Can't Let People Learn If They Don't Pay Up First

from the ah,-copyright dept

Textbook publishers have gotten away with quite a racket for a long time. Historically, since students were forced to buy whatever books a professor assigned, they could charge incredibly high fees. While online book ordering has shifted the market, somewhat, the prices are still quite high, and often seen as something of a burden for students. Professors have often tried to help ease the situation, often setting up coursepacks of info, where they just collect snippets of the texts that they want. However, all too often, obtaining all the rights to those snippets is a time consuming and costly procedure as well. More recently, professors have often taken to just putting up digital clips online for students to read, claiming that it's "fair use." This seems fairly reasonable, considering that just about every definition of fair use includes use for scholarship as a category of protection. However, as you might imagine, textbook publishers are having none of that, accusing universities around the world of costing textbook publishers many millions of dollars. The article is incredibly one-sided and trots out all sorts of falsehoods from publishers, including the ever popular "it's impossible to compete with free," argument that isn't just wrong, but is a sign of someone who should not be making business decisions at a content business these days. Not only can you compete with free, you have to these days. All of the publishers also conveniently ignore that if their content wasn't being offered up this way, there's a high likelihood that it wouldn't be included at all.

Still, the core is that if these book publishers really think that they can't provide significant enough value to make someone pay, they shouldn't be in the publishing business at all -- which, perhaps, is what the market is trying to tell them. If an entire textbook is valuable, it's much easier to just buy the actual book than read it online (or print it, with the high cost of ink). On top of that, textbook publishers need to recognize other opportunities to make money, such as adding additional interactive or community features that are only available to those who actually pay. Then, if they recognize that fair use covers academic uses, they can actually make even more money by encouraging the basic use of the content to upsell people to additional offerings. No, not everyone will take it, but they'd be working from a lot larger base and wouldn't be wasting all their time whining about people learning for free.


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  1.  
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    Newob, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 2:54pm

    Textbooks must die

    I am a math teacher, and I HATE textbooks! What does a math textbook offer that can't be retrieved freely off the internet? Math isn't copyrighted. Facts aren't copyrighted. So, why does a math book cost have to cost 200 fucking dollars? Give me a fucking break!

     

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    Stu, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 3:20pm

    "since students were forced to buy whatever books a professor assigned, they could charge incredibly high fees."

    My oh my - doesn't it hurt when a free ride ends? They believe they're being cheated out of a god given right.

    I wonder how a school book publisher earns the right to (legally) eliminate his competition - and how do I get to do it in my industry?

     

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    mp, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 3:52pm

    paperback textbooks from abroad

    Another interesting facet of the textbook industry is that they make cheaper paperback versions of a lot of textbooks. Those books are supposed to be sold abroad only, but you can buy them used on amazon, half.com, etc. They have language on the front saying that they are only for use in certain countries (India, etc.), but they are a fraction of the suggested retail of the American versions of the hardcover textbooks and if you're a student who has to carry a bunch of textbooks around, they are also lighter which is nice.

     

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    john, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Textbooks must die

    Most of the math text book's i've seen do a real bad job of explaining concepts anyway.

    The only useful thing out of them are the example problems and answers. Couple that with a book that actually attempts to explain topics to you like a teacher would and then maybe students would start doing better in math.

    Personally i've been using the "for dummies" and "Idiots guide"
    I've learned more out of those two, then I ever did trying to wrap my head around the obfuscated language used in a college calc book.

    Oh yea, and its CHEAPER

     

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    JackAz, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 4:57pm

    Textbook Monopoly

    The American textbook market is dominated by two or three publishers. Between their (entirely justifiable) profit motive and the laziness of most school textbook committees, these publishers have gotten used to near-monopoly type prices for their product. They are not very unlike AT&T 25 years ago before it was broken up. A similar upheaval in the textbook market will be equally as painful in the short term and much more beneficial to all in the long term.

