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Sell Someone Else's Book On Lulu! 260

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the class-act dept.
Albert Schueller writes "Lulu is a place where authors can self-publish their books. It's a nice response to exorbitant college textbook prices. In an interesting twist, looks like you might be able to get away with selling other people's books on Lulu and reap a tidy profit. The Lulu offering Calculus Twirly Exponentials by Dave Stuart appears to be simply a high quality scan of the much more well-known, and expensive, Calculus: Early Transcendentals 6th ed. by James Stewart. Compare the preview images available for each at Lulu and Amazon respectively."
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Sell Someone Else's Book On Lulu!

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  • Yeah.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Godskitchen (1017786) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:14PM (#33281960)

    That sounds legal...

    • Re:Yeah.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by inflex (123318) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @07:00PM (#33282968) Homepage Journal

      As a person who's breaking into the book market with my wife's new novel and seeking an eBook option, this is precisely the sort of crap that we're worried about, just all too easy through modern POD portals like Lulu.

      • Re:Yeah.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cylix (55374) * on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:42PM (#33283742) Homepage Journal

        It's too easy anywhere.

        You should probably only print your books on photosentive watermarked paper. That way every page that is printed will display a "don't copy that floppy" message when someone tries to scan the page.

        Copyright infringement is a real problem everywhere with every medium and it basically comes down to discovering and litigating your issues. If you are not prepared to deal with those issues then perhaps you probably shouldn't.

        Seriously, bad people do bad things...

        • by inflex (123318)

          There's a base level of duplication/piracy/etc that's considered normal and acceptable, printed media tends to raise the bar enough to make it a non-issue (especially on a new novelist situation - and when you're really famous then it's still not a big problem as you'll be pulling in more than ample sales).

          The weakpoint that I'm chewing on is the release of eBook versions, it's just so much easier to clone. Of course, the upside is the potential of viral popularity, assuming the work is good. One could th

      • For a new writer or artist of any kind, obscurity is a far bigger issue than piracy.

      • As a person who's breaking into the book market with my wife's new novel and seeking an eBook option, this is precisely the sort of crap that we're worried about, just all too easy through modern POD portals like Lulu.

        As a person who's breaking into the book market with your wife's new novel and seeking an eBook option, this is precisely the sort of crap I'm relying on

  • by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:17PM (#33282012) Homepage Journal

    Is that they want $170 for a book on calculus.

    -Rick

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tucara (812321)
      Just be glad in the Newton family never patented calculus so that you'd have to pay a license fee to do your homework.
    • by jadrian (1150317) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:58PM (#33282386)
      Fair price actually. The book is over 1100 pages long. I actually own a version that comes in two volumes, so that would be $85 each. They are used for 3 or 4 semester calculus courses and the quality of the material is really good. It's money well spent.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dargon (105684)

        That's actually a relatively fair price, however I once spent $80 for a text book that was maybe 200 pages and we opened I think 4 times in the entire semester (10 years ago so memory has a few faults :) ), and that is definitely NOT money well spent.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BitZtream (692029)

        ...

        You and I define fair price a lot differently I think.

        How many years did this book take to create? Figure in an appropriate salary, which is certainly less than 75k/year (if you live in some area where thats not a good salary then you need to move, dumbass), and take into account how many copies (copies here, costs them next to nothing to produce after the first one is printed) they've sold at a ridiculous price to students ...

        College isn't about an education anymore, its about how much everyone in the

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Following your rational a book that sold 2 copies and took the author a year to write would be fairly priced at $37,500...

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Hadlock (143607)

            And Stephen King novels older than 2 years should be priced at $0.75, the cost of printing+distribution. Because the author only deserves $50,000 a year at most, and the books were paid for by society already.

        • by jadrian (1150317) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:08PM (#33283480)

          That makes no sense. According to your metric the more it sells the less valuable it is. There is a risk factor there, he could have made little or no money from his book, like many other authors out there. He sells a lot, good for him.

          I've been a teacher assistant for Calculus quite a few times. Many if not most professors tend to follow Stewart's book in their course preparation, but the book is not required material for the students by any means. In fact they rarely buy it. Classes are self contained, we provide exercise sheets, and some professors also provide their own notes. That's enough. And if they do want to read the book for free it is available at the library.

          • by philipgar (595691) <[ude.hgihel] [ta] [2gcp]> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:25PM (#33283632) Homepage
            one problem there, and with the parents reasoning... Most text books are NOT paid for by the publishers. The authors (normally professors at a university) write the book while being paid by the university. The university wants their name on the book (just like they want their professors names on research papers) as it helps the university's rankings (you know those rankings everyone bases college choices on even though they say absolutely NOTHING about the quality of the teaching at the schools). I'm sure the author of the calculus book is doing pretty well because of book sales, but I'd be surprised if he gets more than $10-$15 for each book that sells. The publishers however are raking in the money, and the college students are paying for it twice, once when they're paying professors to write the book, and again when the publisher sells the book. Then the publisher does their best to screw over the students even more, by forcing professor(s)s to sign a contract saying they'll make new revisions of the book every 2 or 3 years. Sure in some fields this makes sense, but I don't think there's anything new being taught in calculus today that wasn't in a book from 10-15 years ago (likely more, although some changes are made to keep the book "relevant" with engineering disciplines, etc). The sole purpose of that is to kill the used book market. Professors can no longer teach a class using the old book because new copies aren't available, and students can't sell/use an old copy, as the problem sets are different (normally that is the main thing publishers want changed in a book).

