Keith van Rijsbergen retired

Keith van Rijsbergen is retiring this year. To celebrate his long successful career, you can download his book “Information Retrieval” in the popular epub format, an open format that is supported by most e-readers.


Since the publication in 1976 of the first edition of Van Rijsbergen’s book, it has established itself as a classic. The book gives a thorough introduction to “automatic ranked” retrieval, which today forms the basis of web search engines, but at that time was still highly experimental. The book covers all important information retrieval topics, but it is Van Rijsbergen’s personal view on information retrieval that makes the book so different from other scientific books on information retrieval: The book is written in the first person, a writing style I would normally not recommend for scientific documents. In this book, however, Van Rijsbergen’s personal style of writing inspired me a lot. Maybe it is his undisputed expertise, maybe it is his critical analysis of the work of others, or maybe it is merely his enthousiastic account of science, whatever it is, it is a pleasure to read the book, even almost 35 years after its first publications. Here is a nice example, where Van Rijsbergen’s shares his view on significance tests:

Keith van RijsbergenUnfortunately, I have to agree with the findings of the Comparative Systems Laboratory in 1968, that there are no known statistical tests applicable to IR. This may sound like a counsel of defeat but let me hasten to add that it is possible to select a test which violates only a few of the assumptions it makes.

His analysis let me to use the paired sign test in my PhD thesis, and I motivated this by adding that Van Rijsbergen says I am allowed to do so. (Actually, he claims I am allowed to do so only conservatively, because some of the test’s assumptions are not met…) The book is also a no-nonsense book in many respects, with many practical approaches that are directly applicable. In several of our experiments, we used the stop word list printed in the book (see Table 2.1). This is science in its best form. Experiments should be easily reproducible, and what is more easy than the usage of a officially published stop word list?

So, if you are still looking for a good, personal, entertaining, no-nonsense, scientific book on information retrieval to be read by the pool during the holidays, please consider Information Retrieval. No e-reader yet? Then you can read the ebook using the EPUBReader Firefox addon.

[download epub]