Tune in each month for a heads-up on
where to get all of your “robotics
resources” for the best prices!
Despite fancy multimedia, Flash
animations, and free Internet
tutorials, the lowly book remains the
most popular way of learning about a
new subject. Books are portable and
can be read when traveling, while
waiting for your hamburger, or at
home beside the fireplace.
If you own the book, you can
mark it up with a highlighter, or paste
Post-It Notes on your favorite pages so
you can return to them quickly later.
And, unlike Web pages and many
other Internet resources, your book
won’t catch a computer virus, pop
up ads on you, or blurt out annoying
MIDI songs through your PC’s
speakers at 3 AM in the morning!
Maybe because I am an author of
books — and robot books at that — I
tend to gravitate toward the bound
written word when I want an
authoritative guide. It doesn’t even
have to be a new book; there are
hundreds of useful and educational
books on robotics that are 10+ years
old, many of them no longer in print.
So, here are some books — some
old, some new — you may want to
consider adding to your reading list.
These are available for purchase, new or
used, but don’t forget about your local
library. Most towns have several library
branches, so ask the librarian (or consult
the library’s card catalog) if the book you
want is available at another location.
Where to Get
A great place to look for the
84 SERVO 05.2008
printed word is in the online world!
First, consider the Nuts & Volts
hobbyist bookstore, provided by the
publishers of SERVO and Nuts & Volts.
The books have been carefully
selected by the editors for their
content and value. Check out this
month’s ad toward the back of the
magazine, or go online to www.nuts
volts.com or www.servomagazine
.com and click on the Store link. You
can choose from a number of robot-related books and products.
Online bookstores boast large
inventories and fast shipping, but
unfortunately, finding a technical book
can be a real chore because of the
way topics are organized. However,
you can usually find what you’re
looking for if you know the actual
book title or author.
Local book stores are great if
you want to browse through books,
especially if you want to see if the
book is right for you. Most of the
large bricks-and-more bookstores have
a technical section. Ask a store clerk
to help you find it. Often, the robot
books are mixed in with other books
about electronics and science.
Of course, there’s no rule you
have to purchase every book you read.
Local libraries are a rich source of
excellent books on any subject.
While the library may not have the
absolutely latest title on cutting edge
technology, for many aspects of
robot building you don’t need it. The
core concepts of robotics haven’t
changed much in the last 20 or so
years; some of the robot books from
the early and mid ‘80s still contain
valid information. (And besides,
they’re fun to read!)
I like to browse the book section
of local used bookstores and thrift
shops. It’s amazing what people
ell or discard! I once found an
entire set of books on learning how
to use metal machinist tools, the
lathe, and mill. These appeared to
have been part of a correspondence
course and were printed in the early
1970s. I got perhaps $150 in books
for under $5!
While on the subject of older
books, online sellers like Amazon
and eBay are a great source for books
that may no longer be available in
print. When getting a used book
through Amazon, you’re really buying
it from a third party. Amazon merely
acts as a go-between, collecting the
money and sending orders to the
seller. Many books — including
specialized technical ones — are
available used for less than their
original selling price. It’s a good
way to beef up your personal library
without having to go into debt.
Following are some books on
amateur robotics you may wish to
consider. Some are a few years old,
but still contain a good deal of
relevant information. Since I can’t list
all the robot books available, consider
this list a springboard for further
research. I have provided the name
of the author, the publisher, the