Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the society.

Photo

Cookbook owner's dilemma: buy, borrow, ebook - what's fair?

Cookbook

  • Please log in to reply
38 replies to this topic

#1 Smithy

Smithy
  • host
  • 4,155 posts
  • Location:North Shore of Lake Superior

Posted 03 July 2012 - 12:57 PM

I am an avid cook and ardent reader, and I have a terminal weakness for cookbooks in particular. My bookshelves are starting to groan despite frequent culling. Although culling helps the space issue (it would help more if I had more discipline) the purchases don't help my bank balance. In the process of thinking about cost, weight and space, I've started an internal debate about, among other things, conservation of resources (including but not limited to money) and fairness to authors. I bet I'm not the only one who thinks about these things. I'd like to hear from some of you.

Borrowing from the library solves both the space and cost issues, and allows me to "test drive" a book. Sometimes a few uses show me that I don't want the book after all; other times I end up buying it to have for my very own. If I end up buying the book new, whether in electronic or bound form, the author (and everyone in the publishing chain) presumably gets something. As far as I know, authors and publishers only benefit from a library's purchase once, so my borrowing the book doesn't help them.

Second-hand book sales help my bank account and address conservation of resources, but they don't help the author, publisher, et alia one bit. I purchase a fair amount from Better World Books or other charitable organizations, so that helps assuage my conscience. But it doesn't help Robb Walsh, Katy Loeb, Paula Wolfert, Lynne Rosetto Kasper...the people who actually generate the content I'm enjoying.

Retail purchases seem to be the only way to contribute to the continuance of publishing, but then I'm back to killing trees, using energy, taking up space, and damaging my finances. The resources can be conserved somewhat with eBooks. I have a few of those. I like their compactness and portability, but otherwise I don't find eCookbooks as satisfying - partly because they don't seem to have effective indexing yet and partly because I like the feel and smell of physical books. Besides, a spill or stain is a badge of honor for a physical book...not so for electronics.

What say you, cookbook collectors and writers? Does anyone else wrestle with this balancing act?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown


#2 Panaderia Canadiense

Panaderia Canadiense
  • participating member
  • 2,074 posts
  • Location:Ambato, Ecuador

Posted 03 July 2012 - 01:34 PM

Speaking as somebody who hauled about 3 tons of books halfway across the planet, I'd have to say that there is a definite advantage to digital editions.... This said, I do love the feel and smell and general haul-into-the-kitchen-and-get-messy-and-stained-ness of actual physical books. (I hauled some generationally handed-down cookbooks with me, and I can tell which recipes gran and great-gran used to use because those pages are the ones with grease spatters and smears of cocoa on 'em). There's something very special about the bookness of books, and I think that's probably what keeps print alive these days.

Nowadays, I generally go the eCookbook route while I'm in the testing phase, and then take the tested eCookbook on a disc to my local printer and have it printed out (in b/w), coil bound, and given a plastic cover, if I'm in love with it enough to want to repeat recipes. I'm also very big on finding the PayPal information of cookbook authors and making donations when I print their eCookbooks.
  • furzzy likes this
Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.
My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

#3 Smithy

Smithy
  • host
  • 4,155 posts
  • Location:North Shore of Lake Superior

Posted 04 July 2012 - 08:57 AM

"The bookness of books". That says it all; thanks for a wonderful phrase!

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown


#4 judiu

judiu
  • participating member
  • 2,245 posts
  • Location:South Florida

Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:06 AM

PC, that's dead effin' rapid brilliant! (to borrow an Irishism... :laugh:)
"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

#5 MelissaH

MelissaH
  • participating member
  • 1,435 posts
  • Location:Central New York via NEO, CO, Pittsburgh

Posted 05 July 2012 - 06:13 AM

My biggest gripe about cookbooks on Kindle (and its ilk) is the inability to easily print recipes. I don't like to bring my electronic devices into the kitchen, just as I don't like to bring my good cookbooks into the kitchen. Page breaks in Kindle books aren't always as well thought out as page breaks in paper-and-ink books, and I get annoyed when I need to handwrite a recipe that is already in an electronic format.

I do like the ease of searching in an electronic edition, although that is not by any stretch a substitute for a good index!

