02.10 08:33

tnx for the lessons C an T.

Tor,  25.02.10 09:13

ur wlcome

Kjellove,  25.02.10 20:00

Tor wrote, 'However, I have recently realised something important about the nature of things'.

This is quite interesting, and the world at large should not be kept in the dark forever. Are there rules preventing you from using something you already published as part of a final dissertation?

Kristian,  25.02.10 23:06

On your argument Camillia and Tor; you might be right.
However, it could be that the wrong professors write the books. I seldom attended the lectures, so I would not know.

According to modern teaching philosophy the students should be active; the whole debate could be obsolete.
lecture notes