I know that undergrad math books use colors, like Gilbert Strang in his undergrad Linear Algebra textbooks and Measure, Integration & Real Analysis by Sheldon Axler. Many first year calculus textbooks do also, but many aren't that reputable.

If I had to convince an older, more stubborn author to use color, what reputable textbooks by more reputable authors will make the best case?

  • $\begingroup$ Just off the top of my head, I know that James et al's "An Introduction to Statistical Learning" and Bishop's "Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning" both use color well. I know there are others. Both of those involve visualizing spaces, so I think quality diagrams are key for that type of thing. $\endgroup$ – Carser Feb 19 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ I think for most advanced (graduate level and professional) math books color is very, very rarely sufficiently helpful to offset the huge increase in cost required. Without coming close to fully looking through all my math books, I found a fair amount of color usage in Topology With Applications by Naimpally/Peters (but not what I'd call a "famous PhD math textbook), but otherwise nothing except in a few "fractal geometry" type books (Barnsley, Devaney/Keen, etc.). $\endgroup$ – Dave L Renfro Feb 19 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe "Red Book of Varieties and Schemes" by Mumford? Seriously, all kidding aside, this is an interesting question. $\endgroup$ – user52817 Feb 19 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ I actually had the opposite problem as the OP -- I wrote a graduate-level textbook and wanted to use color in it, but the publisher said no. $\endgroup$ – mweiss Feb 19 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ Hardly famous, but Geometric Folding Algorithms has 412 full-color figures. And its cover is yellow :-). $\endgroup$ – Joseph O'Rourke Feb 21 at 13:08

One of the comments above mentions "the huge increase in cost" for using color in a book. The large cost increase for using color in a book was true twenty years ago. However, now the cost differential is quite modest. My book Measure, Integration & Real Analysis, which was mentioned in the question as an example of a math textbook that uses color, was published by Springer in its Graduate Texts in Mathematics series. Although the book uses color, its list price is the same or lower than other books is this series, considerably less than the list price of its (black-and-white) main competitors. Furthermore, the electronic version of this book is legally free (at https://measure.axler.net/).

The main use of color in Measure, Integration & Real Analysis is to distinguish definitions (in yellow boxes) from theorems (in blue boxes). I think this use of color to give these visual clues and the occasional mathematically significant color photos help make the book more student-friendly.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! I am a huge fan of "Linear Algebra Done Right". $\endgroup$ – Steven Gubkin Feb 20 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ It sounds like your design is three colors (black, yellow, blue), and I believe the cost of printing is generally proportional to the number of colors, so three colors would be 3/4 the cost of 4-color. I'm guessing that books that include photos also need higher quality paper, and registration may become more critical than for a design like yours. In any case, the cost of paper, printing, and binding is generally negligible these days compared to the cost of many textbooks. On many books, the cost is almost entirely the publisher's markup. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Feb 20 at 19:55

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