[texhax] ldots, cdots, ddots, binom, blah, blah, [blind]

Philip TAYLOR (Ret'd) P.Taylor at Rhul.Ac.Uk
Tue Mar 10 22:00:49 CET 2009

Uwe Lück wrote:

> At 04:10 04.03.09, David G. Cantor wrote:

>> All these are used in mathematics and related disciplines.  In his
>> TeXbook Don Knuth devotes 4 chapters (16, 17, 18, and 19) to how to
>> typeset mathematics and the fine points of doing so.
> How can blind people access the TeXbook? All I can contribute to my 
> question is that the copyright holder is the American Mathematical Society, 
> so the question should be directed to *them* (I am not a member).

Uwe raises a rather important issue here, and I am sorry that
I missed the message when it first appeared.  I recently asked
the TeX Live team why the TeXbook was not included in the TeX
Live distribution, and after a few off-beam responses I think
we finally arrived at the heart of the matter when Karl Berry
(TUG President) wrote :

> [T]he requirement is that everything in the [TeX Live] 
 > distribution be free according to the FSF definition.
> texbook.tex isn't.

So, the obvious source for a machine-readable copy of
the TeXbook (TeX Live) cannot contain such a copy, because
of the constraints that the TeX Live team have placed
on what can and cannot be included.  Fortunately,
TeX Live is not the only source of TeX.  Somewhat
larger (and now so large that it is no longer
distributed on CD or DVD, as far as I know) is CTAN
itself : the Comprehensive TeX Archive.  And of
course CTAN /does/ contain a machine-readable copy
of "The TeXbook", at


However, once one has acquired that file and peered inside, one
reads :

> % This manual is copyright (C) 1984 by the American Mathematical Society.
> % All rights are reserved!
> % The file is distributed only for people to see its examples of TeX input,
> % not for use in the preparation of books like The TeXbook.
> % Permission for any other use of this file must be obtained in writing
> % from the copyright holder and also from the publisher (Addison-Wesley).
> \loop\iftrue
>   \errmessage{This manual is copyrighted and should not be TeXed}\repeat

so even when one has the source, one is not allowed to process it.

So to return to Uwe's question : "How can blind people access the TeXbook?",
the answer is "with great difficulty", if we assume that what he meant was
"/legally/ access the TeXbook?".  But surely in these enlightened days of
"equal access for all", there must be some legislation to cover issues such
as these ?  And I am reasonably certain that Don Knuth himself would not
want the copyright issue to be a bar that prevented blind people from gaining
access.  So what I suggest is that we raise this with the TUG Board (of which
I am a member), and ask whether they are willing to make representations
to DEK, to AMS and to A-W, asking for a blanket waiver to allow those to
whom a printed copy of the book is useless (such as those who are blind),
and who have a genuine need to consult the TeXbook, to be allowed to process
the machine-readable source (on condition, of course, that the resulting
DVI/PDF file is solely for their own use, and will never be passed on to others).

What do other TeXhax readers think ?


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