     

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    mousepaw, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 5:11pm

    Re: Can't let people...

    Hmmm. There's a smattering of the Scarcity theory here...

    Having taken many and varied courses where books were demanded as part of the "kit" that I had to buy when signing up, I am really steamed up about this. I do NOT think it is fair that someone "legislates" the book(s) I have to read in order to get through a course. Give me the book list up front!

    The mandate should be: GO TO THE LIBRARY and read as many books as are available on this subject and take a week to decide where to start! (I hope the smart ones do this before they sign up.) Let's discuss them over the first week of class and decide which ones are necessary to the course! Some of the text books I have purchased are so out-of-date that they should have been archived, but instead somebody is making money off them.

    Although I am not well versed in government (local/federal) policy regarding course texts and I don't know how they're picked, I do believe that everyone should have the opportunity to by-pass the required reading material and bring to class what ever else is out there that the student thinks is pertinent.

    Sorry for the vehemence, but how does one textbook out of all the books available on a subject become chosen to be 'THE ONE' that students HAVE to use to learn? Perhaps someone will set me straight on that?

    I understand about being on the "same page" within a class but wouldn't learning go so much further if ideas were discussed and various books used to discover the information? If different books were allowed in a course then there would be much more discussion and much more learning, based on the fact that we learn so much faster by teaching someone else.

    So, (and I hope I'm back on the point) students should not have to pay to learn under these circumstances whether they can afford it or not.

    As an aside, I wouldn't be learning HTML, XHTML, CSS and JavaScript if it wasn't for the W3C putting their courses on-line for free...

     

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    The Truth Beacon, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 5:11pm

    As both a businessman and a college student...

    I currently run a computer consulting business (amongst other ventures) to fund my way through college and offer the flexibility to take whatever schedule I decide. Feeling the blade from both sides, it is certainly double-edged.

    FIRST: There isn't a racket while there is. Textbook publishers have competition within themselves, and then further competition from the authors. It is the teacher's decision whether to chose which book is used (and therefore which publisher and which author.) This makes the racket the teachers fault in so much as the business' fault. The glory of a free market (for both consumer and business) is that when there is hight demand and little competition you can charge a lot, but when there is a lot of demand you have to be competitive (either with price or content.) The problem is when copyright comes to play, and that is the only time that the situation gets mucked up. The publishers have a right to charge so much, but they don't have an exclusive right to the knowledge.

    SECOND: While they don't have an exclusive right to the knowledge, they DO have a well-deserved right to the content. It is not an easy task for them to compile the knowledge into a format or verbiage, and the time it takes shouldn't go unrewarded - in this case monetarily. For a teacher to copy text word-for-word and not expect to pay (in some form) the person who authored that verbiage is simply theft. The teacher in question is plagiarizing, which even the people with the most 'entitled' attitude would recognize as bad. In those cases I can see why the business would have a rightful complaint.

    There are some situations where content and knowledge are pretty much one-in-the-same, Mathematics being the greatest example. In those situations you have to either "take it" and deal with it, or just pass on the subject. The teacher has (OR AT LEAST SHOULD HAVE) just as much ability to create problems themselves as they do to cite specific problems in a book for you to solve. If a teacher requires a book and you don't like it then you should politely request a different teacher or confer with the teacher about the reliance on said expensive book. The prices certainly do need to become more realistic, but there are many other ways in which the educational system as a whole deserves so much more criticism than a company trying to make a profit on such a profitable source.

     

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    Joe Smith, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 5:12pm

    Stealing

    The fact that one may disagree with the terms on which the text book writers are prepared to offer their wares does not justify stealing in the form of wholesale copying. The correct response is to not use those books and not cite them.

    My recollection from university is that we seldom looked at more than 10-20% of a book in a course (I took physics, math, chemistry and economics.) The one exception which stands out for me was Halliday and Resnick in physics which was used as the text in multiple courses where I probably covered over 70% of the book over two years.

