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Textbooks With EULAs 743

Posted by timothy
from the oh-boy dept.
overshoot writes "We all knew it was coming, didn't we? Now Princeton University and nine others are introducing DRM'd textbooks. For a 33% discount, students get a 5-month node-locked e-book instead of all that glossy paper. Maybe Congress should just get it over with and change the law to allow EULAs on printed works?"
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Textbooks With EULAs

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  • Five months? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tobybuk (633332) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @08:59AM (#13285329)
    And just what happens when you need to revise for exams? This sounds like a very badly thought out idea that someone didn't want to work.
    • Re:Five months? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Freexe (717562) <serrkr@tznvy.pbz> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:11AM (#13285407) Homepage
      Sounds to me like a really well thought out idea.

      1. Arrive at uni and buy E-books (profit)
      2. Months in the course starts
      3. Books 'run-out'
      4. Re-buy book. (profit)
      5. Course finishs
      6. Book run-out again
      7. Exam timetables come through
      8. Start revising
      9. have to buy books again (profit)

      a bit of a change to the normal list, but 3 times the profit!
      • by tobybuk (633332) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:28AM (#13285536)
        I guess this could be considered some sort of student idiot test. 'Hands up who purchased the DRM -Book for our 4 year course?'
      • Or... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by imstanny (722685) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:31AM (#13285555)
        1. Books are downloaded. 2. Digital screen shots of photos are taken. 3. Digital screen shots converted to Word document using Tablet text recognition software. 4. Free text books. Not saying that's what should happen, but I wouldn't be suprised if it did.
      • by 88NoSoup4U88 (721233) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:08AM (#13285845) Homepage
        You forgot one step, which makes the rest of the steps obsolete.

        1. Arrive at uni and buy E-books (profit)
        2. Months in the course starts
        3. Books 'run-out'
        4. Rip E-book
        No step 5.

        • Re:Five months? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Frymaster (171343)
          1. Arrive at uni and buy E-books (profit)
          2. Months in the course starts
          3. Books 'run-out'
          4. Rip E-book
          No step 5.

          and maybe no degree either. copying the ebook is a crime and students can be punished for it. as far as the government is concerned, your plan is no different than a student who currently:

          1. arrives at uni
          2. holds up liquor store
          3. buys text book with the proceeds

          • Re:Five months? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:46AM (#13286121)
            your plan is no different than a student who currently:
            ...
            holds up liquor store

            Except that the punishment for holding up a liquor store is probably less than that for violating a cheesy DRM scheme. And chances of getting parole are probably better too!

          • Crime? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by autopr0n (534291)
            How is copying an e-book a crime? Under what statute? (and don't say DMCA, that only applies to people distributing software, not using it)How is copying an e-book a crime? Under what statute? (and don't say DMCA, that only applies to people distributing software, not using it).

            People keep saying this, but I've never seen any evidence for it.
      • Re:Five months? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:22AM (#13285950)
        It's even worse than that. While the books won't 'expire' mid-semester, many publishers plan to tie the course's evaluation software to these e-books. This will effectively kill the used book market, which is a big threat to publishers right now, especially now that Amazon and Borders have jumped into the used book trade.

        Here's how it works: the professor gets the new course book every year, possibly for free. With that book comes software that allows a teacher to easily post quizzes online, something similar to Blackboard. In order for a student to use this, they have to have this year's book/software combo, otherwise they can't take the test. There are other schemes floating around out there, too, like students will take tests in-class by answering questions on a projector screen using an RF/IR "clicker".

        How do I know this? I work for a textbook publisher and our president informed us that this is the way the entire textbook industry is going. Our company is all in a tizzy right now about DRM as well. They simultaneously see digital books as a threat and a potential boon.

        • Re:Five months? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Catbeller (118204)
          Now, suddenly, the eBook reader will become a widespread piece of hardware. In a 2,000 buck Tablet PC running Windows.

          And think of this: with the moderating effect of the used textbook market gone, the sky's the limit for textbook prices. The $500 book is a-comin'.

          And think of this: the entire publishing cost for the paper book is gone, which means the book becomes pure profit. And they will raise the prices over and over again...
          • Opportunity (Score:5, Insightful)

            by shmlco (594907) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @12:51PM (#13287072) Homepage
            I think most people are looking at this backwards.

