Thursday, September 08, 2011

Textbook Pirates! Yo-ho-ho...

The Chronicle of Higher Education for Sept. 2, 2011 , p. A17, "New Web Site Unabashedly Trades Free Digital Copies of Pirated Textbooks" by Jeffrey R. Young (News | Technology) reports that textbook pirates encourage students to scan textbooks & post them. Some visitors are posting e-textbooks on the site which includes links to BitTorrent and step-by-step instructions on how to use it. The textbook pirate site is called LibraryPirate, currently hosted in Ukraine, where it does not violate copyright laws. The anonymous owner claims he also maintains a backup to site in case it's shut down, and can have it back up and running in another country very quickly. He also says he was Inspired by the earlier similar site which was shut down 3 years ago, Textbook Torrents. The owner of LibraryPirate claims to be motivated by moral concern for students
I want to bring about permanent changes to the textbook industry. The exorbitant price of a textbook shouldn't hinder students' ability to do well in a class. I believe there is a moral objective at play here.
Edward McCoyd, director of digital policy for the Association of American Publishers was contacted by author of the Chronicle article, and replied that the LibraryPirate website unfairly "...penalizes the people who are producing the materials." He pointed out that e-textbooks often are reduced by as much as 60% off the price of print versions. McCoyd referred the author to a fact sheet on the web site run by his publishing association, called Cost Effective Solutions for Student Success (or CESSS), which has a report at --- stating:
According to Student Monitor’s Lifestyle & Media – Spring 2011 Report, for the Fall 2010 – Spring 2011 academic year, the average student spent $534 for printed textbooks. To put that figure into context, that number is: 50% less than the $1,068 students spent for their mobile phone 60% less than students spent on movie tickets 27% less than what students spent for gasoline
I cannot imagine how much my students would froth at the mouth reading this. I am not surprised students are willing to pirate textbooks after reading self-justifying stuff like this. It may be perfectly true if you work out math, but that is not going to make students at all happy about the fact or the organization that brought it to them! There is much more useful stuff there about how much it costs to bring a science textbook up to date and then bring out the new edition, for instance. I do understand that publishers need to be compensated, and to compensate the authors, and editors, and all the reviewers, and many other people involved in the publishing industry. But they really need somebody to proof-read and edit their webpages! This particular piece is only going to alienate and enrage the people they are trying to reach! Can you say FAIL?
The image of the guy poking himself in the eye is from a Brilliant! Biomed newsletter at (the article REALLY is about things you can learn by poking yourself in the eye!)

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