    When I go to a university bookstore it seems to me that there are far too many introductory text books on the market and they are not particularly well written. For a subject like mathematics most universities would be better off preparing their own lecture notes for introductory courses and make the use of those notes mandatory for the faculty.

     

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    Angry Rivethead, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 5:15pm

    Textbooks...

    YEah I was going to mention math textbooks...I can understand if its a cutting-edge engineering textbook that needs to get rewritten constantly because it incorporates new crap...but MATH!? The shit hasn't changed in millenia (a lot of it)! Why was my calc one book like $100!? Literature!? That crap isn't even copyrighted anymore! Why was THAT $100!? Like 37k a year wasn't enough for school these days.

     

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    mousepaw, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 5:17pm

    Re: Textbook Monopoly

    I posted before I saw your explanation. I thought it was something like that. Thanks.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 7:19pm

    Re: As both a businessman and a college student...

    For a teacher to copy text word-for-word and not expect to pay (in some form) the person who authored that verbiage is simply theft.
    Oh boy, there's the industry line again.

    FIRST: _If_ it's not fair use, then it's copyright infringement, not theft. Bogus industry claims to the contrary do not change that (yet).

    The teacher in question is plagiarizing, which even the people with the most 'entitled' attitude would recognize as bad.
    SECOND: Another false charge. It would be plagiarizing if the teachers were trying to pass off the writings as their own. That is not the case is question. Where does this "attitude" that one should be "entitled" to make such false charges in support of a business model come from?

    If a teacher requires a book and you don't like it then you should politely request a different teacher or confer with the teacher about the reliance on said expensive book.
    "Hello, is this the department dean? I'm a student and I'm calling today because I want you to replace a certain professor who won't change his textbook selection even after I told him to." Funny. Real funny.

     

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    Justin, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 7:49pm

    I've long said how the textbook market was a scam. What we really need to do is push for universities and colleges to start including one of these inexpensive laptops with tuition.

    Real simple really. If they have decent professors they can confer and create their own lesson plans on the local school network and include campus wi-fi and the students have instant access to their lessons. If work needs to be outsourced in todays worl'd I'm sure there are some people who would be more than happy to make the same pittance they get from the publishing firms from a uni willing to pay them for their works and research.

    With laptops hovering in the $300-$400 range there's no reason to not go this way.

    And in many cases this would be...GASP benificial to the students. Say in courses like modern history where materials can be updated DAILY. Same goes with really every subject. Everytime something noteworthy, or a new discovery is made, or whatever, it can be updated.

    They could even lock the laptops down so they basically can only access their particular classwork and research web sites. Or just have student usernames and passwords and have password protected "classes" on the area network.

    For uni's worried about outsiders getting "free" classes, just lock the network down and have it only connect with registered computers. And if someone gives out a username and password track useage so violations can be spotted and stopped.

     

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    SK, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 9:03pm

    What about open source textbook publishing?

    There really isn't a whole lot special about textbooks, in the Wiki era, seems like it should be possible to create a movement to collaboratively produce digital textbooks on subjects at no charge or low cost

     

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    The Truth Beacon, Nov 20th, 2006 @ 11:08pm

    Re: Re: As both a businessman and a college studen

    "Hello, is this the department dean? I'm a student and I'm calling today because I want you to replace a certain professor who won't change his textbook selection even after I told him to." Funny. Real funny.

    Are you an utter moron? By replace the teacher, I mean take the same class with a different teacher. I haven't been to a University that has only one teacher and only one class for each different session of a subject.

    SECOND: Another false charge. It would be plagiarizing if the teachers were trying to pass off the writings as their own. That is not the case is question. Where does this "attitude" that one should be "entitled" to make such false charges in support of a business model come from?