            If ebooks become accepted as teaching materials, then this is a prime time for someone to jump in and disintermediate the marketplace, as the barriers to entry (presses, distribution) have just been dramatically lowered.

            Someone should start a publishing company with the idea of a) furnishing inexpensive books to education, and b) of offering writers of said books a fair split. Go to the top minds in a field and ask them to write a textbook. Tell them they'll get a 50/50 split on each book sold if they write it and help promote it.

            Then sell it for $10-20 DRM'ed. iTunes has shown most people will accept reasonably fair DRM if it occurs at a reasonable price. And a $20 book is a much easier pill to swallow than a $100 one.

            If the current crop of publishers get too greedy the market will punish them for it. Heck, there's probably someone in India right now wondering how to put a bunch of their PhDs to work...

    • Would rolling the clock back on your computer give you instant access again? I know it works with some "free trial" software.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:48AM (#13285685)
        if you aren't already part of the hacker underground, you should really look into making your way in. talent like yours shouldn't be wasted.
      • DMCA Violation (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DragonHawk (21256)
        "Would rolling the clock back on your computer give you instant access again? I know it works with some "free trial" software."

        That makes clocks a "circumvention device" under the DMCA. The RIAA and MPAA hereby order everyone to stop using time.
    • Re:Five months? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by samkass (174571)
      I like the idea of digital books (especially if you can grep them!), I don't mind the DRM (if people will copy a $0.99 song they'll copy a $50 book), but the expiration thing is a show-stopper. I've referenced my best old textbooks many times since leaving school, and can't really imagine buying one that I know will "disintigrate" in 5 months. "Free" would be too expensive for such a book-- I'd rather buy a full-priced one that I could keep.
      • Re:Five months? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dachannien (617929)
        I agree. I still have all but one of the textbooks I bought throughout my postsecondary education, and many still come in handy every now and then.

        But there are lots of college students who already sell back their textbooks to their school's bookstore after they're done with the class, and this is sort of the same thing - you essentially get back 33% of your book's purchase price, and you save yourself a trip to the bookstore. The question is whether the purchase price is actually a ripoff since you get
  • by DoktorTomoe (643004) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @08:59AM (#13285331)
    • by kenthorvath (225950) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:40AM (#13285623)
      It is a legitimate concern and one worth worrying about, but I don't see the major media conglomerates getting very far with it. The reason being that authors and publishers don't have to DRM their works in the same way that software publishers don't have to implement DRM and authentication systems in their products. Some companies invariably do such things, but for every one of these another free, open source, or other such somewhat more desirable contender tends to either pop-up or have already existed.

      What surprises me most, really, is that I have never come across a repository of free textbooks available in some standard electronic form - say PDF. If there were enough such books available and written by reputable professors there would be a movement towards making them the standard texts in classrooms.

      This is not as implausible as it may seem. There are many cases in which authors have released print versions of their text alongside or after having released electronic versions. In the majority of cases, the freely available electronic text bolsters sales of the print version. Also, e-texts can be revised and distributed easier. With a wiki dedicated to errata and addendums, the e-text could supplement the print version as being up to date and an indisposable reference in some cases. The author, in turn, gets free editing and peer review.

      Finally, the success of other free software projects at the university level suggests to me that a free text-book program would be quite welcome. The students would certainly put quite a bit of pressure on the university and its faculty to implement it regardless.

      Anyone know if something like this exists?

      • Well, it's not QUITE what you're describing, but MIT started a program a little while ago called "open courseware". Basically, they open sourced their course material and published it on the internet. A lot of the stuff really is quite fantastic. I've used it a few times for reference and just for general reading and the stuff in there is really quite good. The best part is there's a really wide range of courses covered, but the comp/elec eng section is really quite expansive.

        MIT open courseware site
      • by reverse flow reactor (316530) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:06AM (#13285827)
        You sound like you are looking for Wikibooks [wikibooks.org]. They are developing and disseminating free open content textbooks, manuals, and other texts.
      • Dover Books seems to do a paper version of this. They reprint books that are in the public domain or that have been dropped by the original publisher. Their prices are much more reasonable than those charged by textbook publishers.

