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A few new books

I’ve updated our books page a bit, adding the new books I know of at this point, adding links to authors sites and Google Books samples, etc. Please let me know what we’re missing.

A book I know nothing about, but from updating the books page I think I’ll get, is the OpenGL 4.0 Shading Language Cookbook. A reviewer on Gamasutra gives it strong praise, as do all the Amazon customer reviews.

One I’ve left off for now is Programming GPUs, which I expect is focused on computing with the GPU (no rendering), judging from the author’s background as a quant (his bio’s cute). I also left off a heckuva lot of books on using the Unity engine, to keep the list focused on direct programming vs. using higher-level SDKs.

Along the way I noticed a nice little blog called Video Game Math, by Fletcher Dunn and Ian Parberry, who recently released a second edition of their 3D Math Primer for Graphics and Game Development. Which is pretty good, by the way. My mini-review/endorsement: “With solid theory and references, along with practical advice borne from decades of experience, all presented in an informal and demystifying style, Dunn & Parberry provide an accessible and useful approach to the key mathematical operations needed in 3D computer graphics.” There’s an extensive Google Books sample of much of the first few chapters.

In the “old but awesome and free” category this time is Light And Color – A Golden Guide. Check it out before there’s some takedown notice sent out. Yes, it’s small, it’s colorful, and some bits are dated, but there are some pretty good analogies and explanations in there. No kidding. Lots more Golden Guides here (including, incredibly, this one).

I did find that there’s a new edition of “Real Time Rendering out, which was a surprise. The subtitle is the best: “Aalib, Aces of ANSI Art”. It’s even sold by Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. Happily, I couldn’t find it on Amazon, so maybe they’re scaling back on carrying these so-called books. This particular book is a paperback, and more expensive than the real thing (I like to think our’s is real – it’s the dash between “Real” and “Time” that keeps it real for me). Or I should say it’s more expensive unless you buy ours from these “double your intelligence or no money back” sellers. I believe this phenomenon is from computers tracking competitors’ prices and each one jacking up prices in response.

In case you missed my posts on Betascript Publishing, go here – short version is that they use a computer program to find related articles on Wikipedia, put on a cover (usually the most creative part of the process), and sell it. I’d be interested to know which book is better, their computer-generated one or my own Wikipedia-derived followup, GGGG:RTRtR (Game GPU Graphics Gems: Real-Time Rendering the Redux), reviewed by me here. I really should read my own book some day, there look to be some interesting Wikipedia articles in there.

Finally, I like the concept of book autopsies:

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I’ve learnt of two new books in the past few weeks, worth mentioning as books to check out at SIGGRAPH (or using Amazon’s “Look Inside”, of course):

iPhone 3D Programming: Developing Graphical Applications with OpenGL ES, by Philip Rideout, O’Reilly Press. A better title might have been “Programming OpenGL ES on the iPhone”, as it focuses on OpenGL ES more than on the iPhone per se. Which is fine; there are already lots of iPhone programming books, and almost none that are focused more on OpenGL ES itself (the only other OpenGL ES 2.0 book I know of is this one). The book is C++ oriented, with some Objective C as needed for glue. From my brief skim, this looks like a well-illustrated, readable guide that hits many different effects: reflection maps, skinning, antialiasing, etc. That said, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to program on any mobile devices, so can’t give an expert review. When I do give it a try, this looks like the book I’ll read first.

Update: A draft of this book is free on the web, see it here. It looks to be essentially the same as the published work (but with some hand-drawn figures), and is nicer in some ways, as the pages allow color images (always good for a graphics book).

Light & Skin Interactions: Simulations for Computer Graphics Applications, by Gladimir V. G. Baranoski and Aravind Krishnaswamy, Morgan-Kaufmann Press. This one’s out of my league as a casual skim. Paging through and seeing “the eumelanin absorption coefficient is given by…” and “Scattering in either the stratum corneum or epidermis…” shows me how little I know of the world in general. Anyway, interesting to see a whole book about this critical type of material. Searching through it, there’s minimal coverage of, for example, d’Eon and Luebke’s work, so I can’t say it has much direct application to interactive computer graphics at this point.