    If a person is not citing an original Author (which I have yet to see a professor do) then it is tantamount to taking credit for the passage. Think about this - if you were to read a philosophical passage from some obscure 7th century poem and not cite the creator, who would someone that does not better think it came from - you or the obscure nobody? In a situation like this where you are casting undoubted guild on one party, doesn't the other party (in a fair and just world) deserve the same treatment regardless of the situation? To do otherwise would be casting your bias (which is quite obvious.)

    FIRST: _If_ it's not fair use, then it's copyright infringement, not theft. Bogus industry claims to the contrary do not change that (yet).

    How would you like it if I took something that you invested quite dearly in, and offered it to your target audience for free? You might not hate it, but what if that was your sole income? Sure, you could diversify, but what if the cost of that diversification meant you hat to take your spit-wad shooter compete in battle against some other-worldly metallic golem that is infinitely larger than you? The business world isn't easy by any stretch of any imagination, but if you think it is so easy then why not try it? When you diversify you will have the same anti-corporate types saying that you are some in-humane conglomerate out to ruin everything for everyone.

    So many of you seem to have this attitude like life should be free and nobody should have or be anything any better than everyone else. At the same time you preach survival of the fittest and evolution as if it is gospel. Are not those two notions so ideologically opposed that you would have a better chance of escaping a black hole than making those two work? Life has always exploited one mean or another to forward itself. Just because someone is exploiting you for some minor (which college is an incredibly minor one at that) inconvenience on the grand scale of existence, doesn't mean that they are such a horrible person to deserve your unyielding scathing hatred.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2006 @ 12:39am

    Re: Re: Re: As both a businessman and a college st

    Are you an utter moron?
    Ooh, name calling. Real intellectual.

    I haven't been to a University that has only one teacher and only one class for each different session of a subject.
    I'm starting to doubt that you've ever really even been in that case. There are many courses, especially in professional programs, that are only taught by one professor.

    If a person is not citing an original Author (which I have yet to see a professor do)...
    Now I'm pretty sure you've never been to a university (and graduated). Plagiarism is not well tolerated at reputable universities. Contrary to your claims, most professors steer well clear of it for fear of loosing their careers.

    In a situation like this where you are casting undoubted guild on one party, doesn't the other party (in a fair and just world) deserve the same treatment regardless of the situation?
    OK, now you've really lost me. What do guilds have to do with this? Are you talking about writer's guilds or what? Is casting one like casting a spell or something?

    How would you like it if I took something that you invested quite dearly in, and offered it to your target audience for free?
    Just because you invest in something doesn't mean you are automatically "entitled" to a profit from it (and I thought you opposed entitlement mentality). And equating copyright infringement to stealing is disingenuous. I'm surprised you didn't refer to it as "piracy" and equate it to hijacking ships and murdering people on the high seas.

    I can't even be bothered to respond to the remaining blather.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2006 @ 12:50am

    Re: Re: Re: As both a businessman and a college st

    "Are you an utter moron? By replace the teacher, I mean take the same class with a different teacher. I haven't been to a University that has only one teacher and only one class for each different session of a subject."

    Dude, as a history grad student ALL of my classes are taught by only one professor. Fotunately, we only use primary sources, which are: a) cheaper and/or b) available at the library. I do remember the $100 dollar intro history books that told out and out LIES, but were still required because of a deal that the publishers had with the bookstore...

     

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    Gabriel Tane (profile), Nov 21st, 2006 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re: Re: As both a businessman and a college st

    "If a person is not citing an original Author (which I have yet to see a professor do) then it is tantamount to taking credit for the passage. Think about this - if you were to read a philosophical passage from some obscure 7th century poem and not cite the creator, who would someone that does not better think it came from - you or the obscure nobody? In a situation like this where you are casting undoubted guild on one party, doesn't the other party (in a fair and just world) deserve the same treatment regardless of the situation? To do otherwise would be casting your bias (which is quite obvious.)"


    I know someone else already responded to this, but I wanted to weigh in and hopefully show you that it's not just one person who thinks you're wrong.

