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Wow. Just rejected an editorial offer...

Yes, I’ve been bragging about the Operating Systems book all over… Today, a colleague handed me a phone call from somebody at Editorial Patria, a well known educational editorial in Mexico. They are looking for material similar to what I wrote, but need the material to be enfocado a competencias — Focused on skills, a pedagogic fashion.

I was more than interested, of course. As it currently stands, I am very happy that our book is being used already at three universities in three countries (by the different authors) and have heard other people saying they would recommend it, and of course I’m interested in making our work have as big an impact as possible. Of course, we’d have to modify several aspects of the book to cater to the skills focus… But it would be great to have the book available at commercial bookstores. After all, university editions are never as widely circulated as commercial ones.

I had just one hard request to accept this: Our work must be distributed under a free licensing. Explicitly allow book photocopies and electronic distribution (didn’t get into the “and modification” part, but I would eventually get there ;-) )

And… Of course, the negotiation immediately fell down. Editorials, this person says, live from selling individual books. She says she was turned down by another university professor and for another subject this same week.

So, yes, I took the opportunity to explain things as I (and the people that think as I do — Fortunately, not so few) see them. Yes, of course, editorials have to make a living. But text books are often photocopied as it is. Who buys a book? Whoever needs it. On one hand, if somebody will be using a book throughout a semester and it’s reasonably priced (say, up to 3×cost of photocopies), they will probably buy it because it just works better (it is more comfortable to use and nicer to read).

If a teacher likes the explanation for a particular topic, it should be completely legal for him to distribute photocopies (or digital copies) of the specific material — And quite probably, among the students, more than one will end up appreciating the material enough to go look for the book in the library. And, as I have done throughout my life, if I read (in copies, electronically or in a library) a book I like… Quite probably I will go buy it.

So… Of course, she insisted it was against their corporate policy. I insisted on my explanation. I hope they meet many stubborn teachers refusing to distribute books under a non-free licensing. I hope I contributed to making a dent in an industry that must change. Yes, a very very small dent, but one that helps them break free from their obsolete mindset ;-)

(But yes, I don’t know how long I will regret not being part of their very nice catalog of science and engineering books) ;-) )


andy doku 2014-09-04 21:13:17

You thought the rejection

You thought the rejection would be better for you. So I do not see there is any trouble with that. That was a great decision.

Gez 2014-08-01 18:39:19


Espero que mucha gente siga tu ejemplo, Gunnar. Especialmente en el ámbito académico. La cultura y el conocimiento deberían ser de circulación libre. No tiene nada de malo que alguien quiera ganar algo de dinero por ocuparse de editar y distribuir ese material de una forma conveniente para los lectores, pero ese beneficio económico siempre debería estar por detrás del beneficio que el conocimiento debe aportar a la humanidad. Como mencionas, un libro bien editado e impreso, a un precio razonable, será siempre de interés para los lectores.

Felicitaciones y gracias!

Pedro Galvan 2014-08-19 22:16:00


  1. por la oferta/reconocimiento
  2. por la postura

Yo estoy convencido que sí hay oportunidad en el modelo de que el contenido per se sea libre, y que lo que se venda sean “empaquetamientos” específicos (ej. la versión impresa, o versiones digital más convenientes como kindle, ibooks, etc).