Archive for John David Jackson

The Price of Jackson

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on May 25, 2016 by telescoper

The chance conjunction on this blog of a post about the death of Professor  J.D. Jackson with another about the greed of academic publishers caught the attention of one Ian Jackson (son of the aforementioned Professor) and prompted him to forward me some correspondence between his father and the publisher of the famous textbook, Classical Electrodynamics (published by John Wiley & Sons).

I won’t copy it all here, but here is an excerpt:

The Letter of Agreement of 1996 stipulates that Wiley should not increase the net price more than 5% in any two year period with the author’s permission. A month or so ago I found out from the physics Editor that the US net price was $87, a big jump from the last number I knew. By knowing that the list price is closely 1.3 times the net, I could look at my records of the single copy list price on Wiley’s web site to find that they had increased the price by 5% at least once and probably twice beyond what was permitted by our agreement. I wrote a strong letter, citing chapter and verse about their obvious violation.

John David Jackson was obviously a generous man: the royalties for this book were divided among his four children (including my correspondent Ian). He goes on to add in a letter to all four of them, after the publishers agreed to reduce the list price:

Sorry to be keeping your royalties in check, but I was thinking of the poor students who are paying 1.3 x $82 = $106.60.

They do keep the book for the rest of their lives, so perhaps it is an OK investment.

I don’t remember how much I paid for my copy, but I don’t begrudge the amount because it’s an excellent book. You should always remember, however, that the author of a textbook typically only gets a small percentage (usually~10% ) of the net receipts.

The correspondence sent by Ian includes this hand-drawn graph by the late Professor Jackson:

Jackson_price

It seems Professor Jackson shared my (low) opinion of academic publishers!

For the record, my textbook on Cosmology (co-authored with Francesco Lucchin) was also published by Wiley. A representative of the publisher explained to me that their pricing strategy involved trying to keep the revenue constant in time, so that as sales went down the price went up. My book is now very much out of date so I can understand why the sales have fallen off, but I find it hard to believe that the same is true of an enduring classic. Professor Jackson seems to have agreed; he described Wiley’s pricing strategy as “gouging”…

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R.I.P. John David Jackson (1925-2016)

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on May 23, 2016 by telescoper

Yet again I have to pass on some very sad news. Physicist John David Jackson, best known for his classic textbook Classical Electrodynamics, has passed away at the age of 91. I’m sure I speak for many physicists when I say that Classical Electrodynamics was not only an essential part of my physics education but also a constant companion throughout the rest of my career. I have consulted my copy regularly over the last thirty years. I was often frustrated that when I found the topic I was looking for in the index, it referred to a problem (usually a difficult one) rather than a solution, but there’s no question it made me a better physicist.

Jackson

Rest in peace, John David Jackson (1925-2016).