title>Selling Mathematics Books - Winning the Numbers Game (Page 2 of 2)









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The following list includes samples of older, higher level mathematics books I have sold over the last year, along with publication dates, sale prices, and venues they were acquired in. As you read the titles, pay special attention to terminology. Though some of it is familiar (e.g., algebra, geometry, statistics, equations, etc.), some of it is not, and this will give you a feel for what to look for.

  1. Topics in Algebra (2nd edition), Israel N. Herstein, 1975, $65.00 (note that this is advanced, not high school or introductory college algebra). Goodwill.

  2. Partial Differential Equations, Arnold Sommerfeld, 1949, $50. Personal collection.

  3. Fourier Analysis of Time Series, Peter Boomfield, 1976 revised 2000, $41 (several times). eBay (cheap).

  4. Geometry & Its Applications, Walter J. Meyere, 1999, $33 (several times). eBay (cheap).

  5. A Logical Approach to Discrete Mathematics, David Gries, 1993, $25.00. Bargain bin at Borders.

  6. Post-Modern Algebra, Jonathon D.H. Smith and Anna B. Romanowska, 1999, $44. eBay.

  7. Elementary Number Theory, Underwood Dudley, 1978, $29. Library sale.

  8. Introduction to Statistical Theory, 1970, $56. Library sale.

  9. Approximations for Digital Computers, Cecil Hastings, Jr., 1959, $26. Library sale.

  10. Mathematics and Politics, Alan Taylor, 1995, $27. Library sale.

  11. Invitation to Complex Analysis, Ralph Philip Boas, 1987, $50. Library sale.

  12. Statistical Analysis in Psychology and Education, George A. Ferguson and Yoshio Takane, 1989, $75 (cheapest currently available copy - $118.50). Library sale.

  13. Finite Element Analysis, Edward R. Champion, 1987, $40.00 (applied engineering mathematics). Salvation Army.

  14. Measure and Category: A Survey of the Analogies Between Topological and Measure Spaces, John C. Oxtoby, 1980, $53 (cheapest currently available copy - $235). Paperback exchange bookstore.
If you are not impressed by, for example, 1995, 1999, and 2000 publication dates, you should be. Spans of 10 years typically contain 3 edition cycles, those of 5 or 6 years, 2. Any textbook older than one cycle (approximately three years) and still selling for healthy prices is a rare find. However, books like these can be found in the mathematics field.

Here are three titles that are not strictly classified as mathematics textbooks.

The Emergence of Mathematical Meaning, 1995, $55 (mathematics education). Personal collection.

Whom the Gods Love, Leopold Infeld, $40 (biography of Evariste Galois, mathematician and French revolutionary). Personal collection.

The Pythagorean Proposition (1968 reprint of 1940 original), Elisha S. Loomis, $40 (mathematics history; cheapest currently available copy I have been able to locate is $144). Personal collection.

What not to buy in this category:

  1. Dover Publications titles. During a recent visit to the mathematics section at Borders, I found a substantial number of Dover titles. They are inexpensive, usually issued in trade paperback format, and remain in print for years. Often, these are often reprints of classics and other works that have aged into the public domain. Values, therefore, are usually low, and unless the book has a high cover price and is in new or like new condition, it's probably not worth bothering with.

  2. Conference proceedings and collections of articles. Like groups in other fields, mathematical organizations hold annual meetings. Often, papers presented and/or talks given at a particular conference (called proceedings) are published as books and usually carry a high cover price. Despite the book format, however, their content more closely resembles that of magazines or journals - in other words, the material is usually time-sensitive and quickly obsolesces. Values usually reflect this.

  3. In general, any mathematics book that consists of a collection of essays or articles. Like conference proceedings, these often obsolesce quickly as well. Even if Amazon comparables are high, don't be fooled.

Popular Books with Mathematical Content
Math Non-Fiction

Mathematics books targeted at the general public sometimes rise to the level of professional textbooks, but many of these titles are more superficial - that is, they are essentially attempts to (painlessly) explain more difficult concepts. In the attempt to avoid pain, however, they often avoid the topic as well! For booksellers, the important thing to remember is that more scholarly books (the former) will generally have higher values and less robust sales rankings.

Supplemental Texts and Self-Help Books

Books in this category include general tutorials for improving mathematics skills and more narrowly targeted preparation guides for students taking specific exams - for example, SAT, GRE, etc. The latter are usually published in large, softcover format, and new editions are published annually to accommodate test changes. I have only one piece of advice concerning these books: in my experience, the only titles that have significant value are current editions of test preparation guides in new or nearly new condition. Last year's exam prep book just doesn't cut it. One usually runs across out-of-date editions at library sales, etc. If you are lucky enough to find a source of latest editions of these books, more power to you!

Mathematical Keywords

The following list of mathematics terminology (which, by the way, is not exhaustive) will help you spot mathematics books by title without having to open them.

  1. Mathematics: Algebra, abstract algebra, modern algebra, linear algebra, geometry, calculus, probability, statistics, combinatorics, topology, analysis, number theory, complex variables, differential equations, functional analysis, metamathematics, logic, set theory, chaos theory and knot theory.

  2. Algebra: group, ring, field, linear, matrix, matrices, vector, polynomial, exponential, rational, logarithmic and logistic.

  3. Number theory: prime (numbers) and modulus.

  4. Combinatorics: permutation and combination.

  5. Probability and statistics: factor analysis, regression, correlation, ANOVA, stochastic, normal, binomial, Bayesian and Poisson.

  6. Geometry: Euclidean, non-Euclidean, projective, descriptive, differential and fractal.
Finally, any combination and/or variation on the word mathematics will signal a book worth checking. "Mathematics and ...," "Mathematics of ...," "Mathematics for ...," and "Mathematical ...." For example (these are actual titles): Mathematics and Sex, Mathematics of Juggling, Mathematics for Electronics, and Mathematical Anthropology.

Related Areas

There are several areas worth looking at that are related to or are in some way concerned with mathematics. Subjects will have a highly theoretical component and tend to be abstract. Like mathematics, older books in these fields are often still valuable because the knowledge they contain has not obsolesced as is so often the case with the physical, biological, social and applied sciences. Some of these areas include: statistics, research methods, logic, philosophy, theoretical computer science, linguistics, perspective drawing (in art), chess, games, gambling, and horse racing.

A note about computer science: the emphasis here is on titles with in-depth content that has very little or nothing to do with discussions of specific hardware, software or operating systems. The latter often become obsolete in two or three years, but those that examine computer concepts in the most general way are far more likely to have enduring value. For example, a friend of mine recently stumbled upon an old book on the theory of structured programming that he studied 25 years ago. Today it still sells for $30.

There are two other important related areas - mathematics education and mathematics history. Mathematics education books can be valuable but usually have a smaller (selling) window of opportunity than dedicated mathematics titles. Education titles often have psychological elements, and of course the emphasis is on teaching and learning. History titles examine how and under what mathematical, social, political, religious, scientific and economic circumstances various mathematical developments occurred - that is, elements of mathematics, history and literature are combined. These may be valued, in part, for writing quality.

There are more saleable mathematics books out there than you might suspect. Don't ignore them!

In addition to being a bookseller on Amazon (101_percent_guaranteed), half.com (mbrook1949) and Abebooks (101% Guaranteed Books), Michael Brook teaches mathematics at a large university on the Eastern Seaboard. He also has a Doctorate in Mathematics Education and plays guitar and sings in a trio known as Swing, Samba, Soul. Their CD is available from Michael's Amazon zShop.

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