Friday, September 05, 2008

Textbook Publishers VS Pirate Students

Click on the title to this post to read the Chronicle Online's Wired Campus article about textbook publishers chasing Textbook Torrent from host to host. Most interesting is the dialog that the owner, known as Geekman, wants to open with the publishers. Reading the comments at the end of the article gives some flavor of the arguments that Geekman would make in favor of free access to textbooks. The article notes that both sides believe they have the moral high ground, but then never reports on Geekman's actual statements about why he feels students are entitled to post and copy the full text of textbooks. I actually registered with the site as it exists today to see if there were statements there. To tell you the truth, the closest the site came to any rationales were:

Textbook Torrent: Because you can't torrent beer

In the site rules: don't upload materials related to cheating; this will result in an instant ban. The site is to help students learn, not cheat (and later on, they repeat this and add: "The internet is a large place, you can find what you're looking for elsewhere.")

Also in the site rules: follow what the moderator says: "Practice safe anti-authoritarianism."

And a section in the site rules on giving back (that is, upload and help maintain torrents). They have a little icon that appears by a user's name to show the ratio of downloading to uploading.

Thus, I guess the comments at the end of the Chronicle online article are the best statements of reasons for the textbook torrent folks:

Students are tired of being gouged. We’re tired of bookstore policies that make it difficult to buy texts anywhere but on campus. If we can’t get the books at reasonable prices, we turn to alternatives.

Wake up publishers. Shutting down a few sites won’t stop this. You’re following the same path as the MPAA, and we all know how successful they’ve been.
open source is increasingly making textbooks legally free to students. [and] he future of college texts may well lie in Open Access. The Rice University ‘Collaborative Statistics’ project is a good example of one approach, and there are many other possibilities. [That is, Rice University purchased the rights to distribute the textbook of that name on campus through the Connexions file sharing site for educators to share material]
textbook authors should have pity on students and not put out so many new editions every year.
I see no justification for new textbooks running from $100.00 to $200.00, especially when you can’t get even half for that book from the bookstore. Even the used books can be $70.00 to $110.00 per book. If it weren’t for college there is no way I would pay that much for anything. My school books can run over half my tuition and it keeps getting more expensive. Enough already.
Textbook publishers have gouged the public for years. Thankfully technology has finally caught up to them and now maybe they’ll follow the way of the music industry. It’s their own fault they are now finally getting payback…
And speaking of pirating, the image is courtesy of, a site that offers jewelry and buckles on those themes.

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