Why can’t I buy a PDF?

Sometimes I need books.  And sometimes less so. 

I’m about to do something which seems totally unnatural to me.

I’m going to destroy a book. 

I bought it for the purpose.  It’s a cheap modern translation of Quintus Curtius in paperback. 

But I don’t want the paper book at all.  What I want is a PDF, which is searchable, and which I can use for reference.

But I can’t buy one of those.  Nor can I find one on the web.

So … strategy is to buy a paperback, chop it up, feed it through a scanner, and, hey presto, I have a PDF.  Which is what I actually wanted.

Of course I can’t circulate the PDF.  And, under Thayer’s Law,[1] I wouldn’t dream of doing so anyway.

But it would be useful to me to have it, as a reference.

You know, I can imagine a bunch of students doing  this.  And sharing the PDF among them.

So … why can’t I buy a PDF of the thing?

I can buy a Kindle version.  But can I turn that into a PDF?

Perhaps I should experiment…

  1. [1]Bill Thayer is not going to upload an English translation of Quintus Curtius, because QC is used by Latin classes all over the world, and the translation would simply be a way for boys to cheat!

8 thoughts on “Why can’t I buy a PDF?

  1. I lament the loss of any book, but as a critical thinker working on a problem the solution is very insightful and suggests a new paradigm for analytic study.

  2. I’ve very slowly been rethinking my refusal to put QC online in English.

    When I first refused to do so, and for about five years or more, it mattered: proof of the pudding was the unpleasant e‑mails I kept getting, almost always from Italy, peremptorily telling me to provide a translation of some passage or other. About a third of the time they lacked so much as a salutation or even “I want this translated”: just a copy of a Latin paragraph! Almost all the rest, however, included an attempt to persuade me to provide a translation: often flattery (usually very unskilful), often lies to the effect that this particular small paragraph had some powerful meaning for the writer but alas they weren’t able to decipher it, often berating me for not having one. In this last category, not infrequently it would include obscenities; these people were furious. The writers were mostly children, but the occasional older person: a university student for example named Lorenzo Pellas (whose Twitter account at https://twitter.com/#!/fedaynpellas is still characterized by the same continuous vein of crude vulgarity) concluded his rant (“cazzate”, “coglione” etc.) with “Con tutto il rispetto per la sua persona, cresciuta sicuramente cn un’infanzia difficile e continuamente deriso da tutti, essendo uno di quei tipi sfigati, lecca culo ai prof, secchioni, isolati che fa battute tristi (che non trovano le corrispettive risa), la saluto e la ringrazio…”

    And then ▸▸ suddenly the e‑mails stopped. At first I didn’t notice; but once I did, it was easy to trace the reason: someone out there had finally put a translation of Curtius online. A French one, I believe, but with Google it became possible to bypass me altogether. A quelque chose malheur est bon.

    So now my stubbornness is no longer useful: lazy children are copying all their Latin homework off the Web, and the better teachers have changed their methods. One of the best methods I’ve seen adopted was to tell students to find several translations online, compare them, and analyze the merits and shortcomings of each: not only an end-run around the lazy kids, forcing them to work, but also a very useful continuing lesson in translation and criticism.

    Anyhoo, I expect to put up Curtius in English at some point. No books will be harmed in the process.

  3. I’ve had those emails too. The ones where the child doesn’t even bother to say hello, but just posts the question or the passage that they have been set for homework. I delete them silently.

    I get the flatterers too. These I reply courteously to, but I don’t do translation for them unless I find the matter interesting (and then I blog about it). The litmus test for a flatterer is whether, once you have looked the passage up (or whatever), and they have what they wanted, whether they say “thank you.” Mostly they drop you like a hot brick!

    The rudeness and sense of entitledment of some of these people is very striking, isn’t it?! And I’m sure you get more and worse than anyone else.

    You do realise, I’m sure, that your site is THE classical site on the web? Far more important than any other known to me, bar none. If it vanished tomorrow it would leave a huge hole!

    But I’m sorry to hear that, in the end, your generosity towards Latin teachers was in vain. But then, in the end, all that we do is in vain. We can’t worry about that.

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