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The relevant close reason reads:

This question asks for recommendations for specific products, services, software, or electronic designs, which are off-topic as they attract opinionated rather than comprehensive answers. Please consider rephrasing your question in terms of what you should be looking for given your use case or whether a specific product has the capability you need.

If I follow by wording, yes, asking for a book (like here¹) is asking for a specific product. I'd assume that

does someone have a book aimed at me as a ham that explains electromagnetic waves for amateur radio enthusiasts?

is a product recommendation question, but

Can you recommend something I could read to learn about electromagnetic waves?

is not.

Is there some line that we draw?


¹ That question asks about recommendations for AM broadcast station operation, which is explicitly not amateur radio nor the technology of radio in general, but about practical aspects of operation of a professional mode; so it's off-topic anyway, imho.

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“products, services, software, or electronic designs” is not a limitation on the scope of the close reason to those categories; it's a list of common examples of the kind of thing the close reason is about.


As I see it, the kinds of questions that should should be considered off-topic (on most any Stack Exchange site, not just ours) due to “asking for recommendations” are those that are not based on objective criteria (especially criteria related to the subject matter of the site; “this antenna will fit in your available space and work with your link budget”) but on subjective criteria (“this book explains the topic well”). If we didn't choose to use the custom product recommendation close reason, we'd file them under the broader “opinion-based” standard close reason.

Another angle is to think about the likely fate of such a question: people will come along and post answers with their favorite book, if it hasn't been already posted. Readers cannot vote upon such answers on correctness or clarity; they can only evaluate the answer if they've read that particular book. Now, there's nothing wrong with making and voting on lists of books, but that's not what Stack Exchange is for (unless of course there is community agreement that we want to make an exception, or somebody creates another site a site that intentionally has that in scope).


P.S. All that said, I wonder whether “electronic designs” really fits there. I think I remember what it's intended to point at — “please design me an entire circuit that does X” questions — but it seems to me that, for example, “which type of oscillator should I use for [detailed explanation of the rest of the radio they're building]” should be not off-topic (even if such a question would perhaps best fit at Electronics SE).

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  • $\begingroup$ on one hand, I think the subjectivity aspect is an alternative close reason for a lot of these types of questions, but it's kind of "orthogonal": Far as I can tell nearly all technical SE sites very much do not want to become the go-to place for product recommendations – aside from the short-livedness, and the potential for commercial conflict-of-interest of participants, there's also the flamebait, and I count this most highly, the fact that you just attract one-of questions that never see a follow up from OP,who will buy (or not buy) whatever was recommended and not even accept the answer, $\endgroup$ Aug 15 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ and the next morning the damn near identical question posted again – because, while there's people who will put a lot of effort into their market research, make spreadsheets with options with weighted pros and cons, prices and technical remark and could (on a friendly comment) instantly convert a product rec question into a technical question ("will the wiggulator on the antenna boomstickshift of the ACME corp 123A help my crasscast reception more than the LNA of the BLANDTECH borebox 2?"), the vast majority of "tell me what to buy" is just "yeah, and had you visited another two websites, $\endgroup$ Aug 15 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ plus maybe wikipedia, you would have your answer already, yourself; please do your own research prior to asking!". $\endgroup$ Aug 15 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ Re: Electronic designs: yeah. That's even more clear-cut for me, as you say, on the line that divides "do my work" and "I'm asking an objectively correctly answerable question with sufficient background". If I ask how for a Wien Bridge Oscillator circuit that incorporates a quicker temperature compensation than the textbook thermally self-balancing circuits, that's different to asking for "an oscillator that I can use in my TX (end of question)". $\endgroup$ Aug 15 at 10:17

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