Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

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Nathaniel
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Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by Nathaniel » March 11th, 2022, 6:06 am

The textbook is finally done, and today is official book launch day!

The book can be downloaded in PDF format from https://conwaylife.com/book/conway_life_book.pdf (the same place that early versions of it were hosted for beta-testing).

A physical version of the book can now be purchased from lulu.com (it will be coming to other retailers like Amazon and Barnes&Noble soon-ish, on a precise timeline that is out of our hands). Print quality is good, but also slightly variable. You can see a couple of photos at https://conwaylife.com/book. Of the 8 or so author copies that we've ordered and inspected, one had a defect that had to be fixed entirely (but lulu was good about shipping a free replacement copy), and some copies have somewhat less vibrant colors, especially in the chapter headers, than the others.

We have set up a Kickstarter for the book's launch as well, where you can get signed copies and things like that: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/77 ... ook-launch. The idea behind the Kickstarter is that Dave is going to G4G14 in about a month's time, and it would be nice if he could bring a stack of books and/or other book-related goodies. [Edit: The Kickstarter was successfully funded, and Dave was able to order a stack of books to bring to G4G. Thanks everyone!]

Thanks for your support everyone, and for your help in making the book better!

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by Book » March 12th, 2022, 3:44 pm

The up-to-date patterns for the book are now available in PatMan at https://golhobby.com/. This makes it easy to access them in list and thumbnail view, and run them in LifeViewer. The whole collection can be downloaded, as well as individual RLEs.

* The .rle files are .txt files in PatMan. This is to assure servers will serve them.
* A few of the rle patterns are too large for LifeViewer, which so states.
* A few of the pattern files are MC files, which PatMan detects.
* Chapter 12 is excluded.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by otismo » March 12th, 2022, 6:02 pm

@ Nathaniel

how much is the book ?

buy it from lulu or kickstart or who ?

how about autographed; how much, from who ?

and I want my copy autographed by everybody ! !

@ Book

are the new book patterns significantly different from the ones we had ?

do I need to update everything I have on my server - your thoughts ?

@ Rowett

can a clickable, working link be embedded in a lifeviewer pattern ?

perhaps a still life ( font - with, hopefully an @ Freywa-style Golly type-in script... )

Thank You !

Cheers !
Last edited by otismo on March 12th, 2022, 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"One picture is worth 1000 words; but one thousand words, carefully crafted, can paint an infinite number of pictures."
- autonomic writing
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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by yujh » March 12th, 2022, 6:06 pm

It’s free to download.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by otismo » March 12th, 2022, 6:18 pm

@ Yujh

and also on my websites as well - the PDF

but I want the real, autographed, hard-copy Treasure...

Thank You for your Contributions - How About a Life Viewer Movie ?

Let's get the ball rolling on Spectacular !

Think : Bigger than Disney

( Disney is also a potential Strategic Partner - know what I mean, jelly bean, hint hint nudge nudge... )
"One picture is worth 1000 words; but one thousand words, carefully crafted, can paint an infinite number of pictures."
- autonomic writing
forFUN : http://viropet.com
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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by dvgrn » March 12th, 2022, 7:43 pm

otismo wrote:
March 12th, 2022, 6:02 pm
@ Nathaniel

how much is the book ?

buy it from lulu or kickstart or who ?

how about autographed; how much, from who ?

and I want my copy autographed by everybody ! !
The Kickstarter is specifically a way to organize orders for autographed copies. There are several tiers -- gotta have tiers on Kickstarter! -- according to whether you want the "easy" autographed copies (you order the book directly from Lulu.com yourself, then we send you an autographed bookplate and you stick that in on the copyright page) ... or the complicated ones where we buy the book, get both of our signatures on it even though we live fifteen hundred miles away from each other in two different countries, and then re-ship it to you.

Read the first post carefully, and follow the links to get all the specifics for the questions you're asking.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by Nathaniel » March 21st, 2022, 9:04 am

Dave and I are running an "Ask Us Anything" on reddit right now, if anyone is interested: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/ ... essor_who/

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by Nickolas » April 15th, 2022, 8:25 pm

Hello Nathaniel,

I ordered your book from Lulu, and enjoyed the read from start to finish. Stunning graphic design and diagrams, lucid prose, great pacing, thought provoking exercises, and thorough references, this is hands down one of the best textbooks on any subject I've ever seen. Bravo and congratulations!