    The article was talking about a professor who was making the appropriate snippets of information available for his students so that they would not have to buy the whole book. So a student is either viewing/downloading/printing something that they know (because the professor told them) is the appropriate course material from selected sources. Do you seriously think that these professors are telling their students "go view my published works for this class"?

    "How would you like it if I took something that you invested quite dearly in, and offered it to your target audience for free?"


    I've seen this one soooo many times and it never fails to impress me as little more than the motto of the lazy. I'll revisit a statement I've made here before.

    I work in insurance. Which means I deal with automobile insurance. Let me tell you that auto insurance is a very competitive market. In my state, insurance rates are always rising and lowering from one company to the next. Which means one month, I can beat company ABC, but next month, they'll be lower. All of that means that if I try to sell based on price, I'll lose. If I make a sale because I'm cheapest, that person will leave as soon as they find someone cheaper.

    What I have to do is sell based on value. I have to show my customers why my product is better, even if it's a bit more expensive. And this is what media companies, software companies, and yes, even textbook companies need to do. It doesn't get any cheaper than free, so you have to find and sell based on a value. I think Mike mentioned a few examples of what the textbook co's could try.

    "So many of you seem to have this attitude like life should be free and nobody should have or be anything any better than everyone else. At the same time you preach survival of the fittest and evolution as if it is gospel. Are not those two notions so ideologically opposed that you would have a better chance of escaping a black hole than making those two work? Life has always exploited one mean or another to forward itself. Just because someone is exploiting you for some minor (which college is an incredibly minor one at that) inconvenience on the grand scale of existence, doesn't mean that they are such a horrible person to deserve your unyielding scathing hatred."

    This is probably my favorite one from you post. I find it interesting how you have something so heart-felt to say, and yet you add absolutely nothing to the conversation.

    What does evolution have to do with intellectual property? I did read your rant there and I do see (kind of) where you're coming from, but I really don't see where this has anything to do with what we've been talking about.

    Life is a matter of survival. Natural selection and all of that. Sure. But when you apply that to the business world, it's an analogy. The business world, our economy, and commerce in general are all human constructs. There's no natural order to it, there's just whatever we make of it.

    What this means is that, unlike in life, when someone else has an advantage over you (such as giving away your stuff for free, as you put it), you have the opportunity to create an artificial advantage to get back on top. This would be the creation of a value in your product that your competitor doesn't have. Now, I can continue your evolution analogy and say that it's like me trying to take on a larger cave-man by using a club. But that doesn't really apply because the larger cave-man's advantage is a natural one. Analogies are always tenuous. You can stretch them around to make things fit, but they really are just for illustrative purposes. Be careful when you build your soapbox on them.

    "Just because someone is exploiting you for some minor (which college is an incredibly minor one at that) inconvenience on the grand scale of existence, doesn't mean that they are such a horrible person to deserve your unyielding scathing hatred."

    1)College is a minor inconvenience? College is expensive as it is. Whether or not you believe the piece of paper (degree) you get is worth it, many business require them for employment. Add to that, the fact that our education level is painful as it is... and the fact that many people miss out on higher education because of money...

    are you saying that our current education level is a minor inconvenience?

    2)careful with the statements about "on the grand scale". I can turn that right back around and say "hey publisher... look at the big picture. We're all going to die someday anyway, so why worry about me getting your book for free?". And no, that's no bigger a stretch than you made.

    3) Finally, and my favorite... the only example of "unyielding scathing hatred" I've seen was the use of the "f"word on post#1. Yeah, I agree that it wasn't the most eloquent expression of a point, but I don't think that one post is indicative of the rest of the people around here.

    You paint too many people with too broad a brush, and you bring the wrong paints to begin with. Sorry that we're not the anti-christian darwinist, communist, hate-mongers that you wanted us to be.