        I'd like to see them reprint a series of classic textbooks that are now out-of-print, from the days when publishers didn't waste paper on fluff.

      • What surprises me most, really, is that I have never come across a repository of free textbooks available in some standard electronic form - say PDF.

        You mean like this [freetechbooks.com], or this [techbooksforfree.com]? Those are just the two I happen to have bookmarked. I'm pretty sure there're a few more out there. Admittedly, not everything they link to is in PDF format, but a lot of it is.

      • What surprises me most, really, is that I have never come across a repository of free textbooks available in some standard electronic form - say PDF. If there were enough such books available and written by reputable professors there would be a movement towards making them the standard texts in classrooms.
        See my sig.
  • by faloi (738831) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:00AM (#13285332)
    They can bribe a CS major into unlocking the book forever!
  • Learning? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DenDave (700621) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:00AM (#13285333)
    Ok so what of the academic ideals of spreading knowledge and learning? This is a result of american school industry.. It is unfortunate that learning has become a profit commodity for a privileged few in what is supposed to be a land of equality and opportunity for all...

    Sad sad sad...
    • Re:Learning? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dsginter (104154) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:10AM (#13285399)
      Ok so what of the academic ideals of spreading knowledge and learning?

      You must be new to the US - welcome!

      Here, we do whatever we can in the name of corporate profit. This includes screwing the students, which we have been doing since the advent of education.
      • Re:Learning? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:28AM (#13285539)
        Here, we do whatever we can in the name of corporate profit. This includes screwing the students, which we have been doing since the advent of education.

        No, here we do whatever we can to get professors tenure, and to make sure that every insane book that they think you should buy is part of the curriculum. Never mind DRM'd e-books, just look at the texts that you have to buy in good old fashioned paper format. Why does a book like that cost $100? Because they only print a very small number, because everyone knows that the only audience FOR that professor's expensive hard bound book is going to be the students that he says have to buy a copy. The actual publishing of the book is costly, but it wouldn't happen at all if there wasn't an artificial market set up in academia.

        Or, you could look at it another way. Say the books ARE worth $100. Who should be paying? The student, or taxpayers? It's pretty much one or the other. Which corporate profit, by the way, are you referring to... the university presses that are woven into this entire incestuous little ecology? It's a completely false economy that could only exist in a college setting. If it can be made to be cheaper by using e-books, so much the better.

        BTW, don't forget that a paid-for-by-the-student education, including students buying their materials, goes back long before this country ever existed. Your little US=Bad rant is a little short sighted. Obviously one thing you didn't read was one of those expensive history books.
        • Re:Learning? (Score:3, Informative)

          by hrieke (126185)

          ... [E]veryone knows that the only audience FOR that professor's expensive hard bound book is going to be the students that he says have to buy a copy.

          Then you know nothing about how schools manage required books for courses. If a professor assigns thier own book then s/he fore goes all profits from their book. To do otherwise would open the school up to all sorts claims and attacks to it's accreditation, something that would get a professor fired, tenure or no tenure.

        • Re:Learning? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by glockenspieler (692846) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:41AM (#13286088)
          Insightful? Please...

          I'm a professor, I attempt to select the best possible book for the course that I teach. I have published books but I have never required one of my books for a course (actually I have distributed electronic versions of portions of text to students to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest by requiring this).

          I try to take into account the cost of texts but there are many other considerations and while I might hate requiring a $100 book, what am I to do if I decide this book is superior to an $50 book?

          I am not sure what "artificial market" you refer to although I suspect you are referring to the fact that the people incurring the cost aren't those making the selection of the product. While true, this does not necessarily constitute an artificial market. Many products and services (and while I am loath to refer to education as a product but for the sake of argument) have other costs that you may be liable for once you've purchased the original product or service. Think cars and car repairs.

          I dont' like the shape of market forces in the textbook industry and many professors feel the same way. Many of us take steps to mitigate these costs (I push fair use to the absolute limit in making electronic resources available to my students at no cost). We simply have so many constraints that the end result is always a compromise.

          Finally, I recommend avoiding statements like "Everybody knows..." Its usually a clear sign that what ever is coming next is vastly oversimplified, self-righteous, or just plain ignorant.