MelissaH
MelissaH
Oswego, NY
Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

#6 Panaderia Canadiense

Panaderia Canadiense
  • participating member
  • 2,074 posts
  • Location:Ambato, Ecuador

Posted 05 July 2012 - 03:02 PM

Melissa - the easy solution to this (and incidentally the one I use) is to write out the recipe I want to test on a piece of A5 paper and magnet it onto a convenient surface. That way it a) doesn't get gooey (well, not usually anyhoo) and b) avoids me having to try and print it or barring that get my computer gooey. (This has happened to me - it's why I no longer have a Kindle Fire.)
Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.
My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

#7 Pam R

Pam R
  • manager
  • 6,840 posts
  • Location:Winnipeg, Canada

Posted 06 July 2012 - 09:24 AM

I struggle with this. I used to pick up interesting books at places like TJ Maxx at cut rate prices and then I'd feel bad about it knowing the author doesn't get their cut (and have seen one of my own books in the Canadian version of TJ Maxx which made me rethink things). Same thing at bookstores that sell books for 70% off the list price or more. When the books are being sold for so little, the author generally does not get much in royalties (I mean, they get even less than they would normally, which in most cases is just a small percentage of the sale price). I now try not to succumb to temptation.

I do love real books - I love to buy books and curl up on the couch and read through them like novels and I still buy plenty. But, I am trying to get used to ebooks. One solution I've found is printing off a recipe from an ebook to take into the kitchen with me -- and it's actually a time saver because I'd often write out a recipe from a cookbook to take into the kitchen rather than taking the book. I use Kindle and using their cloud reader (https://read.amazon.com/) I just copy and paste a recipe into word to print it out.

I don't think I'll ever stop buying real printed cookbooks, but I'm learning to work with the e-versions. And, as a writer, I highly encourage everybody buy books or e-books at full price. :wink:

#8 MelissaH

MelissaH
  • participating member
  • 1,435 posts
  • Location:Central New York via NEO, CO, Pittsburgh

Posted 06 July 2012 - 01:04 PM

Melissa - the easy solution to this (and incidentally the one I use) is to write out the recipe I want to test on a piece of A5 paper and magnet it onto a convenient surface. That way it a) doesn't get gooey (well, not usually anyhoo) and b) avoids me having to try and print it or barring that get my computer gooey. (This has happened to me - it's why I no longer have a Kindle Fire.)

PC, that's exactly what I've been doing for years. I just violently object to having to copy (either by hand or by typing out) a recipe that's already in an electronic format that cannot easily be printed, such as Kindle!

MelissaH
MelissaH
Oswego, NY
Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

#9 SylviaLovegren

SylviaLovegren
  • participating member
  • 1,126 posts
  • Location:Toronto, ON

Posted 06 July 2012 - 02:35 PM

I purchase a fair amount from Better World Books or other charitable organizations, so that helps assuage my conscience.


Just so you know -- AND THIS IS A HUGE PET PEEVE -- Better World Books is NOT a charity. They donate the books they can't sell to various charitable organizations, just like most large booksellers do. They get the books FOR FREE from libraries and institutions -- unlike most other booksellers -- make a tidy profit and dump the dud books in 3rd world countries.

Feel free to buy from them, of course, since they do get wonderful books and sell them very cheaply (thus driving down the cost of books for booksellers who have to buy their stock), but realize they're NOT a charity. If you want to hear some real profanity, talk to used book dealers about BWB and their "charity".
/end of rant

Libraries, by the way, pay the author/publisher a licensing fee which is more than just the price of one copy. So borrowing a book from the library is a good way to go -- and encourages the library to get more of that author's books.

If a book is still in print it's a nice thing to buy a new copy (whether ebook or actual), but just buying and using books is a good thing and promotes reading and writing, both. Keeps the world of books up and running, one way or another!

#10 Panaderia Canadiense

Panaderia Canadiense
  • participating member
  • 2,074 posts
  • Location:Ambato, Ecuador

Posted 06 July 2012 - 03:26 PM


Melissa - the easy solution to this (and incidentally the one I use) is to write out the recipe I want to test on a piece of A5 paper and magnet it onto a convenient surface. That way it a) doesn't get gooey (well, not usually anyhoo) and b) avoids me having to try and print it or barring that get my computer gooey. (This has happened to me - it's why I no longer have a Kindle Fire.)

PC, that's exactly what I've been doing for years. I just violently object to having to copy (either by hand or by typing out) a recipe that's already in an electronic format that cannot easily be printed, such as Kindle!

