Textbook Publishers Continue To Freak Out Over File Sharing

from the and-start-fighting-back dept

It's been almost four years since we first wrote about textbook publishers freaking out over file sharing of textbooks, and it appears that not all that much has really changed in the interim, other than the fact that it's actually becoming a little more common for students to find scanned versions of textbooks online. The NY Times looks at the issue and how some textbook providers are trying to strike back. Of course, the main reason why students download textbooks is because textbooks are ridiculously expensive, but it doesn't look like publishers are fighting back by lowering prices.

Instead, they're trying to get people to pay more.

More specifically, rather than responding to the root cause of the downloads, textbook publishers are trying to come up with systems that students can't get around paying for, such as online subscriptions to "extra" information to go along with a textbook. Of course, we've seen this before at times too, such as the time when a company offering just such a subscription went out of business in the middle of a semester, taking down its website and all of the materials the students were using. That worked out great.

Basically, the textbook publishers are reacting in exactly the wrong way. Rather than focusing on ways to actually add value and make it worthwhile to pay, they're looking to come up with ways to lock people in and force them to pay. That's bound to backfire eventually. It'll just take a smarter textbook company to embrace more reasonable strategies, and for professors to only use educational materials from those companies not focused on bankrupting students.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Chris, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 4:57pm

    First!! Textbook companies are the devil.

     

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

  2.  
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    kiba, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 5:12pm

    Already Started

    All we need is more series of books like these that can easily be redistributable starts to appears in large quantity and is of sufficient quality.

    The only problem is the textbook companies. Like the article said, they only making it harder for themselves. Market correction will be especially painful for them.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    BillDem, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 5:33pm

    They are crazy for still printing them...

    Are they insane? They should be selling inexpensive ebook versions for various readers, complete with live links to references, links to support videos, etc. In this digital age it is borderline retarded to still be toting around 50 lbs. of textbooks in your freaking backpack when your laptop could hold an entire library. If I was still in college, I'd be looking for scanned versions, too. This is the 21st century. Get with the program companies!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    AC for now, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 5:53pm

    give them away free

    I think the authorities should move towards making textbooks completely free, and compensate the authors in some other way.

    See what's happening in an Indian state.

    http://www.textbooksonline.tn.nic.in/

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Manitcor, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 6:13pm

    They Honestly Do not Get It

    It really comes down to a complete lack of understanding on the part of nearly every level in the educational publishing industry.

    There is still a large contingent that assert that what they do is publish books and it is the content in the books that people are paying for.

    True, when the only avenue for your content was a book and the ability to carry that content in other forms was extremely limited. Now with digital delivery the focus needs to change to one of services around education with content as an enabler for other services.

    The big problem with this is that it requires a fundamental change in the way these companies do business. Everything from the way the sell to how they compensate authors and even how internal budgeting is handled.

    The way things have worked for so long is so ingrained in the minds of those in the industry that even the mere suggestion that revenue is derived from anything other than a textbook gets looks as if you have just sprouted 9 heads. So we remain stuck in a world of key codes, half-hearted companion content and weak online offerings that are lauded as successes internally when they garner usage in the five digit range.

    They are making the same moves as the music and movie industry are doing and validating by saying that they are actually selling to the instructors and the deans (they really, gear their sales that way). These people are older and supposedly don't under stand technology. What they don't see coming is a whole generation of 30 somethings and younger. The Nintendo generation is quickly approaching the age of professorships, tenure and attaining higher level offices in educational institutions. Pair that with a student body who does not know anything other than what is online and you have an industry that will shift quickly and violently.

    At the end of the day, I don't really see any of the major publishers becoming enlightened and changing their ways. What I do see are a small group of motivated individuals getting venture funding and the right kind of content going to every school in the country and offering their content for next to nothing or free while having low cost testing, reporting, tutoring and class management services. Many schools, particularly community colleges, will jump on this as the cheaper books are the more students they can enroll and the more classes they can take.

    The most disappointing fact of this is that many of the major publishers do have the content, the technology and the engineering skills to make this happen. Instead they will fight to keep the old models alive as long as possible and refusing to learn for the mistakes other content industries have made in the last 10+ years.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Hua Fang, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 6:24pm

    Individualized texbook

    We need re-think about what a textbook should be. I think that it will be becoming individualized for each different learning. Then, the question becomes how a textbook publisher will make money in the future. Or we have to ask this question first, what a textbook publisher should be like in the face of ever-advancing technology and fast-pace increasing volume of knowledge? ... ... Eventually leading us to ask this fundamental question: what is knowledge and reasoning?

