Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thumbs up for the Cambridge University Press Customer Service

Some years ago, I bought a copy of Stephani et al's book "Exact Solutions of Einstein's Field Equations" from Cambridge University Press. It's pretty much an encyclopedia of all that's known about Einstein's Field Equations. It's the type of book you turn to for advice when you've got a problem, not a textbook you read front to back. So I hope you'll forgive me when I say it took me a few months to notice that the copy I bought was a misprint with several empty pages towards the middle. These are the obscurer parts of the book whose physical applications are at least to me somewhat unclear, and I thought I would just never need whatever should have been printed on these pages anyway.

Over the years however I developed the distinct paranoia that whenever I was looking for something that I could not find in Stephani's book, it was certainly printed on the missing pages. Some time last week, frustrated by yet another intractable set of equations one gets without a good ansatz for the metric, I wrote to Cambridge University Press customer service, complaining about the misprint, with the above photo attached.

Needless to say, several years after purchasing the book I don't have a receipt. Nevertheless, I got a reply within 24 hours, with an apology for the misprint. Alas, the hardcover version that I have is out of print, if a paperback would be okay. "Sure", I wrote back. They asked for my shipping address and a week later I have a brand new copy, all for free. Now if I don't find an answer to a problem I was looking for, I have no empty pages to blame any more.


Juan F. said...

Cool story, Sabine! You remembered me The Neverending Story by M.Ende when I saw those blank pages! LOL

Does that book include the higher dimensional Myers-Perry solutions? And the blackfolds too?

CUP is one of the best publishers! The only thing I personally dislike is their prize "politics", but I guess some of those books are not "for the average man or woman" so, they have a high prize (not likely due to the author wishes in general, I believe).



Anonymous Snowboarder said...

I think your post more than offset the cost of the paperback they sent you. It is so hard to find good customer service in anything these days.

Giotis said...

Taking the opportunity (and having in mind that Stefan works there)I want to protest for the quality of Springers' books. Almost all of them start to falling apart after a month or so. I bought the other day my brand new "Basic concepts of String theory" and the first signs of deterioration are already visible.

P. S.

I was in Stockholm the previous week but I couldn't find a time window to visit to you at Nordita. Maybe next time:-)

Beautiful city BTW I was impressed...

Erik said...

@ Giotis, I agree: Springers' book are of very low quality. My copy of Ultra-cold quantum fields started to fall a part after a few weeks too, along with the copy of almost all the other students. For a 80 euro hardcopy that may not happen!

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Hi Juan,

It's only 3+1 dimensional solutions. Best,


Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Giotis, Erik,

It is my understanding that Springer meanwhile produces most books on demand. That is, the book isn't even printed before you order it. I am guessing from what you say that in the printing and binding process there's some quirks to be sorted out... In principle I think though print on demand is a good idea. It makes it much easier to invest in little known authors because one doesn't have to estimate how many copies will sell. Be that as it may, Stefan has nothing to do with the printing whatsoever, so you're better off writing to customer service. And then please let us know what they told you because I'm curious! Best,


Anonymous said...

I bought a copy of 'The Mathematical Theory of Relativity' by Arthur Eddington' on the web recently. Originally published by CUP in 1923, this edition was published by General Books.
Guesss what; one page is missing, Eddington's 1923 list of Slipher's measurements of the redshifts of the nebulae.
Unfortunately, I bought the book in order to acquire a copy of this table.

Anonymous Snowboarder said...

Bee- just to add as you mention POD. As a published author of a POD book and also a consumer I can say that the quality does vary quite a bit. I am using Lightning Source which is a division of Ingram books. Quality is top notch - I've compared mine to quite a few books published by "majors" in the same size/format and in some cases LS is much better quality.

Somewhat related to that, I'm actually surprised there is not a bigger effort within the science/math communities to use POD. The per copy print costs are very low and should be taken advantage of. It can also be used to make publicly available off copyright material. I did this a number of years ago with late 80s thermodynamics text (w/permission).

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

coraifeartaigh: That's terribly annoying!

Snowboarder: Interesting. Yes, as I said above, I think POD is a good idea, we'll probably see it spreading.