MelissaH


See, and I've also been doing it for years (even before ebooks came around) simply because I can note my tweaks to the recipe on the handwritten copy, which saves me from writing in the actual cookbook (something that I violently object to in most cases).
Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.
My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

#11 Lindacakes

Lindacakes
  • participating member
  • 934 posts
  • Location:Brooklyn, New York

Posted 12 July 2012 - 02:45 PM

I work in digital publishing. I recommend this article from the New Yorker on the subject of the lawsuit between some publishers and Amazon:

Paper Trail -- http://www.newyorker...fa_fact_auletta

We humans tend to make consumption decisions based on a lot of factors, but personal convenience is very high on the list. Often we choose personal convenience over what may be best for humanity.

I believe that there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when it will not be possible for you to purchase a printed book. That point could be argued quite a bit, note the print-on-demand example above. I also believe that there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when digital access will be more expensive than what we enjoy now, particularly the free model.

We are living in the early stages of the transition and in these early stages what will happen economically is that readers will be . . . encouraged . . . to make a digital decision. Publishers are engaged in this early transition and are working very hard to move their business profits into a digital sector. There are many positive aspects to this. There are also negative aspects.

The saving a tree argument is a very attractive one and one I heartily support -- I won't let a catalog come in to my house for a variety of reasons, and this is one of them. I don't know the statistics on how many trees are chopped down to make books rather than say . . . cereal boxes. But think about this: the environmental impact of dead technology. It also carries a cost. Trees grow back if properly cared for, but computers don't breakdown in the landfill. Most people hang on to their books forever and throw out their computers every few years.

Authors are already being replaced with open source content (think Wikipedia).

If you love books, buy books. Lots of books. You won't always have the opportunity because the supply will be limited. Pay attention to the source of your digital content. Do you own it or are you renting it? For how long? Are you allowed to print it? If you pull recipes from online sources, don't assume they'll always be there for you. Copy and paste the content into a Word file. Back your files up. Sign up for Eat Your Books and use your computer to enhance your print collection.

And also remember that the microwave did not put the oven out of business.
  • furzzy likes this
I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

#12 HungryC

HungryC
  • participating member
  • 1,503 posts
  • Location:greater New Orleans

Posted 12 July 2012 - 03:01 PM

Libraries aren't always paying extra for most books purchased--in most cases, they're getting a price similar to Amazon's from a jobber. In some cases, they're buying direct from Amazon or local retailers offering a discount for volume purchases.

Authors are compensated up front through their advances...the typical cookbook never "earns out" the advance (ie, sells sufficient copies to generate additional royalties), so my choice to use the public library isn't exactly cutting into anyone's potential income. In fact, I'd wager that public library copies SELL more books by introducing readers/cooks to new titles....haven't we all checked out the same book 25 times, only to finally purchase our own copy once we realized how great said book really was?

Frankly, I don't feel much angst regarding discounted book purchases; do you feel angst buying discounted fruit or meat? Why would I feel BAD about using a public library? My tax dollars supported the purchase of the book in the first place, now you want me to feel bad about using it? If not for library purchases across America, many cookbooks would have virtually ZERO copies sold.

I routinely buy used cookbooks. No, the author isn't getting an additional cut of my recycled purchase. That's life. Books aren't like software; the purchaser is entitled to read the damn thing as many times as he/she likes, to pass it on, to resell it, to rip out the pages and make a collage. (One fear I have of digital publishing is that the e-books aren't as readily transferable as traditional books, so we may end up with LESS information freely shared when everything goes digital.)

Yes, I'll (probably) live to see the printed & distributed book go by the wayside. But we have centuries of used books floating around the planet, and they'll continue to be traded, resold, and used for a few more centuries before they all disintegrate into dust. Meanwhile, I'll keep checking out books and e-books, buying new and used books, and looking forward to the day when e-books have some sort of simple, direct markup capabilities so I can make notes on the damn things!

Edited by HungryC, 12 July 2012 - 03:03 PM.


#13 Katie Meadow

Katie Meadow
  • participating member
  • 1,360 posts
  • Location:Bay Area / East Bay

Posted 13 July 2012 - 10:50 AM

Hungry C I'm with you. Supporting the printing and book industry is a great thing, whether you can afford to buy books or, like me, you are a heavy library user. I try to find a cookbook I'm interested in at the library; if I like just a few recipes I use my copier. If I find the book readable and fun and full of stuff I like, I try to buy a used copy.