          • Re:Learning? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Overzeetop (214511)
            You are correct. A $50 book which is accpetable is a poor value compared to an excellent book (which mirrors your teaching methods/style) for $100. With undergrad courses easily costing in excess of $1000, an extra $50 on a excpetional text vs an average one is small change.

            My problem with the ebooks is the implicit expiration. That might not be a big deal if the books were far less than their physical counterparts (say, 15-30%), but to charge nearly the cost of a used book is a bit outrageous. I have many
    • Re:Learning? (Score:3, Insightful)

      This has nothing to do with academic ideals, and as much as Slashdotters love to bitch about DRM and EULAs (which have nothing to do with it either) nobody ever suggests actual ... you know ... alternatives.

      The publishing industry is going to love DRM, and I don't blame them. They saw the music industry get screwed over by wide-spread cultural acceptance of piracy, the movie industry then went through the same thing and now the book industry is about to experience the same thing.

      Simply put, if people ca

      • Re:Learning? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MKalus (72765)
        One may argue that music is a "good" that can be traded and thus pirated.

        But knowledge (and that is what text books are about) that build the foundation for our society should not only be free (as in speech) but be affordable to anyone who wants to aquire it.

        The idea that this knowledge should be kept behind lock and key in order to "ensure" that pubslishers are well off is just outright stupid. It does limit the access for the common person to this knowledge and thus (in the long run) will damage society a
  • by KiwiRed (598427) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:00AM (#13285336)
    So, any money on how long before the DRM is cracked, and the textbook is "Available now, on a P2P Network near you!"
  • Well, why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaestroSartori (146297) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:01AM (#13285338) Homepage
    They allow EULAs on shrink-wrapped software and shrink-wrapped DVDs already, what makes books any different?

    Personally I think EULAs are a crock, and the issues of liability and usage they may or may not cover should be dealt sensibly in some different way. Possibly, in the case of software, by companies taking some responsibility for their products. In the case of DVDs, I don't think there should be a license of any kind. But maybe that's just me...
    • EULAs on books (Score:5, Informative)

      by overshoot (39700) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:10AM (#13285398)
      They allow EULAs on shrink-wrapped software and shrink-wrapped DVDs already, what makes books any different?

      I can't wait. The reason is that the US Federal courts have a long body of case law on the "first sale" doctrine. A publisher tried to put the equivalent of a EULA on a book back in the 19th century and got shot down, big time.

      If someone makes the argument in court that they should be able to have a EULA on a book because they manifestly can on an e-book and there's no fundamental difference, the court is either going to have to twist itself into at least two additional dimensions to avoid either shooting down EULAs on e-books or overturning more than a century of fundamental copyright law.

      • Sale vs lease (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nuggz (69912)
        Simple, they should just lease the book/magazine, not sell it.
        If they don't transfer ownership they can require whatever they want.
      • Re:EULAs on books (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hey! (33014)
        OK, I'm not a lawyer, but isn't the first sale doctrine a creature of copyright law, not constitutional law?

        The FSD, IIRC, was originally a side effect of the way the nineteenth century copyright laws were written. Publishers claims that used book sales amounted to copyright violations and were ruled specious, because the law as then written did not grant any exclusive rights to them other than the right to copy. This was explicitly written into the law in the 1970s.

        However, Article 1 section 8 gives con
  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:01AM (#13285347)
    Selling old books was a nice source of cash for me at the end of each semester. Buying used books at the start saved a lot too. I'm not sure a 33% discount will be enough.
    • by OglinTatas (710589) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:16AM (#13285456)
      One way publishers get around that is by introducing new editions of text books every year, which differ only by incorporating the errata fixes, and different homework problems. (so everyone needs to buy a new $150 book) You can get a better price selling your books to off campus book coops, and you can get a better price buying your books there. If students could manage to organize enough (this isn't the '60s) they could really save a bundle if everyone bought used books, and they all pooled some cash to buy one new edition, then distributing the homework problems as necessary.
      • by femtoguy (751223) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:07AM (#13285839)
        As a professor, I am seeing a new, and very insidious development. We just went through a pitch from a major publisher for a book that we produce for a local class. We had been self-publishing, and our cost was $25 per book. They were willing to do the editing and publishing for us, and we were ready to talk about developing written materials for thei book, but all that they wanted to talk about was on-line content. When we pushed, it turns out that their new thing is to twist arms to get required web-delivered content in all of their books. So now when you buy a book, you get a code that is valid for one semester.