     

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    Sanguine Dream, Nov 21st, 2006 @ 7:37am

    Some bullsh!t!

    College textbooks are a scam. At least the reselling part is. Buy book for $100+. Open it 5-6 over the course of the semester. Take back to to bookstore for resale and you're lucky to get anything for it becuase most of the time you get told, "We're not taking those back. There's a new edition." After four years of college (it would taken me five) I can count on one hand how many books the campus bookstore acutally took back.

    And we're not just talking programming or engineering books that are understandably updated every year due to new languages or new discoveries. What can possibly change in the world of math from one year to the next in this day and age? What new material can be added to a literature book that only covers up to the Harlem Renissance?

    It almost sounds like textbook publishers have an acute case of **AA-itis.

     

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    Iko, Nov 21st, 2006 @ 7:41am

    Book costs...

    I paid ~$4k on used textbooks while in university. I made back about $800 from the texts that I never saw myself using again. The publishing industry can go fuck themselves. Extortionate pricing is not a good way to garner sympathy.

     

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    Solo, Nov 21st, 2006 @ 10:57am

    Back in my home country (the land of beer, waffles, chocolate and blocks), we don't have textbooks. We have college provided material suited for the class. i.e. written by the professor, printed, bound, sold by the university/school services ($10-$25 a piece) It's only available to students though.

    When I say written by the professor, I really mean by an underpaid grad student.

    Those are generally revised every 2-10 years depending on the field and level of the class.

    There's no good reason to maintain the tight hold of text book publisher as they enjoy it right now. Except maybe for the laziness of instructors who just have to pick up a book and read from it, calling it 'teaching' and drawing an income from that activity.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2006 @ 2:04pm

    The reason that text books cost so much is that the market is very limited. They're not going to be bestsellers with ten million copies sold. Therefore if you pay someone good money to create the book, you have to charge a high amount to recoup that money (plus at least some amount of profit) from the small volume of sales that you'll have. It's as simple as that.

    You can sell a million books for $1 or one book for $1 million dollars and make the same amount. But if only one person needs the book you'd be stupid to sell it for $1.

    The hypocrisy I'm seeing in these responses is incredible. You're all complaining about companies who are trying to make a profit, whereas BOTH of you are really just trying to keep as much money in your pocket as possible. But THEY have invested money in their endeavor. What have you invested?

    The textbook problem is similar to the teacher problem in that if teaching doesn't provide a good enough income, then qualified people won't want to do it. If the practices mentioned in the article continue, do you think the textbook companies will be able to hire qualified people to write the books?

    If you can't afford a Porsche, don't buy one. If you don't like the high cost of college and textbooks, don't go to college. But stop acting like the textbook companies are doing anything wrong. They produce a product and they sell it. If you don't like the price, then don't buy it. But don't get it illegally instead.

     

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    Gabriel Tane (profile), Nov 21st, 2006 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Post 21

    Where to start, where to start...

    "Therefore if you pay someone good money to create the book, you have to charge a high amount to recoup that money (plus at least some amount of profit) from the small volume of sales that you'll have. It's as simple as that."

    No, it's not a simple as that. The lack of any real competition has lead to an artificial inflation of the price. This is what happens when you don't have any reason to innovate or cut costs.

    "The hypocrisy I'm seeing in these responses is incredible. You're all complaining about companies who are trying to make a profit, whereas BOTH of you are really just trying to keep as much money in your pocket as possible. But THEY have invested money in their endeavor. What have you invested?"

    Hypocrisy? Sorry, but I don't see it. If we were complaining about this, then turning around and doing the same thing elsewhere, thatwould be hypocrisy.

    And we're not complaining about a company making a profit, we're complaining about extortion. Plain and simple. These companies know that there are no other resources for books. So they charge whatever they want instead of helping create an easily available learning environment.

    And who says that both parties have to invest the same thing into this before it can be equitable. What have we invested? How about our tuition into an institution that not only facilitates a dependence on these products, but a requires it.