One thing about most cookbooks: they are relatively well made, decently bound, meant to take some abuse. Sources such as Bookfinders makes buying cookbooks affordable; condition of used books is described pretty honestly at most sites that participate. Many used cookbooks are in very good condition since most people don't get rid of a cookbook they use heavily.

So far I don't have an e-reader. Most of what I read is fiction, and I can see how it would be a lot easier than what I do, which is take at least two hard-bound library books to NY every time I fly, which is frequently. But I no longer feel a need to "own" fiction, and I read enough so that it would be a good chunk of money to buy my books, even at only $9.99 a shot. When it comes to cookbooks I love owning them, but I recently got rid of a lot of them that I rarely use, and that felt good. I donated them to the library.

#14 repoman

repoman
  • participating member
  • 75 posts

Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:04 AM

I kind of hope that chefs start bailing on the publishing industry and Amazon and just self-release e-books. Its happening in the music industry and recently Louis CKself-released his latest comedy album for 5 bucks and made a ton of money. I would imagine that a chef could put the book in their site for 9.99 and make more money than they would had they went the traditional route.
Explore the food, beverages, and people of Wisconsin EatWisconsin.com

#15 janeer

janeer
  • participating member
  • 1,255 posts

Posted 14 August 2012 - 07:02 PM

If I know for sure I want a particular cookbook, I buy it new; if unsure, I borrow it from a library or look at it in a bookstore first, then buy if I want it; if it was marginal or I looked and didn't buy at the time, I often later pick it up used from an online seller at a great price. Library and other book sales (church fairs, etc) are great serendipitous sources of used and unusual cookbooks. I love my Kindle but never buy the digital. It just seems wrong. Though since I divide my time between two houses and don't want to lug books, I do wish Amazon would offer a hard+digital package at an attractive price. I emailed them about this once. I would certainly buy digital for travel purposes along with the paper book.

#16 Shalmanese

Shalmanese
  • participating member
  • 3,522 posts
  • Location:San Francisco

Posted 17 August 2012 - 06:16 AM

I kind of hope that chefs start bailing on the publishing industry and Amazon and just self-release e-books. Its happening in the music industry and recently Louis CKself-released his latest comedy album for 5 bucks and made a ton of money. I would imagine that a chef could put the book in their site for 9.99 and make more money than they would had they went the traditional route.


Grant Achatz is doing this with the quarterly Next ebooks. Each ebook is $4.99 IIRC.
PS: I am a guy.

#17 Smithy

Smithy
  • host
  • 4,155 posts
  • Location:North Shore of Lake Superior

Posted 22 August 2012 - 09:08 PM

If I know for sure I want a particular cookbook, I buy it new; if unsure, I borrow it from a library or look at it in a bookstore first, then buy if I want it; if it was marginal or I looked and didn't buy at the time, I often later pick it up used from an online seller at a great price. Library and other book sales (church fairs, etc) are great serendipitous sources of used and unusual cookbooks. I love my Kindle but never buy the digital. It just seems wrong. Though since I divide my time between two houses and don't want to lug books, I do wish Amazon would offer a hard+digital package at an attractive price. I emailed them about this once. I would certainly buy digital for travel purposes along with the paper book.



I love the idea of getting the digital version along with the print copy. That would be a worthy value-addition for me, for travel purposes.



I kind of hope that chefs start bailing on the publishing industry and Amazon and just self-release e-books. Its happening in the music industry and recently Louis CKself-released his latest comedy album for 5 bucks and made a ton of money. I would imagine that a chef could put the book in their site for 9.99 and make more money than they would had they went the traditional route.


Grant Achatz is doing this with the quarterly Next ebooks. Each ebook is $4.99 IIRC.


I see the economic incentive for self-publishing, but I wonder to what extent overall quality would suffer if this became the norm. The (admittedly few) writers I know, some of them cookbook writers, give a lot of credit to their editors. Photography, layout and indexing are also factors I can think of in producing a high-quality book in print or e-book format. There must be some writers who can do it all on their own and get it right, but I doubt they're in the majority.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown


#18 Keith Orr

Keith Orr
  • participating member
  • 118 posts
  • Location:The Great Pacific Northwest

Posted 09 September 2012 - 06:50 PM

With most cookbooks, I check them out from the library. If I like it after having it for 3 weeks or I find myself renewing it repeatedly I buy it. Can't afford the money or the space to purchase all the shiny things that get my attention.

