Textbook torrents a-crashin’

In the Net… shared CC by ALA staff

Nothing more annoying than argument by anecdote…

I read a thread on Facebook where a young relative of mine posted a status message that a textbook he needed was sold out at the bookstore. A friend of his responded “why don’t you just download it?” To which the lad replied “you can do that?”, followed up a few minutes later with a new status message: “just saved $120 bucks on a calculus textbook – thank you IsoHunt!”…

Students torrenting textbooks is nothing new, but I thought this little episode was worth a Tweet. I got a lot more replies to this than normal (most of them privately), broken into two categories. From my younger peers, it was stuff like “it’s done all the time, the prices on textbooks are a rip-off”… and from people my own age it was “I didn’t know you could do that, got any tips?”

The seeds of revolt are planted, and again I think this is a huge opportunity for open educators. OpenEd 09 had some good sessions relevant to the topic, I’d refer you to the video (yes, every session at the conference was live-streamed and archived) for “Dispelling Myths about Open Textbooks”, “Free: Why Authors & Publishers are Giving Away Books” and “Living the Dream: Best Practices in OER Publication” (joint session), and a panel discussion on open textbooks.

3 thoughts on “Textbook torrents a-crashin’

  1. My only worry is that this war gets even messier than the music one. I have a feeling that textbook publishers may be even more vicious than the RIAA ever was. We might see far more court cases and students being made examples of.

    Now… time for me to go and check on progress of my “4000 essential literary works” download…

  2. @Andre The publishers have much, much less influence in congress than the RIAA due to how much money they have. Everyone buys music, only students buy textbooks, and the profit-margin doesn’t make up the difference.

    That said, if it were up to them, even physical books would be have TPM’s. An interesting story a friend told me last year is that when he asked the CEO of one of the big four Canadian publishers about the used book industry, the CEO responded with that that is piracy. Funny stuff.

    A big difference between the industries is that with TB’s, the creators of the materials are less incentivized by profit, and a lot of the materials are static. A good appeal to academic freedom can go a long way with most professors, and a great textbook can be useful indefinitely–not so much with musicians and music.

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