    To have a true inside-out answer about a future textbook, we are forced to seek about the truth on this basic philosophical inquiry. Retrospectively, we learned that the deep thinking along the lines from philosophy of mathematics and logics, including its pragmatic outcome of significant gift called "Mathematical Theory of Communication" by Claude Shannon. ... ...

    Before stretched too far, let's come back to the original line of topics, the textbook. I truly believe that it will not be the same again no matter it can make money or not.

    a codonologist.

     

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  7.  
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    Cynic, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 6:40pm

    Of course, it's not surprising to me (at least) that books and book publishers that are selected by people who deliver a vapor-ware product (i.e., higher education) would see no need to enter the 21st century. When I was in college in the 70s the teachers picked new text books every year (yeah, the world was constantly changing in the 70s, you should have been there, knowledge was becoming obsolete in the course of a year...right). The books were heavy, often had misprints, and were ridiculously expensive.

    So here we are, these many years later, and as far as I can see the colleges and the book companies are still playing the same game. Kind of makes me wonder about the intelligence of people running both colleges and text book publishers. Yeah, super smart people.

     

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

  8.  
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    Walter, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 6:52pm

    Textbook Costs

    For the fall term of my university I've spent a lot of time looking for cheap alternatives to my textbooks. Luckily in the sciences there are many cheap alternatives (check out Dover Publishing for great books

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Walter, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 6:53pm

    Weird..,

    My above comment got purged for no reason. For the fall term of my university I've spent a lot of time looking for cheap alternatives to my textbooks. Luckily in the sciences there are many cheap alternatives (check out Dover Publishing for great books

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Walter, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 6:54pm

    WTF

    It got purged again yet the preview said otherwise. Argh.

     

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

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 8:04pm

    If textbooks today weren't dripping with color on every single page, they might cost a little less.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    MLS, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 8:38pm

    I have always been partial to the curriculum presented at St. John's in Annapolis. Cost of textbooks is not an issue.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    RLS, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 9:10pm

    Or, instead of printing books that may never be purchased... the school could add the price of the book to tuition. And that way every student has paid for the book, and then the school can distribute digital information or make sure the student receives the paper version. The authors are then providing their content based on license agreements to schools.

    Or something like that. I think it's a good idea that could be tweaked into something quite amazing.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Kiwi, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 9:38pm

    Give the publishers some slack. It's tough to be in the buggy whip business in the 21st century.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Wilhelm Reuch, Jul 28th, 2008 @ 9:55pm

    Progress cant be stopped, textbooks will be free and the publishers should simply find other ways to compensate authors rather than holding on to obsolete business models.

    Selling T-shirts?

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Manitcor, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 3:47am

    Re: Color != High Price

    Actually publishers pay beans to have books printed. They get huge volume discounts on their runs. Mark up is over 1000%.

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Willton, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 6:26am

    One solution for Law schools

    My Evidence professor decided last year that he was fed up with dealing with casebooks and decided to make his own: he downloaded a large number of evidence-related cases and copied them to MS Word format (judicial opinions are in the public domain, so no copyright infringement if the files contain only the words of the cases). He then collected them, made a Table of Contents that tracked his syllabus, and distributed it all in a ZIP file to me and my classmates. Presto: we had a free casebook.

    One major drawback to this approach was that most students prefer to learn from a physical book than from a computer screen, and it can be a drag on the school's budget when students print out every reading assignment at the school library. Further, my evidence professor is pretty tech-savvy, so I don't expect this practice to spread like wildfire. That said, it's a pretty decent way for law professors to focus on the material they want to teach (as opposed to the material the casebook author wants to teach) while making it less expensive for law students to learn the law.

    I don't expect this practice to be workable for undergraduate classes, but it's a step in the right direction.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Willton, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 6:30am

    Re: They are crazy for still printing them...

