Thursday, June 08, 2006

To write, or not to write

I've been talking with a major publishing house about writing a textbook based on my two-semester course sequence, Nanostructures and Nanotechnology I and II. I've been teaching these classes for the last several years, and they've been very successful. The editor has sent out a detailed outline of my ideas, and the feedback from reviewers has been very positive. That's nice and validating, but I remain pretty conflicted about doing this. I know a few things:
  • Every one of my research-active faculty colleagues here looks at me like I'm absolutely stark raving bonkers for even considering this - I should be spending all my resources on my research.
  • Right now, there is no text for this sort of thing at this level. There is real potential for a transformative effect if the book is good. If I wait 5 years, someone else will write the book instead of me.
  • However long I think this will take, it will take longer.
  • It would be very nice to feel like I'm having an educational impact on more than 20 students a year.
  • I'm unlikely to get any support in this (time off from teaching, etc.) from my institution.
  • I have it on good authority that the editor in question is very good, and that this publisher is generally as pleasurable to deal with as any.
So. What to do. Any comments from out there?


MattO said...

write the damn book!
1) you have tenure so they can't fire you.
2) it will help you orgazine your notes even better, making your class flow better.
3) you are, by nature, a ridiculously organized dude, so I suspect this will take 80% of the time you that you alot, rather than the 200% that most of us require.
4) two words: Book groupies

Peter Armitage said...

Do it!

Anonymous said...

You should definitely write the book. Every time you've explained anything to me, you've been pretty lucid and helpful -- and even though that breaks every rule of textbook writing, you should do it anyway. :) Plus, don't you look forward to assigning the problems to a grad student who will never actually complete them, thereby perpetuating angst and agony for the indefinite future?

Just don't take as long as Peskin.

Anonymous said...

Writing it seems like a good idea to me. I don't know you, but it appears that you are in a relatively unique position to write such a book. I like your point #2. The first person to write the book will be able to shape how the courses are taught. It could also affect subsequent books. It is clear that nanoscience is still growing, so you have the opportunity to reach/impact many people.

Let me introduce myself. I'm a graduate student at the University of Houston. I'm working on nano-related things. I've been enjoying your summaries of cond-mat for a while - Thank you. Good luck with whatever decision you choose.

Douglas Natelson said...

Thanks, everyone. I'll admit, I hadn't considered the book groupie phenomenon before :-) Jason, it's nice to know someone besides my old friends from grad school is reading this.