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Open source textbooks
*October 10, 2009*

*Posted by Akhil Mathew in General, math education.*

Tags: Allen Hatcher, Bourbaki, Jacob Lurie, Nathan Dunfield, open source triumphalism, stacks project, textbooks

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Tags: Allen Hatcher, Bourbaki, Jacob Lurie, Nathan Dunfield, open source triumphalism, stacks project, textbooks

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Well, it seems that the Bourbaki 2.0 idea I suggested some time back wasn’t entirely absurd: as a commenter pointed out, the Stacks Project is following a similar model. Moreover, Nathan Dunfield of Low Dimensional Topology has proposed that the stacks model be applied to textbooks (I assume the stacks book is more of a reference). Additionally, he asks why conventional textbook publishing, even for individual authors, is still necessary in the day of the internet when it is more efficient to distribute material online. Some people have apparently listened to these ideas; Jacob Lurie, for instance, has put his treatise on higher topos theory on the arXiv, and Allen Hatcher has made available his well-known text on algebraic topology on his webpage.

I’d very much like to see this trend continue; there are surely people out there who would like to learn mathematics beyond the introductory calculus and linear algebra level–when there are no longer massive surpluses of texts on one topic–but may not be affiliated with a university for various reasons, and may not want to fork over the substantial sums that conventionally printed textbooks cost these days. At least for authors, I don’t think there’s much money to be made in algebraic topology writing, and math professors have nice salaries anyway, so why not?