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adamzerner comments on Heuristics for textbook selection - Less Wrong Discussion

8 Post author: John_Maxwell_IV 06 September 2017 04:17AM

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Comment author: adamzerner 08 September 2017 08:57:19PM *  1 point [-]

Interesting topic, thanks for bringing it up.

Regarding sales rank vs. ratings, I disagree, but I don't feel strongly about my disagreement at all.

  • My impression is that different textbooks use roughly the same terminology, although I don't have much experience reading different textbooks on the same topic, so I don't feel too strongly about this impression.

  • Professors may be paid off (or some variation of "paid off") to require certain textbooks. I don't know much about this, just noting it as a possibility.

  • I suspect that professors aren't great at choosing textbooks that explain things well, in part due to the illusion of transparency, and in part due to my experience being one where professors aren't good at pedagogy. Or maybe they just don't care. Or perhaps they do care, but they care more about choosing a book that fits the curriculum they want to teach. I suspect that ratings do a better job of predicting how well the book explains things.

Some other things to consider:

  • I have a theory that the more good visuals a textbook has, the more likely it is to be a good textbook overall. If you can access some random pages in the textbook, try skimming through to get a sense of what quality of visuals there are in the textbook.

  • Try different books out before committing to one! Eg. by reading a small subsection or two. Seems like a reasonable investment of your time.

  • Read descriptions and reviews to see if you fit the target market. Ex. Probability Theory: The Logic of Science by ET Jaynes seems like a "good" book, but it probably isn't a good book if you're a beginner looking for an introduction (I'm guessing).