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Oldie but a goodie, and still free

I noticed today that the top link at The New York Times is an article about  economics professor R. Preston McAfee’s mission to make his economics textbook readily available to all, “Don’t Buy That Textbook, Download It Free”.

Then I remembered something else about an economics professor and a free textbook, and sure enough three years ago at the Times website in the Freakonomics blog was Steven Levitt’s post about Professor McAfee and his admirable mission.


2 Responses

  1. I’ve not read his book. But I have a very low opinion of the discipline and thus am ambivalent about making what they do available to folks outside academe. In fact, I think the world would be a much better place if some economists had never ever spoken to anyone with any influence on politics or policy.

    So, the joke goes… 3 guys are stranded on a desert island, a physicist, a chemist and an economist. A crate of tinned food has washed up with them. They are trying to figure out how to get the food out of the tins. The physicist proposes the use of pulleys and large weights to try to break the tins open. The chemist talks about the corrosive properties of salt water and how they might be harnessed to open the tins. The economist listens to this and then says “First, assume a can opener…”

  2. From Levitt’s post:

    “[N]obody gets much academic credit for writing textbooks; people mostly do it to make money. It is an incredible amount of work to write a textbook.”

    If the textbook author were in any other discipline, the for-profit-writer in me would wonder if his altruism and business sense had gotten out of whack. But since McAfee’s an economist, his experiment is providing him with an excellent case to study in the future — maybe even at a profit.

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