        If this works, they won't care if you sell it used, because the web code is no longer valid, so the book is useless, unless you buy a new code for $15. They get their cut no matter what. If you fail the course, and have to re-take the class, you owe them another $15. If you give it to your younger brother, $15. They always get their cut.

        Their web content often includes web-supported and web-submitted homework and quizzes so if faculty buy in, students will have no choice but to pay. Kind of sad.
        • MIT opencourseware (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jurt1235 (834677) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:23AM (#13285957) Homepage
          Since you already have the basics (the course and the book), why do you not check if you can work together with MIT by integrating the book in opencourseware (I do not know if the content matches what MIT opencourseware stands for sofar, but else I think their are other places, or it is a nice startingpoint. That way you get a bigger audience, and hopefully more funding to keep up this work.

          I think schools, colleges & universities should be more selfsupporting in this anyway.
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:02AM (#13285349) Homepage Journal

    The hardcopy version lasts years. The electronic copy is 2/3 the price and only usable for 5 months.

    Fifteen years after I graduated I still refer to old textbooks from time to time. If you don't want to keep it you can always sell them after use, and probably recover more than a third of the original price.

    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:07AM (#13285384) Homepage Journal
      Don't forget that this requires an expensive electronic device to read! Add the cost of a laptop if you need to use it anywhere (even over several years of books) and it is a worse deal.

      I don't like the idea that a crippled version is sold for a marginal savings when it shifts so many costs to the user. Saving to pdf or whatever is a lot cheaper than printing, and I want to see a much better share of that savings.
    • Sounds like a bad deal to me. The hardcopy version lasts years. The electronic copy is 2/3 the price and only usable for 5 months. Fifteen years after I graduated I still refer to old textbooks from time to time. If you don't want to keep it you can always sell them after use, and probably recover more than a third of the original price.

      My Ethical Issues in Computing class required almost $200 worth of text books. None were the same from the previous semester, and none were reused the next -- meaning

    • I finished schooling somewhat more recently, so I've had the unfortunate experience of buying $125 textbooks. In the real world, $125 implies a certain attention to bookbinding. In university, it doesn't. One semester of heavy use can reveal week spines, covers made of the cheapest possible cardboard, and decidedly non-archival grade paper. Perhaps these compromises are made in a cynical attempt to deprive the used market of usable texts.
    • Yah, I still have my old Data Structures book. That and the DEC Assembly book from the mid-80's proved to be the two most useful books from my university days. I don't refer to the DEC Assembly one so much anymore but the Data Structures one is still occasionally useful. Though I don't know what they're teaching kids these days... I interviewed someone fresh out of the CSU *MASTERS* program in CS and she couldn't tell me, among other things, how one might implement a linked list nor its strengths and weakne
    • This sucks. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Vitriol+Angst (458300)
      The textbook is already overpriced due to the political system of textbook publishing. I read once about the actual system to produce something like a math or history book--it is too convoluted too remember in detail. It entails looking at every other publishers book and then morphing that with just a little bit of your own work -- so that it is unique, but in a way that is bland and acceptable. Large bulk purchasers like California and Texas seem to set the tone for how every other publisher tailors their
  • by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <abacaxi@hotmail . c om> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:02AM (#13285350)
    Paying 2/3 retail for a book you can't mark in, underline, or ceremonially BURN after the class is over?
  • by DogDude (805747) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:03AM (#13285352) Homepage
    I don't understand some people's (companies') obsession with e-Books. They didn't catch on. People don't like them. They're a royal pain in the ass. The article says that there are roughly $3.2 million dollars worth of e-books sold every year. $3.2 million?!? That's essentially -zero-. So why are companies still trying to push what has been proven time and time again to be a product that nobody wants? It ain't gonna work.
    • by Bvardi (620485) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:19AM (#13285479)
      Actually I buy my casual reading almost exclusively in ebook format - but through webscriptions.net (baen, scifi and fantasy publisher)

      The difference is they offer a variety of formats, NO DRM, and you can redownload any time if you lose the original file. (I've done that a few times when I had to wipe out my palm and restore)