    Are they insane? They should be selling inexpensive ebook versions for various readers, complete with live links to references, links to support videos, etc. In this digital age it is borderline retarded to still be toting around 50 lbs. of textbooks in your freaking backpack when your laptop could hold an entire library. If I was still in college, I'd be looking for scanned versions, too. This is the 21st century. Get with the program companies!

    Most people in the 21st century don't like reading from a computer screen; they tend to prefer the actual book.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Dementia, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 6:42am

    "It'll just take a smarter textbook company to embrace more reasonable strategies, and for professors to only use educational materials from those companies not focused on bankrupting students."

    As I sit here and think back to my college days, it seems that I remember a number of my textbooks had my profeesors listed as a contributing author. Now, that couldn't have anything to do with this situation, could it?

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Skippy T. Mut, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re: They are crazy for still printing them...

    Not most people...most OLDER people!

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Vincent Clement, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 7:20am

    Re:

    Or we can enter the 21st century and stop believing that a textbook is the primary way to learn. A good curriculum and a good professor shouldn't have to rely on a required textbook.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Willton, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re: Re: They are crazy for still printing them...

    Not most people...most OLDER people!

    If by "OLDER people" you mean people in their 20's (who make up the majority of grad school student bodies), then yes, most of them.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Amazing Steve, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 8:43am

    Re:

    And so ANOTHER dinosaur meets the internet for the first time...

    Whaaaaaaaa! Those evil students are cutting into our insane profit margin!!!! Whaaaaaa!

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    ManagementHasNoStay, Aug 4th, 2008 @ 9:29pm

    Textbook Publishers vs. The Sudents

    The RIAA could learn a thing or two from the textbook publishing industry. However, I find it particularly very strange that none of these cases or stories have ever made it mainstream or public knowledge...

    Check out

    www.nysun.com/new-york/this-detectives-mysteries-involve-real-life-books/49753/

    And

    www.au ctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y05/m04/i25/s02

    They successfully sued a college student at Georgia Tech for copyright infringement with a judgment about $210,000 and $100,000 in attorney fees. This was only after he telephoned the plaintiff's attorneys to discuss a amicable settlement and, according to court documents, disclose his personal bank statements, etc. All this was over sending out portable document format (PDF) files. …

    Check out Pearson Education, Inc., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Thomson Learning Inc., The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.; v. Nadir Knyane

    The defendant is being sued for allegedly distributing two (that's 2) instructor solution manuals as stated in the complaint. Only Pearson and John Wiley are itemized with the 2 allegedly distributed files. So why is Thomson and McGraw-Hill listed in the lawsuit?

    Check out

    Pearson Education, Inc., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Thomson Learning Inc., The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.; Defendant v. Yi Shi

    The defendant, a college student in Missouri, is being sued for allegedly distributing homework assignments and foreign edition textbooks of 19 texts. Wow, so lesson learned, you can't distribute your homework without the expressed written permission of the publishers I guess. Actually, that could be reasoning for not turning in your homework on time.

    All of these lawsuits are from last year (September 2007). There's many, many more but going over all of them would take too long. Plus to read them you need access to LexusNexus and other legal website access.

    It seems to me that these are filed quite systematic. I find it very strange and unusual that a large majority of these lawsuits are filed by one attorney. Furthermore, I find it equally strange that they are all filed in the Southern District of New York. Unlike the Recording Industry, who sends it to the defendant's state of residence with counsel in that state, this is not the case.

    Since the publishers are concerned about people photocopying 'their' stuff and distributing it electronically why are they making their materials exclusively electronic? Why are they filing lawsuits on the basis of this?

    Also, popular McGraw-Hill text (named in a previous lawsuit against students) resource says this right next to the copyright “The contents of, or parts thereof, may be reproduced for use with [textbook name] provided such reproductions bear copyright notice and may be reproduced in any form for any other purpose without permission of the publisher...

    Isn't it funny how none of these stories truly make it mainstream or to public knowledge? A kid with a judgement larger than the RIAA lawsuit doesn't even make a bleep. With about 50 lawsuits filed in the last year, and settlements (according to court documents and an enforcement agent) of up to "five figures", or specified in one court case that settlements are between $700 - $70,000.

    Paul Newman put it best in Cool Hand Luke, "Wish you'd stop bein' so good to me, Captain."

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    دردشه, Jul 5th, 2009 @ 4:16pm

    tankyo

     

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


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