I do have some gripes with the print quality:
  • The centering on the front cover is slightly off, the centering on the spine is slightly off, and the centering on the back cover is significantly awry. This may be an issue with the printer, or with the formatting in the file you sent to them, so it's something to look into.
  • The text is printed via a fairly low resolution inkjet technology, equivalent to a cheap desktop printer on high quality mode. Dots and dithering are quite noticeable on colors and greys, and even the black ink is unsaturated and dull. (As an example of imprints that have vibrant, high quality prints that pop off the page, refer to O'Reilly or the American Mathematical Society.)
  • The book arrived with crushed corners, some dents, and a noticeable wave to many of the pages.
So for anyone still looking to purchase the book, just be aware that Lulu's print quality, quality assurance, and packaging don't seem to be that great. I have no idea how they compare to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AbeBooks (which is actually just Amazon.) Among "Lulu-equivalent" boutique printers, I personally recommend Blurb. I've printed several one-off books with them, and they always arrive in pristine condition. Perhaps you could add them as a printing option? (They also have a high quality color printing option that's better than what Lulu offers.)

As for the text, there are a few minor formatting peculiarities:

1) A thin space (or something like it) is used as the digit grouping delimiter for long numbers, making them hard to parse. Even just a larger space would be helpful, though I personally prefer commas.

123 456 789 ← Yikes
123 456 789 ← Slightly better
123 456 789 ← At least I can read this
123.456.789 ← Europe is weird
123,456,789 ← Yay!

2) Color words have a highlight / background fill that's a little wonky with respect to punctuation. I can't figure out how to apply a background color to text on this forum, so pretend that the colored text below is highlighted:

Blah blah blah displayed in green blah blah blah.
Blah blah blah (displayed in green) blah blah blah.
Blah blah blah displayed in green.

Why are the parenthesis and period green? That's a bit weird!

3) The highlight / background fill for the word "red" is closer to pink, and the actual graphics that are claimed to be red are closer to maroon.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by Macbi » April 16th, 2022, 2:45 am

Lulu subcontracts their printing to various different printers depending on your location. So these issues will not necessarily be the same for everyone. I think my copy didn't have any of these issues, but I'm not an expert so I wouldn't necessarily notice if the colours had slightly poor saturation.

dvgrn posted a picture on the Discord showing that the book he got from Amazon was noticable thinner than the Lulu book, because of thinner paper.
you can really see through the Amazon pages to the print on the other side. It doesn't make any of the text harder to read, though it's slightly distracting -- but it does cause some minor legibility problems especially with the larger figures.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by dvgrn » April 16th, 2022, 6:30 am

Macbi wrote:
April 16th, 2022, 2:45 am
Lulu subcontracts their printing to various different printers depending on your location. So these issues will not necessarily be the same for everyone. I think my copy didn't have any of these issues, but I'm not an expert so I wouldn't necessarily notice if the colours had slightly poor saturation.
I'd say that most of the issues that Nickolas mentioned are valid for the trial prints that Nathaniel and I have seen. The "crushed corners and a few dents" sounds a little bit worse than anything we've gotten, but the "wave to many of the pages" is familiar, especially for the chapter-heading images. And, long story short, color quality could definitely be better -- but it would come at a steep price.

We made a deliberate decision about the color quality, after ordering quite a few test copies and seeing the range of quality that Lulu produced. Some of our trial prints were slightly more colorful than others, even ordering the same product from Lulu a few days apart. However, it was our judgment that Lulu's "Color Standard" printing reliably produced a completely legible book that was enjoyable to read.

Lulu does have a "Color Premium" option, printed on heavier paper. Here's the kicker: moving the project to "Color Premium" would have more than doubled the cost of a printed book, which for us would have put the retail price squarely in the "Nobody Should Have To Pay This Much For A Textbook About Conway's Life" zone.

Now, maybe somebody really wants to pay that much for a Book of Life of the highest possible print quality. I'm kind of curious to see what one looks like myself, so any interested parties should please get in touch with us directly -- a PM on these forums would do. I believe it's quite easy to build a "Color Premium" version of the project that can be ordered from Lulu; it's just that someone has to order a trial copy and look it over, before Lulu will allow that version to be listed publicly.

Here are some notes from an early exploratory email about relative costs. These prices are before Lulu's fees or retail markup:
dvgrn wrote: The big difference was in the option "Color Premium" ($93.28, with 80# coated paper!) vs. "Color Standard" ($34.06). The "60# White" vs."80# Coated White" only moved the needle down about $5.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by dvgrn » April 16th, 2022, 7:21 am

Macbi wrote:
April 16th, 2022, 2:45 am
dvgrn posted a picture on the Discord showing that the book he got from Amazon was noticable thinner than the Lulu book, because of thinner paper.
you can really see through the Amazon pages to the print on the other side. It doesn't make any of the text harder to read, though it's slightly distracting -- but it does cause some minor legibility problems especially with the larger figures.
This seems like a great time and place for an update on What We Know So Far about paper thickness and quality from various distributors. It's a bit complicated:

1) When I ordered a batch of thirty books from Lulu to take to G4G14, they all came in with the same book thickness as my trial Amazon and Barnes&Noble copies! Lulu was originally shipping us trial copies with a heavier-weight paper, making it a full three-eighths of an inch thicker -- but they seem to have switched to a lighter-weight paper for production copies. If anyone has gotten a heavier-weight print from Lulu since the beginning of March, I'd be interested in knowing about it.
The Amazon copy is on the left, and the old Lulu copy is on the right. Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and the new Lulu copies are all very close to the same thinner width.
The Amazon copy is on the left, and the old Lulu copy is on the right. Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and the new Lulu copies are all very close to the same thinner width.
Amazon_on_left,old_Lulu_on_right.jpg (493.42 KiB) Viewed 581 times
2) Even with the lighter-weight paper, all copies of the book that we've received from Lulu have been significantly higher quality than any of the copies from Global Distribution sources. Granted, we've only done two Global Distribution trial orders! -- one from Amazon, and one from Barnes&Noble.

3) The Amazon and Barnes&Noble copies were pretty much indistinguishable from each other. They both arrived amazingly fast, within a week of the order, and had good clean bindings with no dents or crushing. However, the paper quality was noticeably lower than the copies from Lulu:
  • Even Lulu's prints on lighter paper weights still used bright white coated paper, such that you didn't constantly notice that you could see through the blank parts of a figure to things printed on the other side of the page. Some such effects are visible in Lulu's copies, though, if you look for them (which I think is not unusual -- I just looked at several good-quality books on my bookshelf, and the same can be said for all of them).
  • My trial prints from Amazon and Barnes&Noble were printed on noticeably lower-quality paper, visibly off-white, more like cheap printer paper than what you'd really expect in a book. Dark printed figures showed through from the other side of the page quite often, to a degree that I found somewhat distracting.
  • Colors for the chapter-header images weren't noticeably different between Lulu's prints and the two Global Distribution prints. However, figure images -- the important ones! -- were just slightly fainter in the Amazon and Barnes&Noble copies, probably mostly due to the lower paper quality. Usually this didn't make a big difference to legibility -- but in a few cases in later chapters, for the Global Distribution versions of figures, it was quite a bit harder to see the fine details.
Long story short, Lulu's books were reliably more pleasant to look at. Here's one of my comparison pictures in standard suboptimal daytime indoor lighting, with the books in alphabetical order: Amazon on top, Barnes&Noble in the middle, and Lulu on the bottom. Quite an obvious difference!
Lulu's paper is much whiter, with brighter colors and less bleed-through from the other side of the pages
Lulu's paper is much whiter, with brighter colors and less bleed-through from the other side of the pages
Amazon,B&N,Lulu_comparison.jpg (924.05 KiB) Viewed 581 times
Based on this admittedly limited trial, we happily went back to ordering from Lulu. Full disclosure: Nathaniel and I can order two copies at Lulu's author-discount price, for about the same cost as one Global Distribution copy, so we have a pretty strong incentive not to give any more money to Amazon or Barnes&Noble ourselves! And if other people's orders come in through Lulu, we actually see some royalties trickle back to us.

Basically the required Global Distribution minimum price was quite a bit higher than Lulu's minimum price, but we had to pick the same price for all distributors. So we decided to set the Global Distribution price as low as we were allowed to, to stay out of the above-mentioned Nobody Should Have To Pay This Much zone. This means that if people don't order through Lulu, then Amazon or Barnes&Noble or whoever will get pretty much all of the money.

To sum up: we're fairly sure that the market really isn't out there for a Conway's Life intro textbook with premium-quality color and paper, so we think we picked the right price point. Honestly, while the books are great to have just to flip through and discover stuff, it's much more convenient to do a lot of the actual focused learning and exploration with the PDF version -- just because every figure in the PDF is clickable, so you can quickly get the pattern into Golly and watch it doing whatever it does.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by pcallahan » April 16th, 2022, 12:03 pm

Beautiful! I have only been skimming (all right, all right, looking for instances of the string "callahan") but having this content all together is long overdue. And both the pictures and content hold up (unlike the work of a certain physicist turned entrepreneur that comes to mind). There are two works in print that got me interested in CGoL, namely Winning Ways and The Recursive Universe. I hope we are still living in a time when a printed text (or PDF) can be influential.

PS I love Dave Greene's eclectic bookshelf.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by Nickolas » April 16th, 2022, 4:21 pm

I certainly don't begrudge you any of the choices that you made, and your reasons make sense even if I have different personal preferences. And as you say, the books function more than adequately for their primary purpose: to convey information. That being said, perhaps on future projects you could simply make a high quality version available for those who want it. Most people might not have paid twice as much for a crisp, vivid laser print on 90-100gsm coated paper, but I would have.