When I buy, I usually buy the book locally to support the independent book sellers. I'm fortunate to have Powell's books in town and often have the option of buying used.

#19 Pierogi

Pierogi
  • participating member
  • 1,476 posts
  • Location:Long Beach, CA

Posted 09 September 2012 - 09:23 PM

Now that I've got a decent (who am I kidding.....let's say, *extensive*) cookbook library, I find I'm much more selective. I check them out from the library, and read them. If they hit me, they go on the "must buy eventually" list. If they don't, no loss, other than time. In this fashion, I determined that Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table" and Andrea Ngyuen's "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" are must haves, while Fuschia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty" is not. If I can find the ones I want at a local bookseller, that's the route I'll go, but if I have to, well, there's always the Evil Amazon. At least I'm still buying print books.

Don't have an e-reader, don't intend to have an e-reader, and even if I succumb to an e-reader, I'll still buy cookbooks in print (as I will food magazines). Call me a Luddite, but I like print and paper. I especially like being able to make notes about what I liked/hated or what worked/didn't on the printed recipe. Since I don't have a scanner, or a copier, or an unlimited budget to make copies at the library/UPS store, this is what works for me.
--Roberta--
"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley
Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

#20 Darienne

Darienne
  • participating member
  • 4,779 posts
  • Location:Rolling Hills of Cavan, Ontario

Posted 10 September 2012 - 05:15 AM

Ditto Pierogi for me now. Except I would add Inter-library loan to the library list.
Darienne


learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

#21 TheCulinaryLibrary

TheCulinaryLibrary
  • participating member
  • 134 posts
  • Location:Fleurieu Peninsular, South Australia

Posted 10 September 2012 - 12:23 PM

Deciding what to cook is equally enjoyable for me browsing a stack of my books (old & new) or searching google images for visual inspiration. I use my e-reader for most stuff but not cookbooks, too messy having electronic devices in the kitchen. The problem with writing recipes from the computer is I loose them afterwards, like one particularly fabulous pineapple coconut mousse cake recipe I made but haven't found again. Amazon, which is far from evil and the exact opposite infact, has its 'look inside' feature which I find is great because lets me try recipes before I buy, like Tartine etc. 90% of my stuff and 100% of my books I buy online now because I can't stand the much higher retail shop prices and all that rude inneficiency anymore. I might see a cook book in a store but I will aways buy it online. No surprises retail malls are failing. I guess books and food blogs, forums, magazines etc are like clothes for me, sometimes I find something, accidentally usually, and wonder how I ever lived without it, then I use and abuse it till it's ragged, soft and splotchy. And please don't worry about food/cookbook authors because when you have a passion you just can't help yourself and speaking from experience (of both the old and new systems) the publishing process and author royalties just keep get better and better thanks solely to the big online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. and certainly not to traditional publishers/editors who are also packing their bags for shopping mall heaven or going to work for Amazon, same thing really. Melbourne Artshub, an online Mag, which reaches 30-40,000 readers weekly just published an article I wrote ( see it at theculinarylibrary.com) , about my experience of being an author in both systems. I know people are thinking about and interested in this issue because so far its been the most red article of 2012.

#22 Jon Tseng

Jon Tseng
  • participating member
  • 2,077 posts

Posted 12 September 2012 - 10:13 AM

Hmmm. Not sure where you are, but in the UK authors receive a payment from the library system based on the number of times their book is borrowed to help compensate them... http://en.wikipedia....c_Lending_Right

So you solution is simple. Move to London and borrow!

Thinking about it otherwise I would wager than much of the deforestation is caused more by packaging than by books. I can't imagine book sales (especially in these kindle-ed out days) are a major source of paper consumption up against other uses.

ebooks I fear are going to take over the world (but for the moment I'm content to lug by 270-odd cookbooks around with me). However until the technology improves significantly they are not going to overtake the full colour large-format experience of a cookbook. Plus I don't think they do a waterproof, flourproof Kindle... yet!

J
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

#23 kfr1960

kfr1960
  • participating member
  • 1 posts

Posted 15 November 2012 - 12:26 PM



Melissa - the easy solution to this (and incidentally the one I use) is to write out the recipe I want to test on a piece of A5 paper and magnet it onto a convenient surface. That way it a) doesn't get gooey (well, not usually anyhoo) and b) avoids me having to try and print it or barring that get my computer gooey. (This has happened to me - it's why I no longer have a Kindle Fire.)

