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Can I freely download the Knuth's 5 volume set books COMPUTERS and TYPESETTING in pdf and the source of TeX and {\sf METAFONT} that these book contain and a compiler for the sources that would understand them ? If so, from where ?

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    No, you cannot. The TeXbook is copyrighted by Addison-Wesley and only its source is freely available for direct reading, not for compiling (as a matter of fact, you get an error if you try to do so). I'm not sure about the other volumes, but I believe the rules are not too different. – Phelype Oleinik Oct 24 '19 at 17:32
  • @PhelypeOleinik Thank you for the clarification. And the sources are available for the direct reading from where ? – user2925716 Oct 24 '19 at 17:38
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    I'm pretty sure that the sources of volumes A-D are included in (the full) TeX Live. I don't know of any public source of volume E (the Computer Modern fonts), since it was largely created from separately produced "diagrams" of the character images, and (I believe) pasted up. The Metafont code for the characters is included in TeX Live. – barbara beeton Oct 24 '19 at 18:09
  • As of now (1/20/2021), all 5 volumes (A through E) are back-ordered through Pearson’s web store! You will get an e-mail from Pearson saying that if the back-ordered item(s) could not be fulfilled by one month, your order will be cancelled! I just checked Amazon.com, the price of a new copy (vol A only) is almost $1000! – Stephen E. Sun Jan 20 at 13:10
  • @StephenE.Sun Welcome to tex.sx. This is TeX's tuneup year, and there will be updates. I have learned that there will be updated copies printed, so please wait for updated information. – barbara beeton Jan 20 at 16:26
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No, you cannot.

All the books in Computer and Typesetting are copyright of Addison-Wesley and cannot be distributed without permission. Knuth, however, has made all the sources to these books and his programs freely available for people wanting to learn how to use TeX and METAFONT. However the sources (of The TeXbook and The METAFONTbook, at least) make it clear that you are not allowed to try to make the PDF yourself. If you do, you are greeted with an error (and an endless loop):

This is TeX, Version 3.14159265 (TeX Live 2019) (preloaded format=tex)
(./texbook.tex
! This manual is copyrighted and should not be TeXed.

Volume A, The TeXbook is copyrighted by Addison-Wesley and only the source is freely available for direct reading. The very first lines of texbook.texsay:

% 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).

Which means you can read the source, as learning material, but you cannot run tex on the source. As a matter of fact, you get an error if you try to do so.

Volume B, TeX: The program, is distributed in PDF (only the documented source) and you can access it with texdoc tex, and the source is available from CTAN.

Volume C, The METAFONTbook is released under the same license as Volume A. At the beginning of mfbook.tex you see:

% This manual is copyright (C) 1986 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 METAFONTbook.
% Permission for any other use of this file must be obtained in writing
% from the copyright holder and also from the publisher (Addison-Wesley).

and you also get an error if you try to tex it.

Volume D, METAFONT: The program, is distributed in PDF (only the documented source) and you can access it with texdoc -l mf and then selecting mf.pdf, and the source is available from CTAN.

Volume E, Computer Modern Typefaces, is distributed scattered among the sources of the Computer Modern fonts (CTAN page). I don't know if there is an available PDF version of this one.

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    No downloadable pdf version of volume E, and no ebook version is listed at the publisher's site. – barbara beeton Oct 24 '19 at 18:22
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    A couple of notes: For Vol (A) and (C), note that the sources of texbook and mfbook are best used with a physical copy of the book by your side, for looking up how something was done. For Vol (B) and (D) (the programs), note that the physical books have a small amount of additional introductory material, also every two-page spread has a useful "mini-index" of just the variable names that occur on (or index entries relevant to) those two pages. Also, for all of these (A), (B), (C), (D), what's available online is missing Duane Bibby's illustrations which are present in the physical books :-) – ShreevatsaR Oct 24 '19 at 18:23
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    For Volume (E), an earlier version of "The Computer Modern family of typefaces" was published as a Stanford Report in 1980 (PDF here and here) -- the typefaces have undergone many changes since then, but this should give one a rough idea of what is in the book. – ShreevatsaR Oct 24 '19 at 18:24
  • @ShreevatsaR Thanks for your comment! Indeed, a physical copy would be ideal. One day I'll have mine :-) I have read about the introductory material of volumes B and D in an answer of yours here, some weeks (months?) ago. I can't seem to find that now... – Phelype Oleinik Oct 24 '19 at 18:30
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    @user2925716 Well, that's what those are. Volume B contains the documented source of TeX and Volume D, of METAFONT, so they will definitely be more technical, and Volume E is pure METAFONT code describing the Computer Modern fonts. Even the double dangerous bend paragraphs in The TeXbook don't tell you about the gory details of TeX's implementation. Volume B dives right into them. It's... advanced :-) – Phelype Oleinik Oct 25 '19 at 12:26

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