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Chemistry LibreTexts


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    This Atoms First text reorganizes the traditional approach of sequentially teaching any number of simple models for chemical bonding and reaction following the historical development of the science. As each model is stacked on the next to extend them and handle myriad exceptions to each, students struggle. Why each of these simplifications works and their limits of applicability is not obvious, or at least not so until the course reaches the last few weeks when instructors rush through the quantum basis of atomic and molecular structure. At that point, perhaps in the last lectures of the term, when it is explained how each of the historical models is an expression of quantum mechanics everyone, hopefully nods their heads and says "Oh yeah".

    The first two sections of this course cover atomic and molecular structure, the rest of the text builds on this introducing simpler models as what they are, useful simplifications with an obvious basis in the quantum structure of compounds. By starting with atomic and molecular structure the obvious basis can be made clear when the simple model is introduced.

    A major benefit of LibreTexts is that the textbook can be continually added to and improved. It will be. Moreover others can, and are welcome to using the text in whole or in part, reorganizing the material or doing whatsoever they wish under the Creative Commons Copyright. I hope they will do so. Suggestions are more than welcome. I can be reached at

    LibreTexts provides a platform in which links to external material, videos and more can be integrated. A video demonstration is more instructive than a static image. Videos and narrated presentations can be used to teach problem solving and more. Applets embedded as teaching tools can build insight.

    Finally, the LibreTexts platform lessens the substantial cost of a textbook, which exceeds $(US) 250 today. At this cost students are stressed to buy books for their courses and instructors hesitate to ask their students to purchase supplementary materials. To be honest this was my primary motivation for starting this project, that and the adventure of building a modern textbook that incorporates the flexibility of the net.

    Publishers, let us be honest, want to make a maximum profit on each book. In the US the situation is that the people who order the books, the professors, don't buy it but can get "desk" copies from the publishers for nothing. There is no restraint on prices. Contrast this with the K-12 market where the schools buy the textbooks. In that case the cost is pushed down to the limit. This has bothered me for many years, and my policy has been not to ask for desk copies.

    On the other hand, in markets where students are free to buy their own books, the price is much lower. For example, the International paperback edition of most texts (you can only get the hardcover in the US) costs ~$80 list and you can get it discounted. That means that by selling the paperback in the US the publishers could kill the used book market and double their volume, not have the expense of putting out a new edition every three years or so, and very probably make more money and the students would, even on net, pay less and might keep their books.

    There is another consequence. General Chemistry books are kitchen sinks, with every possible chapter because the absence of material near and dear to some professor could kill a large school adopting a particular book. This also means that you need to lift weights to carry the thing to class (OK, it weighs 2.75 kg, but no one is going to carry it around and yes, I know about on line editions). My point of view is that if any instructor wants to include a subject not discussed here, well, this is a Wiki. They can build it.

    So this was my motivation in the Summer of 2014. I wanted an on line low/no cost textbook for my course, with no or minimal cost and an atoms first approach. Having heard of what was then called the ChemWiki and today LibreTexts , it was my hope that I could find such a text there, but I could not, although there were hints. I got in contact with Prof. Delmar Larson who runs the LibreTexts project. Prof. Larson has been a great help and mentor in the creation of this text. He directed me to a traditional textbook he was using parts of that had been published under a Creative Commons 3.0 License which allows redistribution and transformation of the book as long as proper attribution is given.

    The text (nameless here for reasons given below) was originally published under the CC 3.0 license by a commercial publisher whose business model did not work out. A new version of the textbook has been published under normal copyright. In the meantime, Andy Schmitz had copied and archived the textbooks published under the CC 3.0 license from which I downloaded the original text. The publisher, and holder of the CC 3.0 license has asked that all references to them and the authors be removed from any copies at Schmitz's archive and any attribution be to "Anonymous Authors" with the publisher itself being only referred to as "Unnamed Publisher". This is the practice I am following.

    As discussed above in order to prepare an Atoms First Chemistry Textbook within a few weeks this text started as a reorganization of the original text archived at Lardbucket Books. As time goes on more substantial changes have and are being made.

    Broader impacts of research and teaching are an important part of a scientist's life and are made possible by the freedom to explore new things granted by universities and research agencies. I must gratefully acknowledge the partial support of my time for this LibreTexts Text Book by Howard University and NSF Awards 1157373 and 1205608.


    Josh Halpern

    Washington DC

    November 2014

    Preface is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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