      Ebooks will only catch on when they are convenient, and less expensive than the paper versions (the webscription model is about 5 books for 15 bucks US... certainly reasonable)

      Compared to other publishers with onerous DRM, prices that frequently are MORE than a paper copy - and they have indifferent selection at best.... I can understand why most ebooks don't do well - but I personally hope baen keeps on doing what they are doing. (heck they've pretty much hooked me for a steady 15 bucks per month since I tend to buy every month when it comes out)
  • by jurt1235 (834677) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:04AM (#13285362) Homepage
    I tended to use books a bit longer than 5 months as reference for later work for example. I think that Princeton is a bit short sighted on this one. The idea I thought was to educate people in how to use material, not in how to cram everything in your head so you do not need the book anymore, apparently since you have the material in your posession for only a limitted amount of time, you will have to remember it all , and if you have to remember it all anyway, why not just copy it (They do make you remember it (out of study perspective), so it is in your mind, so what is the difference with a hard or soft copy, or are you not allowed to remember it either once you have to return your e-book? (tricky laws those copyright laws).
  • by edfelten (135938) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:06AM (#13285376)
    For the record, Princeton University has not signed on to this program. Only the bookstore is involved, and it is not affiliated with the university.
  • 33% discount?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Flounder (42112) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:07AM (#13285377)
    For a textbook that I can't resell to the bookstore, keep around for reference (I still refer to a few of my CompSci and Physics books), a 33% discount is crap.

    And how long until the electronic version is the ONLY version available? A few years?

    The best thing my compSci program did was standardize on regular computer texts (O'Reilly) that will be reused for years (or until the next update) rather than already outdated overpriced textbooks. Llama, Camel, UML in a Nutshell, Java Definitive, Interface Design and others still are used on an almost daily basis. Meanwhile, the $120 C textbook collects dust on the bottom shelf.

    • Re:33% discount?? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      I prefer eBooks (if they are unencrypted PDFs) for reference, since I can easily search them. I much prefer paper copies for reading cover to cover though.

      The best thing my compSci program did was standardize on regular computer texts

      Your course standardised on a particular text? Am I the only person who has a problem with this entire concept? The course is supposed to teach you a particular area, not the contents of a given book. If you need extra material, you should be free to choose which book

  • What's the problem? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeff Molby (906283) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:07AM (#13285378)
    It's a new option that they're offering. If you think hardcopies offer a better value, keep using them. A 1/3 discount may not be enough to make this a roaring success, but they probably have some upfront costs to defray. If the market balks at their price, I'm sure they can get it down to 1/2 before too long.
  • This is awful (Score:5, Interesting)

    by b17bmbr (608864) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:07AM (#13285379)
    I kept many of my college texts. In fact, right now, I'm looking at an almost 20 year old copy of my Gwartney and Stroup Econ book as I prepare to teach econ this semester in high school. It's not that I forgot (my BA is econ), just looking for the much better explanations and examples than the text we use.

    this is also horrible for another reason. how can students refer back to previous classes? all these people that think technology can cure all. sad really. nothing beats books. and by the way, my masters is in Ed. Tech.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:09AM (#13285394) Homepage
    It's too bad OSS textbooks would not catch on here in the states. Profs and schools get major payola from the textbook publishers. That's why the prices go up and up and you never schools publish their own texts, which would save students a fortune. For some topics you'd still need outside texts but basic biology, chemistry and physics there's no reason those couldn't be standardized. PV=NRT hasn't changed in years.

    Hey, Spitzer, when you're done reaming the music industry for payola, why not take a crack at textbook publishers? (Yes, the pun was intentional)

  • This is all wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bipedismaximus (713734) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:11AM (#13285415)
    As Ed Felton explains in his blog
    As far as I can tell, Princeton University has no part in this experiment. The Princeton University Store, a bookstore that is located on the edge of the campus but is not affiliated with the University, will be the entity offering DRMed textbooks. The DRM company's press release tries to leave the impression that Princeton University itself is involved, but this appears to be incorrect.
    http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=881/ [freedom-to-tinker.com]
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:14AM (#13285439) Homepage Journal
    No reason to panic, we know what to do. It's all detailed in The Right to Read [gnu.org].
  • BWAHAHAHAHA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Crashmarik (635988) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:15AM (#13285449)
    Sorry but textbooks are a screwjob from start to finish. I mean think about it. They cost five times what normal books cost, They have a built in captive market of well defined size thats know before the first one is printed, and near zero advertising costs. (very limited need to strip unsold copies) With all that going for them a textbook should cost about what the average paperback does.

