tl;dr: I made it so you can buy print versions of The Library of Scott Alexandria, Scott’s collected fiction, and Slate Star Codex Abridged. You can get the pdfs and ebooks from the resources folder of my repo here.

You can see the three books together here (I have no idea how to embed an image on LessWrong, and not for lack of trying, sorry.)

I’ve wanted a classy, print copy of SSC ever since I saw u/ekygip make such a book for his sister in law. It looks really lovely! He used the printing service Lulu, which DrunkFishBreatheAir also used to print Scott’s novel Unsong.

I wanted something similar, but more ambitious than u/ekygip’s twenty-four favorite essays. u/k185bv has scraped and uploaded all the posts from SSC, including images (although many of them seem missized). With size twelve font the entire corpus comes out to 5600 pages, which would be $250-300 to print. I figured it made more sense to start with a smaller sample. There are several community surveys of people’s favorite posts, and multiple attempts to curate a coherent ebook. Rob Bensinger collected The Library of Scott Alexandria, which also includes posts from Scott on LessWrong and his LiveJournal that predate SSC. I’ve uploaded a printable pdf here. The ancient library hasn’t been updated since 2015, however.

I flirted with the idea of curating my own list, but thankfully found SSC Abridged before getting carried away. There was already a print version of SSC Abridged that you can buy on Amazon, which is broken into three installments for $30 each. That version doesn’t have images, though, and uses a large font and small pages. I was able to comfortably pack the same chapters into a quarter as many pages.

Making the Print Books

For collecting the short stories and other fiction, I started with some lists that were floating around, and then skimmed the SSC archive since 2019 for any new stories that were missing. The cover images of the peacock and crab are from pixabay, and inspired by the titular Goddess of Everything Else and her nemesis the Goddess of Cancer.

When you read Scott’s essays and stories in a Word doc, as opposed to on his blog, you see a surprisingly large number of red squigglies. These were bugging me, so I started combing through and correcting all the egregious typos, e.g. “memembers” instead of “members”, “guines” instead of “genius”, and “somthing” instead of “something”, while respecting the neoglisms and slang.

Correcting typos started looking like a daunting and thankless task after a hundred pages or so, so I paid someone else to finish the job. I found a Syrian immigrant to serve as the editor, and was very happy with the price. (This is a joke, the Syrian immigrant is my spouse and their English is great.)

The most annoying step was converting from epub to pdf. This was surprisingly tricky. The free online converters I tried all make the font way too large. I ended up using calibre. After right-clicking on a book you get the option to convert it and need to specify the target as pdf. Calibre doesn’t remember this setting, so you need to select it every time. So far so clear, but by default the pdf will again have a HUGE font, like size 80pt. The way to fix this is to go to page setup after clicking convert, and set output profile to default output profile, WHICH IS NOT THE DEFAULT oh well. I also set the margins to half an inch (36pt) under page setup. Sites like Lulu and Barnes and Noble only let you print at most 800 pages per book, so the final step was to switch to a narrow font (Times New Roman). Here’s the final pdf.

Pricing

Curiously, buying or printing legit books is nearly as cheap as you can get short of inheriting someone else’s library or stumbling upon a cheap used copy. For instance, looking at ink cartridges on Amazon, it would cost me 10 cents to print a single page in black and white – which would come out to $76 for my copy of SSC Abridged without the fancy binding and color images! I weirdly couldn’t find services offering printing for much cheaper.

You can save a bit of money on Lulu by going paperback or black and white. I wanted something classier though. The snazzy fiction book has a list price of $10, and the two doorstoppers are listed for $45. I’m selling them for the cheapest price Lulu will let me and I’m not collecting any profit.

Other Rationalist Books

You can see this spreadsheet for a long list of popular books.

For printing HPMOR, I would go with xenohedron’s six books with ianstormtaylor’s covers or maybe ForeChin99’s. Apparently people have run into trouble using Lulu as a printer, unfortunately, due to Harry Potter’s copyright enforcement. Also the first seventeen chapters that were mailed out were short printed and now are like $70 on Amazon.  For The Sequences I would go with MIRI’s official print copies. So far they’ve released two out of six planned books. There are also the annual LessWrong books.

I have a personal print version of Pokemon: The Origin of Species, which I’ll share a link to once the covers are finalized. I also made a print version of my dad’s book as a Christmas present :) (not really rationalist per se or at all really, but at least it made him really happy to have a print copy).

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I've considered printing a physical copy of Evan Chen's Napkin for personal use. It's a 900-page math textbook. I care more about a cheap price than a fancy print job. Is there anything you'd recommend? (It might make sense to split the text unto multiple separate books.)

I used Lulu. Printing your book would be $40-50. Also though 900 pages is just a wee too big!, the page limit is 800 pages.

This is really cool!!! I’d love a print copy of Scott’s collected works (I’m offline quite often and his writing is amazing), and this seems like the best currently available way to read his work. Thank you for your service!

Thank you for your kind words :)

One question I do have is how different each of these books are. Do they cover the same essays, or are they mutually exclusive? Which book would you most recommend out of the three?

They cover a lot of different territory. Maybe 20% of the essays between the two giant books are same. The Goddess book is all fiction, so it's pretty distinct from the other two. I'd recommend the goddess book if you're getting someone a gift.

Between the two 800-pagers, the Library of Scott Alexandria was written in 2014, so it's more classic Scott, and more focused on rationality specifically. I would personally prefer the newer SSC Abridged.

Both the first and third links in the Overview section of the repo are links to the Goddess of Everything Else book - I think the first link is meant to go to a different book instead?

Oh awkward, yeah I'm missing the link for SSC Abridged. Here's The Library of Scott Alexandria too in case you're having trouble finding it.

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