Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chinese Weapon Engineering Textbooks

Just came back from a personal trip to Beijing. The bookstores there are very impressive. Of course they have the small hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop bookstores. The super-bookstores, though, are multi-story affairs. They have at least three floors dedicated to books, one or two floors for CDs and DVDs, and floor space for stationery and other products. The bookstore in Sidan district has 1.5 floors for consumer electronics, with a focus on electronic dictionaries. Each of these floors is about the size of a one-floor Barnes & Nobles. And these stores are all packed! The three super-stores I visited are all filled with people browsing and purchasing books. Even on a weekday during school hours the stores are still busy. I just don't know if I can go back to Barnes and Nobles anymore after this trip.

One particularly impressive area is in the engineering textbooks. As an engineer, I just had to go check that out. If you go to a Barnes & Nobles here in the states, you will find about 8 to 16 shelves (1-2 short aisles) for engineering, programming, and "technology" books. In the Beijing super stores, the engineering section takes up at least a quarter of a floor. Mechanical engineering itself takes up at least 8 shelves. Food processing/manufacturing takes up several shelves, too. Even weapons/military/aero/astro engineering has about 3 to 4 shelves, more if you include the shipbuilding shelves. Civil engineering and architecture/construction occupies half of the whole engineering section, which is notable from an American perspective, where the undergrad civil engineering departments are usually the small departments in the engineering schools (approx 10-20 students/class year).

The military engineering books seem good. You get some fluff there, like a "modern weapon catalog" that is the size of a pocket book, but the rest are pretty solid. I saw "Principles of Submarine Design", "Principles of Fire Control System Design", "Design of Automatic Firearms", and "Introduction to Propellant Design", to name a few. I flipped through these books and they all seemed to cover the basics, with plenty of equations to start component designs and instructions on how to make the design tradeoffs. Good textbooks. It is sad that books like these are not more accessible to the American public, or even the American engineering students.

Because of the current Chinese emphasis on space flights and ballistic missiles, rocketry is pretty big in the military/aero&astro engineering book section. The books cover all segments of rocket/missile design. They even have an "Artillery Rocket Design" translated from the original Russian textbook.

All in all, it was very impressive visiting these bookstores. They are definitely on the to-see list for anybody visiting Beijing.

Does any of you know how the bookstores are like in India's major cities? How are their engineering books selling?

PS: edited for grammar


Richard said...

This reply might be too late, since the post was made 2 years ago, so you might have been there already but indian book stores as I saw when i went there, dont tend to carry military engineering books. You can find the standard engineering textbooks, a lot of it in english, some of them translated from russian originals or written by indian or british authors. The translated from russian textbooks are quite good, if not a bit old, but highly rigorous. Indians are trying to promote engineering education so their engineering books are selling quite well, though I found the students are mostly focused in the textbooks, and military engineering books in the book stores are practically absent. Can you read chinese? the books you saw were they all in chinese as I am tempted to believe?

Jimmy said...

Thank you for the feedback, Richard. Beijing could be a bit unique because of the central place the PLA military-industrial complex has to the education/commerce/politics of China. On the other hand, the Indian defense establishment is a bit of a backwater compared to the commercial sector, so it's understandable they don't have that emphasis. Perhaps near HAL and DRDO locations you will find more of those military texts.

The books I saw in Beijing were all in Chinese. But if you wanted to buy Russian/English originals, where they exist, they probably could get them to you.

In general, bookstores only carries books that sell (at some point). It's nice to hear that Indians are buying lots of engineering books.