    Now the other thing to ask yourself is why is the difference between successive editions usally just the questions ??

    Welcome to getting screwed its not a surprise that the text book industry likes the idea of DRM
  • by jurt1235 (834677) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:16AM (#13285454) Homepage
    BTW they start the article by mentioning a book which I believe is no longer covered under copyright law (copyright expired a long long time ago): Dante's Inferno.

    Would it not even be illegal to put a work from which the copyright has expired under a EULA, with that pretending that there even is a copyright?

    Also look at amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0679433139/ref=sib _rdr_next3_fm1/102-2757971-7030535?_encoding=UTF8& p=S002&ns=1#reader-page [amazon.com]
    It says: Copyrighted material. I think that is totally incorrect, can somebody confirm this please?
    • Actually, the text of Dante's Inferno is likely to be a recent translation, and hence copyrighted.

      But (at least in my country, so I would guess in the US too) the law is more retarded than you think. Even if the copyright of the text has expired, the publisher can still claim copyright on the specific arrangement of the words on the page. So if you want to make your own copy, you have to find an old edition to make it from.

  • by malkavian (9512) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:20AM (#13285481) Homepage
    Like a lot of other people have noted, 5 months is no way near enough to have a reference textbook available to you.
    I could understand it if there was a minimal fee (a few pennies), and it was treated as a library withdrawal. I don't mind paying a little to borrow a book.
    However, as most of my old coursebooks cost about £40 or so, I really draw the line at spending about £25+ to borrow a reference book.
    Whoever thought out the timespan is a tad on the nuts side, even if it is for University use.
    You tend to use a particular book for a couple of months, then it stays on the shelf until it's time to revise.
    Perhaps it'll also be referenced in the next year from time to time. Also for a few weeks/couple of months, then sit on the shelf until revision.
    That means there's a good likelihood of someone rushing out to buy their coursebook, using it for the course. Finding it expired at revision time, having to rebuy it again (now cost 133% of the original dead tree version). If it's needed in the future, the economies just get worse.

    The idea of technical reference books is that they're kept around to reference. It's not like a story, where you pick it up, read it, and vaguely remember the story for ever more..
    You need the detail.
    If the books were priced at 0.1-0.5% of the cost of the actual dead tree, with a limit of, say one month, they'd have a great line going in the book lending area.
    For sales under their current scheme..
    I'd love to know what reality they live in, but it sure doesn't look like the one most of us live in (without pharmaceutical intervention).

    Just to add to that, in every job I've had since leaving my degrees, a fair quantity of the books I used back then have sat on a shelf, and have been referenced quie extensively. That's after around ten years.
    That 'deal' is one I wouldn't touch with somebody else's bargepole.
  • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @09:28AM (#13285535) Homepage
    Offering a 33% discount is a joke considering that:

    • The E-book expires after 5 months.
    • The E-book cannnot be bougth used or resold.
    • The E-book is only usable on a single computer.
    • The E-book saves printing shipping and handling for the physical book.

    Given those restrictions, there's still books I'd consider buying as E-books, those I'm fairly sure I'll read once and forget about. But even then I'd have to get a *lot* more than 33% discount, that's a total joke. It means the e-book is still a lot more expensive than buying a used book, or buying a new book and selling it when you're bored of it.

  • Time-limited access to a book is a known concept, that's what libraries are for.

    Back when i was in college, library access for us students was free, and non-students paid a modest fee (you could call this a flatrate). You could borrow a book for a month and have that period extended (if noone else requested that copy) to up to three months. After that you had to return it, but could re-borrow it a day later.

    Seems to me as if DRMed textbooks would compete with libraries. But if the customers have a choice between a) buying the book at full price, b) having DRMed access to it for 5 months at 33% discount, c) borrowing it from a library for 1-3 months for a small flat fee, this product seems vastly overpriced to me.

    So, to be successful, these books will have to be a lot cheaper. After all, the market will determine what their price should be.

