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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

Profiles in computing: Donald E. Knuth: scholar with a passion for the particular

"Age 30 is kind of appropriate because I got the first copy of volume 1 from the publisher nine days after my 30th birthday. So, a large part of the work had been done when I was 30 years old. They already were working on typesetting the second volume." Commenting on his books' influence, Knuth says, "It's been phenomenal from my point of view. In 1976 a study was done of how many people writing papers on computer science made a reference to my book somewhere in their articles, and it was found that about 30 percent of the papers in Communications, Journal of the ACM, and SIAM Journal on Computing cited the book. So it has an impact in that way." What about sales? Knuth notes that publishers may joke about professors whose books never sell, but they don't apply here. "I know that people buy the book. I don't know how many read it. But the sales have been incredible. I think something between 1000 and 2000 copies [have been sold] per month for 20 years."

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