The success of the MRES book surprised me. Wolfgang Engel, the late editor of Springer, obviously had a good nose after we first met at the AGU conference in San Francisco in December 2004. Here is the story to the book.
After I had already taught several years of data analysis with MATLAB in the Earth sciences, the idea was to publish the lecture notes as a book. Springer was my first choice: hardcover books, offset printing, generally high reputation. But I had not expected Springer to publish my book, after submitting a few sections of Chapter 8 to the editor Wolfgang Engel at Springer. Who would want to publish a collection of MATLAB recipes that had accumulated on my harddrive over the years?
As a geophysics student I came from Fortran 77. “Numerical Recipes: Numerical Recipes in Fortran 77: The Art of Scientific Computing” was the bible, the famous book by William H. Press, Saul A. Teukolsky, William T. Vetterling, Brian P. Flannery. At the beginning of my doctoral thesis on signal processing in paleoceanography in late 1992, I typed the Fortran 77 code of the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) from the book, compiled it and got as many lines of error messages from the compiler as the FFT code from Numerical Recipes had. At this time, a friend and physicist recommended to use MATLAB instead of Fortran 77.
This is certainly no criticism of Numerical Recipes, on the contrary. My respect for the book by Press and coauthors is reflected in the title of my books, “MATLAB Recipes …”, as said in the preface of the 1st edition of MRES. It is rather a criticism of my ability to type Fortran code without errors. MATLAB provides a function fft, in addition to numerous other functions to calculate a periodogram, to filter and devonvolve times series – all I needed to complete my doctoral thesis in a short time.
But – back to the question, who would buy my book? The first review of the book by Thomas A. Jones for the journal Computers & Geosciences after the first edition in 2006 appeared on the bookshelf, was terrible. “I am not sure what to say about the book.”, that was his conclusion – and I was very disappointed. He was right in remarking that the book needs professional proofreading. The 1st edition was full of typing errors, swapped formulas, even the MATLAB code was not flawless.
A lot has happened since then. The 2nd edition appeared a year after the 1st edition, with new material and errors corrected. Professional proofreading by Ed Manning dramatically improved the English – of the books, not this blog! I also very much appreciate the expertise and patience of Elisabeth Sillmann at blaetterwaldDesign who created the complete page design of the book. The 3rd and 4th editions were published in 2010 and 2015, the second book with a similar name, “MATLAB and Design Recipes for Earth Sciences” (with designer Elisabeth Sillmann) appeared in 2012/13.
I also understand that there can be no book without errors. Gerhard Eisbacher, my geology professor from Karlsruhe University, once wrote in his foreword that no book is as good as its second edition. Meanwhile, an Errata file is published online and this blog is constantly updating the content of the book.
And surprise, both books are bestsellers! The MRES book is currently ranked 5th in the Top 100 out of more than 4,600 books in Earth Sciences, Geography & Environment of Springer. The MDRES was ranked 25th in spring 2016 but now it went down the list. We hope that we will finish writing the 2nd edition by Oct 2017 and it will move up the list then.
I get many emails with suggestions for improving the books. On ResearchGate we even had a discussion with many contributors to missing topics when I was working on the 4th edition. Please keep sending me emails with hints of mistakes, improvements or missing topics. There is already a folder “5th Edition” on my hard drive with new ideas!
Press, W.H., Teukolsky, S.A., Vetterling, W.T., Flannery, B.P. (2007) Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing, Third Edition. Cambridge University Press.
Jones, T.A. (2007). Book review of M.H. Trauth, MATLAB Recipes for Earth Sciences, Springer, Berlin, ISBN 3-540-27983-0, 2006. Computers & Geosciences, 33, 138–139.