As I’ve put it before, self-publishing seemed exactly appropriate for the Big Red Logic Books. They are aimed at students, so why not make them available as widely as can be? — free to download as PDFs, for those happy to work from their screens, and at minimal cost for the significant number who prefer to work from a physical copy.
So how did things go over 2021? The headline stats are these:
|PDF downloads||Paperback sales|
|Intro Formal Logic||10270||905|
|Intro Gödel’s Theorems||6529||757|
|Gödel Without Tears||2482||831|
The absolute download stats are very difficult to interpret, because if you open a PDF in your browser on different days, I assume that this counts as a new download — and I can’t begin to guess the typical number of downloads per individual reader. But the relative month-by-month figures will more significant: and for IFL and IGT these remain very stable, while those for GWT have increased quite a bit over the year. As for paperback sales, month-by-month, these remain very steady, and the figures are very acceptable. Modified rapture, then!
(Aside: There is hardback version of IFL and GWT available for libraries, and I’ve been paid for some sales to distributors. But how many hardbacks have actually been sold to real buyers I don’t know — only a few dozen, probably. I rather doubt that I will again go through the palaver of arranging hardback versions of any future books.)
I don’t know what general morals can be drawn from my experiences with these three books. As I’ve also put it before, every book is what it is and not another book, and every author’s situation is what it is. But open-access PDF plus very inexpensive but reasonably well produced paperback is obviously a fairly ideal model for getting stuff out there. I’d be delighted if more people followed the model. But I suppose you can only do this if you no longer need the reputational brownie points of publication by a university press (and if you have a good enough eye to use LaTeX or whatever to produce decent typography!). Maybe it is a model for the idle retired among us, who want to finish that book they’ve being meaning to write …