Gas station without pumps

2015 August 7

Book draft available online

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 01:29
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In Lean publishing I said

I’ll think about it for a week, but right now I’m leaning towards doing a pre-release of my book at a very low price on Leanpub.  What do my readers think?  Anyone interested?

Well, that week lasted less than a day.  I’ve put the book up on Leanpub’s book store as

For now, everything is pretty much draft format: I have a temporary cover page, lots of marginal notes to myself about what needs changing, few exercises, and a host of things that need to be done to the book.

The book is only available in PDF format, because I’m developing it in LaTeX, and there is no good way to get LaTeX documents into EPUB and MOBI formats.  From what I’ve seen so far, there is no good way to produce books with a lot of figures and cross references in EPUB and MOBI formats, so I’m stuck with LaTeX at least for the next year.

I dithered for a while about setting a price for the book—I wanted it cheap enough that people who were interested in it would be willing to get a pre-release copy, but not free—since the people would not bother looking at it, even if they got a copy.  I settled on a minimum price of $2.99 and suggested price of $9.99, as representing a fair price for the book in its current draft form.  Those prices probably won’t stop anyone who wants to read the book from getting it, but will discourage random freebie hunters. I do plan to raise the minimum price as the book gets more nearly finished.

The Leanpub model, where purchasers get all updates to the book that are done on Leanpub, means that early purchasers get a real bargain.

I’ve not yet put up a sample chapter or table of contents for the book, but I plan to do that later this week—I’ll probably include all the front matter and two sample chapters (a lab chapter and the associated supporting theory chapter) in the sample.  I’ve not figured out which chapters to include in the sample yet. (If anyone does buy the draft book, I’d welcome suggestions about which chapters to show in the sample.)

I’ll be setting up coupons for  students who take my class to get the book for free, and I’ll make those coupons available to students who have formerly taken the class.  (I’ve not done that yet, since the next class isn’t until Spring 2016, but if there are former students reading this blog, send me e-mail and I’ll set up a coupon code you can use.)

None of the book is set in stone, but some parts are more solid than others—I’m pretty happy with how several of the chapters worked in the Spring 2015 offering of the course, but other labs need complete rewrites, changing the nature of the lab.  The cover page is definitely a placeholder—I threw it together in a couple of hours tonight, just to have something to put on the site. I started an index, but have not really gone through the book looking for what concepts need to be indexed, nor indexed all occurrences of the concepts I’ve started indexing.  A better index is pretty far down on my priority list right now, but I will take suggestions about things that really need indexing—fixing one or two entries in the index could be a good break from more intense writing.

At some point I’ll be putting up a bunch of other files with the book as a “bundle”.  The bundle will include all the gnuplot scripts and programs that I provide to my students, plus Eagle files for the prototyping PC boards.  I might also do a “teacher” bundle that includes all the gnuplot scripts and data files used for generating the figures in the books.  I don’t know whether Leanpub provides a way for purchasers of a book to later upgrade to a bundle that includes the book—but a workaround can probably found using coupons.

One of the reasons for releasing a draft on Leanpub is to get feedback from readers—particularly about things they find incorrect, poorly written, inconsistent, missing, redundant, or just confusing.  That feedback can be on the Leanpub site, by email (Leanpub provides a link), or here on the blog.  Tiny details are probably best done by e-mail, but more substantive suggestions that might be worth discussing (like pedagogical approach or order of the material) may be better done in blog comments.


  1. A few typos from glancing through the sample:

    feild-effect transistors,
    You’ll may also see
    Wires should be about -3’ long (100cm)

    Comment by Michael K Johnson — 2015 August 7 @ 18:34 | Reply

    • Thanks, I’ve fixed those typos (and a few others) in my copy and they’ll appear in the sample when I next do an update. I expect to do updates about once a week over the summer.

      I should have run spell check on the sample chapters before putting them up, obviously, and I’ll try to be more careful about that in future updates.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2015 August 7 @ 19:23 | Reply

  2. Thanks for clarifying that the original purchase includes all future updates. That was my main question about this publishing option for something like a lab manual where updates would be common in the first years.

    What I like about that model is the early adopters get a loss-leader price in exchange for sending in errata. One thing that really bugs some of my math colleagues is the amount of value they add to either on-line homework products or textbooks without any compensation.

    The only issue I see for students is that they can only use financial aid through the campus bookstore, but I doubt if many will complain about a book that costs less than a calculator!

    Comment by CCPhysicist — 2015 August 8 @ 17:24 | Reply

    • For my students, I plan to issue them coupons to get the book for free. I don’t believe in profiting from requiring my own book. Students in other people’s classes who use the book will get a very cheap textbook—the parts and tools needed for the lab are currently running about $60, which is 6 to 20 times what the book costs.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2015 August 8 @ 17:58 | Reply

  3. Regarding LaTeX to epub and mobi conversion: I am pretty sure that tex4ht can handle figures and cross-references, although custom configurations might be needed to be provided for figure support, depending on how they are produced (external images?, pstricks?, tikz?). Once you have working configurations for tex4ht, you may try tex4ebook, which is based on tex4ht and can convert LaTeX to epub, epub3 and mobi.

    Comment by michal.h21 — 2015 August 13 @ 01:45 | Reply

    • Thanks for the pointers—I’ll look into tex4ht and tex4ebook, but I’m not real hopeful of getting a working solution. It looks like tex4ht development has slowed way down since the original developer died.

      My figures are external PDF (for graphs and schematics) or JPEG (for photos) format.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2015 August 13 @ 08:12 | Reply

      • tex4ht development really slowed down, at the moment we focus mainly on fixing bugs reported at the issue tracker and try to understand the whole system, which is really complex, so we can produce some comprehensive documentation.

        for some guide for configurations see helpers4ht wiki and answer about PDF image conversion and inclusion.

        Comment by michal.h21 — 2015 August 13 @ 13:37 | Reply

  4. […] are many milestones along the way: used in the course (done Spring 2015), released to the public (done in draft form starting August 2015), all the “to-do” notes in the text done (maybe never—I keep finding more that needs […]

    Pingback by Sabbatical leave application 2016 | Gas station without pumps — 2015 December 14 @ 14:33 | Reply

  5. […] been publishing drafts of my book with Leanpub since August 2015, shortly after I first heard about them from Katrin Becker.  I took the chance with an unknown […]

    Pingback by Leanpub changing their pricing model again | Gas station without pumps — 2018 April 22 @ 09:50 | Reply

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