I am an ordinary western man willing to start learning Buddhism, for now - just for curiousity. I have a B.Sc as for education (if the field DOES matter, that is either economics or computer science, because there are actually two of us, and we both are willing to learn). I do not have any previous knowledge of Buddhism besides pop culture references which are what Buddhism looks like to absolute most of people living.
I also do not want to learn about Buddhism based on online videos and random texts. I think there is some academic treatise on the topic. And there should be - science of religion should be interested in it. It is religion, learning about religion from random sources is potentially devastating. Any misconception that was just sounding appealing to a not so educated mind could ruin his worldview. I know these misconceptions could also arise from reading academic texts. But to a much lesser extent and only if you have exceptionally rich imagination - academic texts do not look to convert or convince you, just to educate you.
I would be so glad if someone, and preferably one who holds a university degree from a science of religion course could share some of titles on topic and explain why they are so good.
I am also aware about this question: Introductory books to Buddhism but the author seems to seek for books on Buddhism for a different purpose and never insists on "academicity" of text. I do. It would better be not so insightful about the meaning of life but rather about what Buddhism is taught like to students.