image "The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on illegal text book scanning which strongly suggests the situation is getting worse and may soon be out of control. Publishers will be forced to revise their textbooks far more frequently in order to keep ahead of the scanners. That of course is a strategy that will only work for a limited time." – Michael Cairns in PersonaNonData (links added to quote).

imageThe TeleRead take: I agree, and not just in the textbook area. Can you imagine trying to revise old novels, historical works and so on? Version 1.22 of The Great Gatsby on paper, anyone? Bring back F. Scott Fitzgerald from the dead? The best piracy prevention would be to make the books available at reasonable prices in E, with appropriate business models in use–a far more effective strategy than DRM, which does nothing to address the scanning issue. For textbooks, Jon Noring has suggested that more efforts be made to bundle them with courses. What do you think?

Stats from the Association of American Publishers: In a two-week period, the group has found as many as 250,000 files online. There is even a Textbook Torrents site serving up PDFs of 5,000+ textbooks.

imageThe latest from Textbook Torrents: "On Friday, we received a request from Pearson Education, one of the bigger textbook publishers, listing 78 torrents that they wanted disabled. While they are acting on extremely shaky legal ground, we are not in a position to fight a legal battle with the organization. As a result, in the interest of allowing the continued existence of this place, I have acceded to their request and disabled access to the listed torrents. Because of the batch process I used, uploaders will not receive the usual notification associated with a disabled torrent."

Related: K-textbooks from Princeton.


  1. I like the idea of including an electronic textbook in the class tuition. Doing so means authors can get some compensation, lowers costs for publishers, and gives the university more leverage with publishers over price (aren’t we all sick of $200 textbooks). The textbook market is a disaster and used books are part of the problem rather than the solution (although they are, of course, perfectly legal).

    Perhaps an innovative college will try a deal, getting bulk pricing from one or more publishers in exchange for a form of site license on textbooks, just as companies do with software.

    If any colleges want to use texts for their literature classes, I’m willing to talk price cuts (from our already rediculously low pricing).

    Rob Preece

  2. Their comment about even more frequently making revised editions sounds dumb to me. Movies are available online before they go into theaters, and they think that it will take pirates long enough to get their new editions online that it will actually make a difference in their sales? If anything, I see more frustration with $500+ textbook bills driving more and more students to the torrent sites.

    These textbook companies sound as dumb to me as RIAA did several years ago. If they can’t learn to cope with technology in a way that doesn’t dick over students, then I’ll have to wish them all a happy bankruptcy.

  3. Also, are pdfs really the problem? You can’t do anything worthwhile with a pdf of an entire textbook. I’d sooner buy a treebook than pirate a pdf. Or more directly, are people actually using the books they pirate or just making them available because they’re frustrated with how exploited they feel against the textbook market?

  4. Is there any data out there that shows any impact on text book sales? Heck 15 years ago in college photocopiers ran night and day to provide an alternative to $100 text books and the college book stores are still around so I would be interested if there was any real danger. As a profesional in publishing and somone who once carried around 50 lbs. of text book (some of them photocopied) I would love to see the market change to more eco and cost effective digital formats.

  5. @Rob
    University of Phoenix was doing this when I graduated a few years ago. There was a technology fee that covered access to scanned articles that UoP was hosting as well as O’Reilly Safari for the tech classes, with specific access to the text for the class. I don’t remember how much the Tech fee was, but I don’t remember it being outrageous (especially compared to UoP tuition). It’s not a bad model, and it kept me as a Safari subscriber (so it wasn’t horrible for O’Reilly either).

    Do you really think the manufacturing costs are what’s driving the price of a college textbook? The switch to e in the textbook space will be eco friendly, but I don’t see there being a significant drop in price resulting from it.

  6. “Also, are pdfs really the problem? You can’t do anything worthwhile with a pdf of an entire textbook. I’d sooner buy a treebook than pirate a pdf. Or more directly, are people actually using the books they pirate or just making them available because they’re frustrated with how exploited they feel against the textbook market?”

    Sure you can. You can read it on your computer or e-reader (depending) or just print out the 5 chapters the prof is actually using. What exactly is it you think students are doing with paper textbooks that can’t be done just as well with PDF scans?

    The “we’ll bring out new versions more frequently” is, of course, just a recipe to really piss off students and make them more likely to go looking for illegal copies.

  7. Pearson is doing the right thing here, slam a cease and desist letter at anyone offering/facilitating public download of their copyrighted material and do nothing else, you will never do more then contain the problem a bit, but you have a chance of keeping the full texts from being easily google down.

    Student not buying legit copies of textbooks it’s not a new problem. Like said photocopied textbook have been floating around campus since almost before there were photocopiers, and dont forget that the really cash strapped student can study at the libraires, something that used to be common practice.

    BTW reading of scanned pdfs are common at some instututions since it seams to have become the prefered way to distribute compilations of articles and other stuff the universites are allowed to distribute to students.

  8. As a student of 4 years now I am sick of the price-gouging by the publishers. Last year was the last straw for me, 3 textbooks came to just over $750. To the publishers, you’ve done this to yourselves as far as I’m concerned, your “revised” editions are nothing more than rearranging the end-of-chapter problems around. You got greedy by increasing the price to the point that the market will not support it and then “revising” an edition every year so we can not even sell our textbooks when we’re done. I am far more concerned about paying my rent and getting a decent meal than contributing to your greed and i’m certainly not the first – as you’ve seen by the explosion of torrents. The higher you drive your prices the more flock to torrents so get a clue and drop your prices. You’ll never be able to end the torrent sharing but it’s your own bad practices that are driving more and more to torrents. RIPieces!

  9. I’ve noticed the same thing as RIPP. Now that school’s about to start, you can walk around hearing students upset about having to spend >$1,000 for textbooks. Personally, I suspect that eventually CC’d textbooks will wipe out that part of the publishing business.

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