I was introduced to this short handbook on investing and speculation through Michael Bigger, who created an appended version of Butler's book with his own summary notes called, In Praise of Speculation.
I'm just starting Butler's book, but I find his introductory notes quite useful in clearly defining the meaning and purpose of that now mistreated term (and misunderstood activity), "speculation".
Butler defines the act of speculating as follows:
"To speculate is to theorize about something that is uncertain. We can speculate about anything that is uncertain, but we use the word "speculation" in this book with particular reference to the buying and selling of stocks and bonds for the purpose of making a profit.
When people buy stocks and bonds for the income they get from them and the amount of that income is fixed, they are said to invest and not to speculate. In nearly all investments there is also an element of speculation, because the market price of investments is subject to change. "Investment" also conveys the idea of holding for some time whatever you have purchased, while speculation conveys the idea of selling for a quick profit rather than holding for income.
To the minds of most people, the word "speculation" conveys the thought of risk, and many people think it means great risk. The dictionary gives for one of the meanings of speculation, "a risky investment for large profit," but speculation need not necessarily be risky at all. The author of this book once used the expression, "stock speculating with safety," and he was severely criticized by a certain financial magazine. Evidently the editor of that magazine thought that "speculating" and "safety" were contradictory terms, but the expression is perfectly correct. Stock speculating with safety is possible. "
Enjoy the book and its classic insights.Successful Stock Speculation, By J. J. Butler The Project Gutenberg eBook