Second-hand maths and computing books

Hay-On-Wye Booksellers. Hay-on-Wye is a mecca ...
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I am nominally on holiday at the moment – though at times it doesn’t feel like it with the millstone of the MSc project report round my neck (one month till deadline today). But the weather is good – I am typing this outside in the Sun – and the setting is lovely (Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh borders).

Hay is famous for its second-hand bookshops and there are certainly plenty of them in the town. I was here before, in 1997, and more than ever the place seems to exude comfort and prosperity: a huge contrast to Wigtown in Scotland, where I visited last summer and which aims to be Scotland’s book town in the same way that Hay is for Wales (as Hay sits right on the border – it’s about 400 metres from where I am writing this – many people seem to think it is in England too).

Wigtown feels like a place that has opted to be a “book town” because it has tried everything else. Hay may have been like that once, but with its good pubs and restaurants and genteel charm it has moved beyond that now.

But one thing they have in common is a general dearth of maths and science books in their shops. To be sure, Hay has more shops and more books on sale than Wigtown, but the science proportion is just as low (ie close to zero).

There are some bargains to be found – I bought a good quality hard-back copy of The Honors Class: Hilbert’s Problems and Their Solvers for much less than it costs in paperback: assuming my interest in computability survives completing the degree, that will fill some autumn nights.

But there is not much. Having set up the telescope I had hoped I would be able to find a second hand copy of Norton’s Star Atlas: but if it’s out there is well hidden.

Similarly I cannot really find any decent books on statistics – I want something between the simple “Maths for Dummies” type and the hugely advanced “Latest developments in analysis” that can be found here and there.

For computing the story is even worse. If you have some ancient Windows 3.1 package or are writing stuff in Delphi then maybe you might find something here, but it seems that computer users and programmers do not sell-on books that refer to anything useful.

To be fair: I should add that Wigtown is not a bad place to spend an afternoon – and in general Galloway is a good place to go on holiday.


2 responses to “Second-hand maths and computing books”

  1. I find considerable solace in the paucity of second-hand math books. It suggests that people who purchase books on mathematics view them as lasting treasures.

  2. It was strange to see my two ‘A’ level maths text books (I mean the editions as opposed to my personal copies) on sale in one shop – perhaps I should admit defeat and buy them.

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