  • by gelfling (6534) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:49AM (#13286142) Homepage Journal
    I don't know how many times my college kids have come home with the key software for specific courses installed as demoware. They get 30 or 60 days to use it and rush like mad to get the work done before the demo expires.
  • by Lovejoy (200794) <danlovejoyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @10:52AM (#13286169) Homepage
    As full disclosure, a member of my family works for a book publisher. I don't speak for anyone or any company. I just speak for my own opinionated self.

    There is no doubt that the cost of textbooks is completely unreasonable. While the publishing industry has to take its share of the blame for that, the publishing companies have several difficult problems to get around when trying to make a profit selling intangible information.

    First, and slimiest, are professors that sell free examination copies to used booksellers. Sometimes profs order exam copies JUST to sell them to the itinerant bookbuyers. (These are the guys you see wheeling a big case on wheels around your profs' offices, flush with cash) This is completely unethical, but widespread.

    Second are used book distributors. Profs expect a lot of support for these expensive books. They need desk copies, supplements, web site support, test banks, etcetera. The publisher has to support the book in use, even if the students are buying used text books. The used book dealer provides NONE OF THIS. They only value they add is storing the book during school breaks and driving it from one place to another.

    So for an edition that comes out once every three years, the publisher has ONE CHANCE to make a profit - the first all-new run of the edition. Everything else (packaging with extra materials, sell-through, custom pub) is a rearguard action to try to stay afloat until the next edition.

    You see, the value in the book isn't in the part that the used-book dealer sells. He's selling information that he didn't produce, support, or add to at all. The used book industry is essentially a giant leech on the butt of textbook publishers.

    If there were NO used book industry, or if there were some sort of royalty paid for each resale, most textbooks could be almost as cheap as trade books.

    Also, publishers don't like book coops, but don't mind them nearly as much. Because students sell to each other and there much less exam copy corruption.

    DRM might be a fair way around this, but the DRMed e-book should be cheaper than a used book, IMO. It only makes sense that if there's NO resale value, that you should only pay for the info, not the media + resale value. To those that suggest they should sell DRM-free e-books, that's simply suicide. Let's be realistic - 90% of college students are not going to pay for a book they can just copy. My relative has seen students photocopying entire textbooks. (Even though the cost of copying was close to the cost of a new book.)

    Publishers definitely need to step it up and figure out a way to make a better, cheaper product. They are a very old and traditional industry. (some might say hidebound) But they are generally good people trying to do good work. They will eventually adapt, authors will get paid, and prices will go down, one way or the other.
    • First, and slimiest, are professors that sell free examination copies to used booksellers. Sometimes profs order exam copies JUST to sell them to the itinerant bookbuyers. (These are the guys you see wheeling a big case on wheels around your profs' offices, flush with cash) This is completely unethical, but widespread.

      I agree with you on this point. I find the process disgusting. Of course, perhaps publishers should be less willing to give away copies of their textbooks.

      Second are used book distributo

  • Crack And Print (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blueZhift (652272) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:09AM (#13286297) Homepage Journal
    Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer printed text books to eBooks any day. I think that one way this is likely to play out is someone will figure out a way to crack and then print out the pages of these electronic textbooks. Why? To have a nonvolatile completely portable version of the book that doesn't need electrical power and never crashes. Naturally this will be shared with friends.
  • Already been done (Score:3, Informative)

    by wk633 (442820) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @11:51AM (#13286619)
    My wife had a college text book last year which had 'online content', (a CD and a piece of paper with a unique serial number). The ONLY thing the CD contained, was the url of a web site. Go to the web site, and register with your serial number and email address.

    They haven't spammed her, but they have prevented her from being able to sell the book along with the online content, unless she wants to give up her email address.

    Yes, we should have made up a new free address. Didn't think it through fast enough.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:36PM (#13287956) Homepage
    Some company sells templates for making dovetail joints in wood. The template is just a piece of plastic with a pattern cut into the edge. You could easily use the template to make an identical template, but the template comes with a EULA that specifically forbids you doing that. The EULA also states that the template is for personal hobby use by the buyer only; you cannot lend it to someone else or use it to make anything to sell.

    Next we'll have paper that restricts what you are allowed to write or print on it.

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