On January 4th I found out about Lulu.com, a “print on demand” book publisher. They are the modern equivalent of a vanity printer, whatever you send, they will print, so long as they don’t think it will get them in trouble, in both hard back and paper back in a variety of sizes. Their prices are quite attractive. There are no fees. Your first book costs the same fairly low price as the last, assuming you do not put together a bulk order to get them even cheaper.
Since Lulu is a vanity press, of course it has plenty of crackpot physicists selling books. But it also has some quite good material, and it is easy to distinguish. (My New Year’s Resolution is to be more professional in my physics so that could make my work easier or more difficult to distinguish, depending on your point of view.) For example, they have a tempting copy of Euclid in Greek, with translation (which you must preview to appreciate, and a series of books by Benjamin Crowell such as Vibrations and Waves which can be previewed at its website and is delightfully done.
As any regular reader knows, my physics subject is density matrix (or density operator) formalism, implemented with Clifford algebra (or Geometric algebra). I started writing a book on the subject in 2006 but then didn’t add anything to it until quite recently. Part of the reason for not working was that I didn’t see any easy way of getting it published. Finding Lulu convinced me to begin work again. Just to see what their books look like, I uploaded my LaTeX formatted copy, along with some cover art, and printed a copy. The cost for a hardbound 8.5″ x 11″ book with 175 pages was $24, with shipping. I ordered it January 4, and it arrived a few days ago, on January 21:
The quality of the book print is excellent. The cover is an inside joke related to my day job, I’ll fix it up soon and replace it with something more, well, professional. But to see the quality of the print, here’s a photo of the region in the central photograph showing the steering wheel of the ditch witch:
The paper is slightly different from the slick type used in an offset printed book. This paper is a little more matte, and I find it easier to read. It probably has less filler and I suspect that the paper will tend to bend more. But it is quite easy to read and satisfactory. A couple pages:
and a detail of the illustration
In addition, as you can see above, my source files which are acrobat, fit perfectly on the page. For those interested in the technical details, the book is made with LaTeX using the “memoir class” and if you want to write your own mathematics / physics book, the source code is available here, except for the bibliography which you will have to deal with.
Now the amazing thing about all this is the low cost. The LaTeX is freely available on the web. Setting up an account at Lulu was free. Printing the book cost $21.12. Shipping cost $3.20. Total cost: $24.12.
When the book is finished it will be thicker, and so cost more in hardback, but I will also print it in paperback for around $12 to $15. I’m using Gimp to make new art. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to make a gluon propagator without suffering excessively, and so the art is pretty incomplete: