Thomas Jefferson: “The field of knowledge is the common property of mankind.”
Why a webbook on chaos?
Publishing a book today means preparing a typeset manuscript for a publisher, who binds it and distributes it, often at prices that make it inaccessible to students from less affluent institutions. Many manyears go into preparing a highly specialized textbook aiming at a small specialized audience, and the economics of royalties has to be weighted against the impact that a downloadable text might have.
Inspite of the undeniable pleasure of taking a book to bed, a technical webbook is already superior to a paper text in several ways. The advantages of the pdf version of this webbook are:
1) a browser can jump to downloading to the page you click on, so even 800 pages book can be read in real time.
2) the equations, sections, references and index cross-referencing are hyperlinked, so one can effortlessly jump back and forth through the text and on to the source text and code.
3) In introducing a field, there are contradictory impulses to conciseness (so the key ideas get across within reasonable reading time) and scholarly completeness. Webbook allows for branching into levels of details suited to individual reader's interests, and providing up-to-date links to other relevant material.
4) It is often more instructive to work through a solution of a problem than be given only the abstract theory. Webbook helps by providing links to student projects and problem solutions.
It should be possible to have the book printed and bound on order by one of the print-on-demand companies. (If you have a recommendation as to which company, please let us know)
Research is today mediated by the Los Alamos server, not by what gets published 18 months later in a journal. The rationale for publishing is the peer review (which is the main positive thing in the system), citations (which are immensely useful in keeping track of literature, and some indication of impact), and archiving the research results.
It is true that for evaluation committees that cannot think but can only count, citations counts still count. As younger people who understand how research is communicated today get on the committees that too will be cured.
A complete book takes years to prepare - webbook makes it possible to make accessible the (semi)completed parts as the work progresses. It is better to have a webbook accessible to one and all, continuously improved, at the forefront rather than chiseled in stone.
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