I have on my desk my copy of Hartley Rogers’s wonderful Theory of Recursive Functions and Effective Computability. I’ve been checking my memory that he says that, for effective computability, the steps in a particular algorithm must be idiot-proof at least in the weak sense of being executable by a computing agent with a “fixed finite bound” on his/her/its capacity. And yes, he does say that. Which is good, because that’s what I said he said in a talk last week!
Inside the front cover, there’s still the June 1970 pencilled stock date of Heffers (the wonderful warren of a bookshop that used to be in Petty Cury), and the price, 149 shillings. I guess it is, relatively speaking, the most expensive book I’ve ever bought. Going by the retail price index, that’s about £87: relative to academic pay, rather more. But it is a unique classic (and already established as such when I bought it a few years after publication); it is almost 500 pages; and the costs of production must have been enormous.
Zip forward to the present day. My young colleague Ben Colburn has just published an elegantly written and exceedingly interesting slim volume Autonomy and Liberalism. In pages, it is about a third of the length of Hartley Rogers, in words very much less than that: and the production costs were minimal given Ben had to send them an electronic file to their detailed specifications. Routledge are charging a quite absurd and shaming £70 (yes seventy pounds).
Which is, as the youff say, simply taking the piss.