(But I don't need another copy of the book, nor do I want to pay to be the person who tests whether Lulu can actually deliver a premium, undamaged product. Had a high quality version been available at the time of my original purchase, however, I would have bought it.)

You might also check out IngramSpark. I've never used them, but I decided to do a more in-depth search for print-on-demand services, and their prices are significantly better than Lulu's or Blurb's:

Image

Image

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by Book » April 20th, 2022, 7:56 pm

The Figure 11.27 caption: "...bounces around the diamond-shaped track highlighted track in orange" reads funny

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by dvgrn » April 20th, 2022, 9:30 pm

Book wrote:
April 20th, 2022, 7:56 pm
The Figure 11.27 caption: "...bounces around the diamond-shaped track highlighted track in orange" reads funny
Good catch, thanks! This kind of thing can be added to the Errata page for the book on LifeWiki -- I've done this one.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by rokicki » April 23rd, 2022, 8:36 pm

I ordered a copy through Lulu (ordered March 11th; shipped March 23rd). My copy has the thinner pages
(judging from the width of the book compared to the photo Dave showed above).

Context: I worked in typography (admittedly, the software side) for many years, and also worked at
two different professional offset-printing companies.

I am delighted with the quality of my copy. The type is clear and crisp, in all sizes and fonts and in
illustrations (equivalent to perhaps a 600dpi laser printer at least; definitely better than a 300dpi
laser printer). The paper is bright and glossy and the colors are saturated perfectly---easy to see and
recognize without being unnecessarily distracting or blinding. You can see the opposite page through
if you look for it, but not objectionably so. The paper is a bit wavy in the book if you look down at the
closed book from the top (like might be due to humidity) but all the printing on any given page is perfectly
straight, headings and all.

There are no dents or imperfections in my covers, and as far as I can tell by eye, everything is
properly centered on the spine and front cover. The back cover has its text with a significantly
wider margin on the left than on the right, but I assumed that's a style thing and not an actual error;
it's certainly not objectionable to me.

The spine itself is great; the book opens flat to any given page so both recto and verso pages are
easily readable without needing to press the pages down.

Summary: it's a beautiful book, one that I would expect to pay $100 or more for.

(By contrast, my volumes 3 and 4 of the latest editions of Winning Ways, from Amazons, are absolute
disasters in so many ways; they are so bad I complained and received replacement copies that were
just as bad. Print on demand can be so disappointing sometimes.)

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by dani » April 23rd, 2022, 9:12 pm

I guess I should put in a good word about the copy I received on April 4th. Pictures can be viewed here and here (unless Discord is blocked). The print quality is good and the colours are true to how they appear on the PDF. The lighting in my room isn't great so the images might be misleading in that regard.

It's definitely worth my money to have purchased something so unique and a source of passion for me. Even if the quality wasn't good, which it is, I still have fun from time to time flipping through and looking at patterns, and it's very awesome to just casually have a giant glider on my desk at all times. Hopefully it doesn't get up and start evolving. I'll let you know if that happens.
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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by dvgrn » April 23rd, 2022, 9:28 pm

dani wrote:
April 23rd, 2022, 9:12 pm
... and it's very awesome to just casually have a giant glider on my desk at all times. Hopefully it doesn't get up and start evolving. I'll let you know if that happens.
After Nathaniel and I are done distributing Kickstarter books to those who ordered them, I'm still going to have sixteen books left. For a while, anyway -- eventually they'll end up getting used for some worthy cause yet to be invented.

In the meantime, it's nice to know that if I arrange my sixteen books in just the right way, the gliders on the covers will construct any glider-constructible object that I might want ... provided I'm willing and able to travel far enough to place the sixteen books, of course ... once I do the calculations to get the precise locations.

Please, there's no need to bother me with any inconvenient facts, such as exactly how far beyond the edge of the observable universe most of these books would have to go, if I even want to RCT-build a single shillelagh and not clean anything up... The observable universe will get bigger if I just wait a while; maybe during that time period my travel options will open up, too.

EDIT: Yeah, glider phases. Those came up over here, along with some answers with varying plausibility.

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Re: Conway's Game of Life Textbook Launch

Post by Book » June 5th, 2022, 7:43 pm

otismo wrote:
March 12th, 2022, 6:02 pm

@ Book

are the new book patterns significantly different from the ones we had ?

do I need to update everything I have on my server - your thoughts ?
Sorry I missed this for so long: the answers are yes and yes. Update (replace) the entire collection.

https://golhobby.com/patman/patman.htm? ... nstruction and click Download Collection

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