That’s all for the real books…

The half a book (at best): Game GPU Graphics Gems: Real-Time Rendering The Redux (aka GGGG:RTRTR), by anyone who wants to edit it. When I “edited” the quasi-book Another Introduction to Ray Tracing a few months ago, I thought back then that I’d start another book for SIGGRAPH. Like the first stunning collection, this was an hour of work gathering Wikipedia articles (hardest part was choosing a cover). There are plenty more articles to gather about interactive rendering, and you’re most welcome to add any good ones you find to this book, make your own, etc. – it’s a wiki page, after all. More seriously, I like having a single, tight page of links to Wikipedia articles about interactive rendering, vs. wandering around and haphazardly seeing what’s there.

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I was waiting around a bit for my younger son’s doctor’s appointment this morning, so I decided to edit a book. I finished it just now, it’s called Another Introduction to Ray Tracing. It’s 471 pages in book form. You can download it for free, or order a paperback copy from PediaPress for $22.84 plus shipping. I won’t earn a dime from it, but since it took me less than two hours to make, no problem.

So what’s happening here? Due to investigating Alphascript and Betascript publishing a month ago, reporting it on Slashdot, and following up on a lot of great comments, I learnt a number of interesting tidbits. Here’s a rundown.

First, VDM Publishing itself is sort of a vanity press, but with no cost to the author. It seeks out authors of PhD theses and similar, asking for permission to publish. This is not all that unreasonable: because the works are only published on demand, the authors do not have to pay anything, they even get a few hardcopies for free. Here’s an example from our field that I reported on in February. That said, it’s mostly a win for VDM Publishing, who charge steep prices for the resulting works. Such not-quite-books mix in with other books on Amazon. It takes a bit of searching to realize that the work is a thesis and likely could be downloaded for free. A bit misleading, perhaps, but not all that horrifying. Caveat Emptor.

VDM Publishing also has an imprint called LAP, Lambert Academic Press, which does the same thing, publishing theses such as this one by Nasim Sedaghat. With a little Googling you can find Nasim, and then find the related paper for free.

VDM’s imprints Alphascript and Betascript Publishing I’ve already described, they’re little more than random repackagers of Wikipedia articles. Here’s an example book. I posted one-star reviews for a few of these books on Amazon; what’s funny is that the owner of the firm actually responded to my criticism (with a one-size-fits-all response in slightly broken English).

Four weeks ago Alphascript had 38,909 and Betascript 18,289 books listed on Amazon. To my surprise they now have 39,817 and 18,295 books, a total increase of only (only!) 914 new books – looks like they’re slowing down. They’ll have to work hard to catch up with Philip M. Parker’s 107,182 books or his publishing firm ICON Group International, with 473,668 books. The New York Times has an interesting article about this guy.

Betascript Publishing has two books found on Amazon related to ray tracing: Ray Tracing (Graphics) and Rasterization (which includes a section on ray tracing). The ray tracing book is 88 pages long and $46, more than 50 cents a page. My book, at $22.84 for 471 pages, is less than a nickel a page. So my new book’s better per pound. I actually worked a little compiling my book, making logical groupings, picking relevant articles, creating chapter headings, the whole nine yards (never did figure out how to make a cover from an existing Wikipedia image, though). The exercise showed me the limits of Wikipedia as a book-making resource: the individual articles are fine for what they are, some are wonderful, and editing them in a somewhat logical flow has some merit. However, there’s no coherence to the final product and there are large gaps between one article and the next. How to generate rays for a given camera? Sorry, not in my book.

Still, it was great to learn of PediaPress and the ability to make my own Wikipedia book for free. Poking around their site, I even found a book on 3D computer graphics, called 3D Computer Graphics (catchy, neh?). Seeing others making books, I decided to share my own, so now it’s official. Mind you, I haven’t actually read through my book, nor even really checked the flow of articles – no time for that. I mostly grouped by subject and title after identifying likely pages. That said, I do like having a PDF file of all these articles that I can search through.

Obviously authors are not about to be replaced by Betascript books any time soon. If you want to read a real introduction to the topic, a book like Ray Tracing from the Ground Up might serve you better, even if it is a whole dime a page. This cost/benefit ratio for a good book is something I’ll never get over, that books are sold at prices that are equivalent to the cost for just an hour or two for a computer programmer’s time and yet yield so much in the right hands.

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