Lulu Print-on-demand books

On January 4th I found out about, 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:
Lulu book cover

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:
Cover detail

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:
Marginal note example
and a detail of the illustration
illustration detail
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:
Temporary cover art (no back, no ad copy, no author, no spine, and no gluons...


Filed under book review, latex, physics

11 responses to “Lulu Print-on-demand books

  1. Kea

    Fantastic! I don’t see why you can’t keep that picture on the cover, but I guess it will also be fun picking out the obligatory particle track image or whatnot. Hmmm. Maybe I should get started on a book, too, if there is some prospect of actually earning an income from it!

  2. carlbrannen

    Kea, I’ve already contacted Fermilab. Their photos are not public domain, but it seems that they are free. You have to ask permission, and they probably require that you reference their stuff.

    What I think I will do is to abandon the cool stuff, the non perturbative field theory for bound states, and instead concentrate on the book that would sell best to the people who hit my websites looking for information on density matrices.

    The world really does need a good book on density matrices, and I think my other stuff will be better accepted if I first write a nice simple introduction to density matrices. I’m going to start tonight.

    And I really don’t see this as a money making proposition. My plan is to continue doing physics as a hobby and to undersell the competition with a product that is of higher quality. There is another book out on density matrices, but it concentrates mostly on the usual mixed theory and it isn’t rooted in Clifford algebra and operator theory like I think would make a much better book: Density Matrix Theory and Applications (Physics of Atoms and Molecules) by Karl Blum.

    Now the above book sold for $157 per copy so it’s hardly a big surprise that it’s out of print. I think I can put out a superior book in paperback at around $15 that will sell in small quantities for years.

  3. Peter Lund

    Hah! I spotted a typo!

    “Liquafaction” should be spelled “Liquefaction” 😉

  4. carlbrannen

    Thank you for your careful reading!

    However, “Liquafaction Corporation” is most certainly spelt with two a’s. It is not supposed to be spelled the same as the word liquefaction.

    This should be familiar to the reader from common practice with proper names of corporations. Looking at the first few entries in the S&P500, we find “Abbott Labs” not “Abbot Labs,” “Aetna, Inc.” not “Etna, Inc.,” “Barr Pharmaceuticals” not “Bar Pharmaceuticals,” “BJ Services” not “censored,” “Ciena Corp.” not “Sienna Corp.,” “CONSOL Energy Inc.” not “Console Energy Inc.,” … and finally “Walt Disney,” not “Walt This Knee.”

  5. Will the completed book still be available for free from your website?

  6. carlbrannen

    Nah, as soon as I get decent artwork and have some sort of a rewrite that does continuous degrees of freedom (i.e. Schroedinger’s equation type density matrices), I’ll remove all the free stuff.

    The paperback will be 8.5 x 11 about 350 pages, and will cost around $15 from Amazon. The hardback will be available only from me and will cost about $30. I’m also going to remove all the Kipling poetry and various inappropriate diatribes, etc. I’m doing the new artwork with “Gimp” and it’s not trivial to learn. I’ll edit in the new (incomplete) cover art into the blog post.

    There’s another book on density matrices that is sort of comparable to this one, but for molecular physics instead of elementary particles. It’s by Karl Blum, 319pp, Density Matrix Theory and Applications. Amazon says it’s “unavailable” while Springer says it’s $169 and will ship “when available.”

  7. Carl, You said “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.”

    I actually think you are on to something, which is that these days, there are so many people practicing physics at one level or another, some inside the establishment who are mediocre, some outside who are talented, and vice-versa. This biggest problem in my estimation, is to rise above the din of thousands of voices all vying to be heard by audiences with limited attention spans, and that is to me much harder than generating good ideas.

    It is analogous to what I often tell my patent clients: I can get my clients a patent pretty easily, even on some half-baked ideas; getting the inventions heard, and turning them into a success in the market, is infintely more difficult.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jay R. Yablon

    PS: Please see my new blog post on “Yang Mills Theory, the Origin of Baryons and Confinement, and the Mass Gap”

  8. carlbrannen

    Jay, I guess I think that good ideas eventually will rise to the top whether they’re presented by polished professionals or bafoons.

    For me, the advantage of bafoonery is that it gets precedence but doesn’t attract undue attention. That’s advantageous when you want to make progress without having other “help” you work out the consequences. So my getting more professional about physics is really a sign that I’m getting tired of it.

    I like your new paper, but it is a little over my head. I’d like to see a more complete explanation on the Feynman diagrams. I’ll comment over on your blog, which I’ve been procastinating as I’ve wanted to think about this first…

  9. Steve Baron

    Do you know if Lulu’s will publish my book, transferring my Word 2000 file to Acrobat, and formatting—everything, in fact that is necessary to have a well-published paperback 5.5 by 8.5 on white and black? If so could you give me the correct Internet address (there are so many for Lulu) for the complete publishing pack?

    Thank you for your attention to this.


    Steve Baron

  10. Hey Carl,
    Thanks for sharing experiences with Lulu. That’s really helpful. I also use LaTeX for my DSP writing (I had problems with Memoir and SIUnits classes so I ended up not using it)

    I did my cover art using the PSTricks class. You might want to consider the advantages of that, since your new artwork seems to be a tiling pattern which PSTricks is wonderful for.

  11. Jason Waskiewicz

    I wanted to thank you for this post! For the past 5 years I have been writing and rewriting my classroom materials in LaTeX (using the Memoir class) and have been considering Lulu. (This would be a step up from running off a chapter at a time on the photocopier for my students.) I’ve always been nervous to try it.

    Thank-you for the photographs and the description. This helps me picture what the end product would be. As you note, I can safely try out one single copy and decide how well I like it.

    At the very least, I will have a nice desk copy for my own use!

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