    "If you can't afford a Porsche, don't buy one. If you don't like the high cost of college and textbooks, don't go to college. But stop acting like the textbook companies are doing anything wrong. They produce a product and they sell it. If you don't like the price, then don't buy it. But don't get it illegally instead."

    MMM... my favorite one again. Don't go to college? Are you saying the best solution to this problem is to lower the number of people we have getting a higher education? How could you think that the best solution is to take action that will directly lower the education level of our country.. which is low enough as it is. What hell is wrong with you people?

    You know, history is replete with geniuses who came from poor families and backgrounds. Who forged their way through college and went on to make amazing breakthroughs in human understanding. I shudder to think of what the next few centuries will show for our species if people who think that only the rich should be educated get their way.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2006 @ 6:02pm

    "No, it's not a simple as that. The lack of any real competition has lead to an artificial inflation of the price."

    So what? That's not illegal. Complain that you don't like it, that's fine, but don't go breaking the law just because you don't like it.

    "And we're not complaining about a company making a profit, we're complaining about extortion. Plain and simple."

    You're trying to dictate what kind of profit a company should make. Sorry but that's not the way it works in America. Besides, have the people doing the complaining/copyright infringement lifted a finger to determine the actual costs involved in any specific textbook in order to really evaluate whether they're being gouged? No, they're just looking at the price tag and yelling "foul" because it costs more than the DaVinci Code paperback.

    If the book is used a lot in a class, then it's worth the money. If it's not used much, as has been the experience of some people here, then it's something that can and should be brought up to the teacher and/or school.

    "MMM... my favorite one again. Don't go to college? Are you saying the best solution to this problem is to lower the number of people we have getting a higher education?"

    No, I'm saying that no one's forcing you to go to college. And I'm pretty sure that the "best solution" is also not to rip off people who are trying to earn a living. I'm really tired of all of this whining about things not being free-- textbooks are too expensive!... CD's are too expensive!... movie tickets are too expensive!... DVD's are too expensive!... etc. We're raising a generation of whiny babies who expect everything for free and resort to illegal ways of getting things when they're deemed (arbitrarily, mind you) to be too expensive.

    "You know, history is replete with geniuses who came from poor families and backgrounds. Who forged their way through college and went on to make amazing breakthroughs in human understanding."

    Yes, and those people didn't sit around whining about the price of text books, even though they were in a tough position. I hardly think that the people posting here on Tech Dirt are quite as poor as the examples you're referring to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    mousepaw, Nov 22nd, 2006 @ 6:23am

    re: complaining

    I was complaining about both the cost and (more importantly) the age of the information. They are related. I resent having to buy an expensive out-of-date text book. I don't have any problem paying what they ask for current info.

    Out-of-date information doesn't help me compete in the real world and I'm going to have to upgrade what I learn in school. I lack trust in the information provided which generates resentment of the purchase price.

    I know life is all about learning but can't we start out with solid info?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Gabriel Tane (profile), Nov 27th, 2006 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    So what? That's not illegal. Complain that you don't like it, that's fine, but don't go breaking the law just because you don't like it.


    Uh, actually, it is. It's called "price fixing", "monopoly".... any of that ring a bell? Why the government hasn't looked into it more... well, they do have more important things to worry about. And, until now, students pretty much just bought the books because there is no alternative. Now that there is one, the bookmakers are suing. And drawing attention to the situation.

    You're trying to dictate what kind of profit a company should make.

    No, I'm trying to see a true free market. And no, I don't mean a market where everything is free. As I stated before, the monopoly here has created an artificial price increase. This isn't supply meeting demand and generating a value. This is one person holding all the cards saying "this is how much you will pay me". And that's an ok thing for you?

    Besides, have the people doing the complaining/copyright infringement lifted a finger to determine the actual costs involved in any specific textbook in order to really evaluate whether they're being gouged?

