I want to tell you about my journey to produce the ePub files for the No Bullshit Guide textbooks. This has been an epic battle with lots of technological obstacles, but I got it working in the end, and the results are beautiful:
In this blog post, I want to share what I’ve learned about generating ePub and Mobi files from LaTeX source files that contain lots of math equations. I feel this ought to be recorded somewhere for the benefit of other STEM authors and publishers who have LaTeX manuscripts and want to convert them to .epub and .mobi formats. Read on to watch the “How it’s made” episode about math eBooks.
The end-to-end book production pipeline looks like this:
Figure 1: The eBook production pipeline described in this blog post. Each box represents a different markup format and the arrows indicate the software used to convert between formats. The hard step is to produce clean .html+MathJax format from the .tex source. The generation of the other formats is standard.
Continue reading “Generating ePub from LaTeX”
I’m happy to announce the No Bullshit Guide to Linear Algebra v2.2 is out. This update contains two years’ worth of text improvements based on readers’ feedback.
In this blog post I’ll summarize the changes to the book and provide some more context about why these changes were needed. I’ve included links to PDF excerpts of all the new sections[1,2,3,4] and a detailed red-blue diff that shows all edits.
Continue reading “No Bullshit Guide to Linear Algebra v2.2 update”
I’m happy to announce the No Bullshit Guide to Math & Physics version 5.4 has been released. This update contains two years’ worth of text improvements based on readers’ feedback and suggestions. The main focus of the edits was the math fundamentals chapter, making it easier to follow for beginners. The other big news is that the book is now available in .epub and .mobi formats.
In this blog post I’ll give an overview of the changes to the book with additional comments about the importance of each change. I’ve included links to PDF excerpts of all the new sections[1,2,3,4,5,6] as well as a detailed red-blue diff that shows all edits. All this with the goal to make the PDFs linked to from this blog post to contain a the complete “patch” information for readers who have an older version of the book.
Continue reading “No Bullshit Guide to Math & Physics v5.4 update”
I have been working on a French translation for the math book and in the process I stumbled upon some really powerful “authoring hacks” that I would like to describe here in case they might be useful for other bilingual authors and educators.
Let’s see les maths!
Before we begin with the “How it’s made” episode, let me show you some examples of the final product. I have selected the best four “backports” — explanations that now exist in the English version thanks to the additions in the French version.
- Reader feedback was consistent at pointing out the algebra sections as boring and TL;DR. Readers are willing to learn algebra (the rules for manipulating math expressions), but then when it comes to algebra “techniques” they are not sold on the concept. One solution to this problem would be to drop the “boring stuff” (lower the expectations of the reader), but I was having none of this. Instead I decided to just improve the explanations and add pictures: Completing the square en Français et in English.
- Functions (modelling superpowers) are the best thing ever, and probably the most powerful tool readers will develop in the book. This is why proper definitions and examples of functions are essential.
- Polar coordinates are super important—for both practical reasons and for the “aha” moment (knowledge buzz) that occur when readers understand $(x,y)$ is just one example of the many possible representations of the points in the Cartesian plane and $r\angle \theta$ is an equivalent representation (instructions that specify the position of a particular point int he Cartesian plane based on the distance $r$ and direction $\theta$).
- Speaking of knowledge buzz through representation theory, the book now finally has a proper motivation why readers need to think about the concept of a basis (a set of direction vectors that is used as the coordinate system for a vector space). On this one I go back to the basics—explain through an example.
Contuinuez à lire si ça a l’air intéressant. Read on if you’re interested.
Continue reading “Multilingual authoring for the win”
Two months ago I was on a train going from Montreal to New York City. It’s a long ride, but I used the time on the train to triage all the coding project ideas I could work on while at the Recurse Center (RC). So many projects; so many ideas.
Today I’m on the same train heading back to Montreal and have another 10 hours to triage the thoughts, experiences, and observations about the big city and the social experiment that is RC. Here is my best shot at it—stream-of-consciousness-style—before I forget it all.
Continue reading “Impression from NYC and the RC”
The NO BULLSHIT guide to LINEAR ALGEBRA is finally ready. After two years of writing and two years of editing, the book is now complete! Thanks to all the feedback from readers and the amazing attention to detail of my editor Sandy Gordon, the first print release is very polished.
Continue reading “No bullshit linear algebra v2 release”
This is a followup on my previous post about the challenges of open educational resources (OER) production and adoption. I’ve come to the conclusion that the key aspect holding back the “OER dream” is not the lack of collaboration tools or the ability for teachers to discover material, but the quality of the content. You can’t write a textbook by committee. It’s as simple as that!
Continue reading “The textbook business”
I spend the last couple of weeks exploring the open educational resources (OER) landscape and wanted to write down my thoughts and observations about the field. The promise of an OER “revolution” that will put quality learning material into the hands of every student has been around for several decades, but we are yet to see OER displace the established publishers. Why is it that “open content” hasn’t taken off more, and what can we do to make things happen in the coming decade?
Continue reading “The state of open educational resources in 2017”
Last week was a watershed moment for the linear algebra book. My editor finished her final pass of edits to the text and passed the ball back to me for the final touches. All the remaining tasks have been placed in a Trello board and now all I have to do is act on them to finally get the job finished.
Continue reading “Linear algebra final push”