PC, that's exactly what I've been doing for years. I just violently object to having to copy (either by hand or by typing out) a recipe that's already in an electronic format that cannot easily be printed, such as Kindle!

MelissaH


See, and I've also been doing it for years (even before ebooks came around) simply because I can note my tweaks to the recipe on the handwritten copy, which saves me from writing in the actual cookbook (something that I violently object to in most cases).


I understand your point about writing in the actual cookbooks, but I changed my mind on that after locating all of my Grandmother's cookbooks, they had stains and smudges on the pages, but best of all, they had her notes, tweaks and changes that were invaluable to me as I attempt to carry on her culinary legacy in our family.

#24 radtek

radtek
  • participating member
  • 291 posts
  • Location:San Antonio, Texas

Posted 15 November 2012 - 03:57 PM

All good points.

I was a supporter of e-ink but absolutely love my kindle app on my tablet. The only thing I hate- and suspect the publishers love is that people can't loan out a copy of the book. There's ways around it but not easy.

With a tablet's color screen cook-books make more sense than on the grey 6" e-ink screen. However, I like to have a physical cookbook there that I can flip through, write in and stick notes to keep places for favorite recipes and techniques. The same goes for manuals. So I just ordered hardcover copies of Momofuku and AB's Les Halles cookbook and will wait a few days while they could have been delivered immediately. I can annotate and loan them out to my heart's content.

I think the library and discount/used bookstores are a great resource. Probably should have looked for both of the above there before pulling the trigger on Amazon.

Shouldn't be about what is fair- what is best for each individual counts the most.

#25 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,485 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 13 December 2012 - 03:34 PM

I have been going through many of the boxes and footlockers in which I have a lot of stored cookbooks and have discovered quite a few duplicates, many that have never been opened (because I used a second copy) and are virtually like new.
I'm putting some up for auction, including a couple of fairly rare ones. (Secrets of the Still by Grace Firth it even has a recipe for alcohol fuel) and am going to offer my best copy of California Hospitality that has TWO dust jackets, the inner one well protected by the outer.
It's difficult to part with some of them but I have simply got to make more room and this is going to be a long, painful experience - it's like parting with a favorite pet - something else that I find near impossible.

Edited by andiesenji, 13 December 2012 - 03:36 PM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#26 jrshaul

jrshaul
  • participating member
  • 485 posts

Posted 15 December 2012 - 01:01 AM

I will on occasion buy a cookbook, but the frequency of unreliable, undesirable, or poorly explained recipes has lead me to simply copy out what I want from borrowed volumes. I can't justify retaining two kilograms of dead tree based on one really good recipe for tagiatelle. Works on technique are more valuable to me; the variability in ingredients and conditions makes the "why" frequently far more useful than the "what."

What I do purchase is used. I appreciate the thought of supporting an author, but given that I purchase 90% of my non-food household goods from Dollar Tree, I can say that they would not have received the royalty regardless.

I move often enough to justify not owning a significant collection of books. The low cost of secondhand scanners has made it increasingly tempting to hacksaw off the binding off of my favorite texts, feed them through, and run OCR software on the result to create a searchable PDF.

(A cheap keyboard with a sanitary membrane connected to a laptop perched atop the refridgerator is an efficient solution to computing in the kitchen.)

As for digital texts? I'll buy them, but only on the condition I can strip the copy protection and use them as I wish. Ownership rights are meaningless as long as there's someone publishing how to moot them.

Authors are already being replaced with open source content (think Wikipedia).


Is this such a bad thing? The wonders of hyperlinks and Google make it trivial to achieve what was once the most expensive and significant element of a good cookbook : Validation. My mother spent good money on the Silver Palate cookbooks because she knew the contents would not be without merit; I can say the same of many online recipes by finding others who have used them.

Open Source has done wonders for software. Ten thousand eyes are almost invariably better than two. Why not open source our cookbooks as well?

Edited by jrshaul, 15 December 2012 - 01:05 AM.


#27 Mjx

Mjx
  • manager
  • 6,578 posts

Posted 15 December 2012 - 03:44 AM

. . . . Ten thousand eyes are almost invariably better than two.