    Have you?

    No, I'm saying that no one's forcing you to go to college. And I'm pretty sure that the "best solution" is also not to rip off people who are trying to earn a living.

    You're right... that is not the best solution. The best solution (in my opinion) would be to break up a monopoly that is artificially increasing the price of books, introduce some real competition in that market, and rejoice when more people can get a higher education because this is one less hurdle to being able to afford it.

    Yes, and those people didn't sit around whining about the price of text books, even though they were in a tough position. I hardly think that the people posting here on Tech Dirt are quite as poor as the examples you're referring to.

    And the fact that we have not seen, really, any truly innovative geniuses in the last 50 or so years come from America, may illustrate how bad this problem may be. I doubt it's a general decline in human potential. The problem is after surviving 12 years of horribly under-par education, our youth is then faced with not being able to afford to go to college. And half of that financial hurdle is the textbooks.

    As you said, they "didn't sit around whining about the price of text books"... maybe because The price wasn't a hurdle? My point about poor geniuses was in response to your sentiment that only those who could afford it should be educated.

    I'm really tired of all of this whining about things not being free-- textbooks are too expensive!... CD's are too expensive!... movie tickets are too expensive!... DVD's are too expensive!... etc. We're raising a generation of whiny babies who expect everything for free and resort to illegal ways of getting things when they're deemed (arbitrarily, mind you) to be too expensive.

    I'll be departing a bit from my original point onto this tangent, but...

    Your statement is a matter of opinion and perspective. I don't see it as people wanting things for free, because you do have to spend time looking for these things. You do have to spend time looking for ways to get around digital protections. You're not paying in cash, but it's hardly "free".

    What I see is a generation of people who are realizing that they can get these items from other sources and not have to pay a dictated price. That's how changes are made it the status quo.

    As far as it being illegal: There was a time when it was illegal to refuse to pay taxes to the British Crown, even though you lived in a colony across the ocean. And before you say something about it not being the same, the only difference is scale. The point is that when things are wrong, you fix them. Before that fix is completed, it's considered wrong to go against the normal.

    Another illustration: The American Civil War would have been called the War of Southern Independance if the south had won. In fact, many Southerners actually refer to it as such.

    You say you're sick of the whining... I'm sick of people saying "stop speaking up and just accept things as the way they are."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Gabriel Tane (profile), Nov 27th, 2006 @ 7:08am

    Another thing...

    I thought of this after I submitted my last post and re-read the title of this article. It kind of drove the point home.

    I understand that bookmakers want to get the money back from the investment they made in producing those books. And we can argue all day long about whether the price they charge is more than a return on investment. But here's the point:

    Why should the cost of books be a hindrance on education? We see where many professors don't use the whole book, in fact I've had professors that used one or two chapters of this huge and expensive tome. We see where students have severe difficulty in obtaining the books. So why not change the format? Why not make the information available instead of a whole book? The publishers could make smaller bits available for the professors to choose from so that students will only have to pay for what they use.

    And one more thing. In response to the Anonymous Coward in post #23 saying how "We're raising a generation of whiny babies who expect everything for free and resort to illegal ways of getting things when they're deemed (arbitrarily, mind you) to be too expensive."... it's not the "whiny youth" that's "breaking the law" here... the actions that are being challenged by the publishers are the actions of professors who don't even have to buy the books! When someone who is unaffected by the price is saying that it's not right... that should give you pause. When someone who already has their education, who doesn't have to pay for books (except maybe the teachers addition) is saying this is an undue hindrance... that says something.

    You were so quick to jump on the "Shut up and pay, damned whiny youth" bandwagon, that you missed that point. It's not your imagined "gimme gimme gimme" generation that's doing this. It's the "I know the value of earning my way" generation. Its people from the generation that usually side with the record companies and the movie companies. Of course most of those people are either in the pockets of the ##IA or just feel that "if I had to pay, so should you."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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