Recently, the phrase “free as in beer vs. free as in speech” caught my attention. It was the first I had heard of this way of distinguishing two English meanings of free, and how it particularly applies to what is accessible on the internet. The explanation I found is here.
The new AMS Open Math Notes site is definitely “free as in beer.” There is no cost to users who browse, upload, or download Notes. It is a place for Notes that are, for a variety of reasons, not published (typically because they are in unpolished form but are at a stage where they can benefit from public view). Notes are submitted by authors and vetted by AMS editors and advisory board members on the basis of completeness, readability, and interest to students, teachers, and researchers in mathematics.
So what about “free as in speech”? Users may only download PDF files for free, but they may not freely change and then redistribute the contents. Authors who post on AMS Open Math Notes retain all rights to their Notes. Of course, they may make their source files freely available on their own webpages or on other free posting sites. (If an author decides to “publish” the Notes commercially, self-publishing or otherwise, then they must withdraw their Notes from the AMS site.)
Let us know what you think of the “free as in beer” vs. “free as in speech” dichotomy for Open Math Notes — examples of both types of posting sites exist on the web. What do you feel are the pros and cons?
Featured Book of the Day
This book is a popular item in the AMS Student Math Library Series, a series dedicated to non-standard math topics accessible to advanced and/or extra curious undergraduates. The book takes students on a tour of a range of advanced topics in mathematics as it displays the far-reaching consequences of the concept of winding number.
The author John Roe has also posted several lecture notes on the AMS Open Math Notes site.