Only if those eyes belong to not-idiots.

Unfortunately, this is seldom the case, and let's face it: ten thousand imbeciles is five thousand times worse than two. All you need to do is to go to Yahoo! Answers to see that in action. Technology may have changed, but humans are exaclty what they were, only they can can now share their wisdom in a way that was once impossible; today's self-styled pundit may have been yesterday's village idiot.

Open sourcing may have done wonders for software development, but it's not truly open; you need to be able to code to contribute, so the pool of actual contributors is relatively small, compared to the pool of people adding their two cents to wikipedia, for example. The fact that anyone can contribute to wikipedia it makes hideously unreliable.

Open source source recipes? No thanks, unless I'm well-acquainted the people who happen to be contributing the advice I'm reading and considering acting on.


  • patti_h likes this

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org


#28 jrshaul

jrshaul
  • participating member
  • 485 posts

Posted 15 December 2012 - 11:17 PM

Open source source recipes? No thanks, unless I'm well-acquainted the people who happen to be contributing the advice I'm reading and considering acting on.


Recipes share the same fundamental problem as software: If the instructions are flawed, the process will produce rubbish.

The organizations that produce software (including the Unix core of the Macbook I'm typing on) are therefore based very heavily on peer review. Code from all sources is screened through both preliminary testing and the watchful eye of experts before actually being used to run, say, the New York Stock Exchange. Overall, it works quite well.

While there's no admissions organization for potato spaetzle, it's possible to obtain very similar function. Many authors proudly link to others who document their recipes, and any comments are frequently filled with such references. Even in the case of more baroque configurations, it's trivial to google the URL to see if others link to it.

I've found some of my favorite recipes by reviewing the results of others with similar preferences to my own. The combination of peer review and multiple documentation I find very effective indeed.

#29 Mjx

Mjx
  • manager
  • 6,578 posts

Posted 16 December 2012 - 03:27 AM


Open source source recipes? No thanks, unless I'm well-acquainted the people who happen to be contributing the advice I'm reading and considering acting on.



Recipes share the same fundamental problem as software: If the instructions are flawed, the process will produce rubbish.

The organizations that produce software (including the Unix core of the Macbook I'm typing on) are therefore based very heavily on peer review. Code from all sources is screened through both preliminary testing and the watchful eye of experts before actually being used to run, say, the New York Stock Exchange. Overall, it works quite well.

While there's no admissions organization for potato spaetzle, it's possible to obtain very similar function. Many authors proudly link to others who document their recipes, and any comments are frequently filled with such references. Even in the case of more baroque configurations, it's trivial to google the URL to see if others link to it.

I've found some of my favorite recipes by reviewing the results of others with similar preferences to my own. The combination of peer review and multiple documentation I find very effective indeed.



If it works for you, that's great!
I find the open source format intrinsically vulnerable to certain flaws, including someone 'fixing' a previously solid recipe (e.g. changing weights to 'more accessible' volumes, and really blowing the conversions), effectively reducing it to uselessness; and while it's easy to see whether or not someone has linked to something, this doesn't guarantee that they've tried it (it my just be on their 'must try' list).
I do research professionally, much of it online, and I have to admit that the idea of trawling through the internet swamp to find recipes isn't particularly attractive; I prefer to go more closed-pool for that. So, most of what I do in the kitchen relies on a tiny, carefully selected range of books that are heavily focusd on the science of cooking, augmented by past experience, and a file of recipes and notes that I've built up over time.


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org


#30 nickrey

nickrey
  • society donor
  • 2,263 posts
  • Location:Sydney, Australia

Posted 16 December 2012 - 05:27 AM

I think this depends on your level of experience as much as anything. Over lots of years you can assess a recipe and know if it is close to what it should be. Even then, recipes will always require final adjustment that depends on the cook. I like the idea of crowd sourcing because it tends to approach a point of agreement. This is vastly different from taking the opinion of one cook: which is why wikipedia works for the educated punter.

With all of the mistakes in recipe books plus the well-known fact that restaurant chefs don't measure and write scaled-down estimates of their recipes that may or not work we need to take all recipes with, dare I say it, a pinch of salt.

Relying on old favourites simply means that you will always cook old favourites; not that this is a bad thing but progress is founded on mistakes, not on comfort.

Edited by nickrey, 16 December 2012 - 05:28 AM.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Cookbook