            Of course, on that note, I remember paying ~110 for this same book new 10 years ago, I guess inflation has been terrorizing the book market.

            Phil
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by jadrian (1150317)

              Regarding the first part yes agree, he was probably being paid by the Uni. Although to be fair, for anyone that knows how it works, that's almost no different from being paid by the grocery store if that happens to be your job. Meaning that writing the book is pretty much a second job, it's not like they'll cut on your job or expect you to publish less. In any case I still concede you have a point.

              The second part I don't get though. I don't see my Uni buying new volumes every couple of years by any means. M

        • by Capt. Skinny (969540) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:34PM (#33283708)

          You and I define appropriate salary a lot differently I think.

          Who the hell are you to tell anyone what they should earn annually? You're happy with less than $75k/year so that's more than enough for anyone?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by aztektum (170569)

            As a purchaser of goods, he's in control of what those that sell things make. As in if he doesn't buy something because he doesn't agree with the price, the seller makes less.

            Just because something has a price sticker on it doesn't mean they'll get that.

          • by IICV (652597) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @11:36PM (#33284910)

            Well you see the thing is that the reason why they're earning whatever money they get from royalties is because I, as a citizen of the United States of America, have agreed to temporarily relinquish my right to make copies of their work.

            After all, freedom of speech is a right explicitly enumerated in the First Amendment; it doesn't really matter if someone else came up with that speech (or print) first, I theoretically have the right to repeat it as much as I want.

            So, being the nice person that I am, I relinquish that right. I agree to temporarily let the copy-right for the work reside solely with the author, so they can make a profit off of it in order to recoup the cost of writing the book, plus some extra profit to encourage other people to widely distribute their works.

            Then, after they've had enough time to make a reasonable profit if that work was good enough, I expect to get my rights back. I expect to be able to exercise my free speech rights with regards to that work, with no limit.

            So basically yeah. Steven King only makes money due to the forbearance of his readers. If we actually cared, we could set the limit to something like "if it makes more than $75k, it's in the public domain" or whatever.

            (as a side note, I will never be able to exercise my free speech rights with regards to any work published in my lifetime - life of the author + 75 years guarantees that I'll be dead by the time it goes free)

      • by mmaniaci (1200061)
        Its not a fair price when you have to buy a new version of the book every year. Fuck textbook publishers.
      • Except that the information is provided in more detail and with more clarity on the internet. The only reason any of the professors at my university use textbooks is for the homework assignments. I've talked to professors from every subject I've taken, and that's continually what they tell me. I pay upwards of $200 per class so they can assign me homework I won't do.

        It is not money well spent. It is a joke.

      • by lpq (583377)

        fair price?

        um, the fact that you think $85 for a 600 page text book on calculus is worth it only shows that you either majored in humor or failed economics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pclminion (145572)
        Even the best stuff I've ever read barely reached $0.17 per page value. Every once in a while you might get a page that's worth $100, but these days you'd just find that data on Google. Maybe it was true in the past, but in the modern era it's hard to pack that kind of value into printed material. No matter how good an authority you are.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EvanED (569694)

      $170 is a little high, but to be fair, if that's the book I think it is, it would easily more than cover three semesters of calc class. $60 for a textbook for a semester class really isn't that bad.

      The obnoxious part about it then is not so much the high price right off the bat, it's the fact that you're forced to get all three classes at once. (Even the shorter, volume-based editions mentioned by another poster don't go too far toward fixing this issue.)

      • by fishbowl (7759) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:43PM (#33282814)

        Long after finishing college, the Stewart calculus books are pretty much the only texts that remain on my bookshelf since then. The rest of that list is CS material that still gets referenced.

        FWIW my last two real-world jobs have involved doing calculus on whiteboards, which I realize isn't all that common :-)

        • But unlike college, you can reference the trig. substitution identities in the book when you need them.
      • by T-Bone-T (1048702)

        Even worse is when they tell you they will use an expensive book for 2 or 3 semesters and then change books after the first semester.

  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:18PM (#33282024) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like a good way to get sued.

    1. Publish someone else's book on Lulu
    2. ???
    3. Profit!!!
    4. Get sued!

    • 4. Get sued!

      It's really:

      4. Get sued for 3X Profit (copyright infringement bonus points).

      Whoever set up that book is about to get whacked, legally speaking. They probably have been moving money into offshore accounts though....

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fishbowl (7759)

      >Sounds like a good way to get sued.

      It is. For all the misconception about copyright (to wit, copyright being a good weapon to use against people distributing your work), copyright's main strength is that it can strongly protect you from someone else distributing your work, claiming it as their own, *and suing you* on the claim that YOU are the copycat. That direction of things is lost in the noise in all the copyright discussion, because it's neither common nor sexy nor a basis for a business model.

    • Too bad Lulu doesn't also integrate underpants theft [wikipedia.org].
  • How is this news? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jewishbaconzombies (1861376) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:20PM (#33282036)
    Sounds like all in a day's work for your average middleman. Good job!
  • Irony (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:21PM (#33282054)

    MAFIAA go after casual downloaders, destroying people for having downloaded a few songs which are usually freely available on the radio anyway. In the meantime, people are scanning and selling other people's books for profit - and getting away with it. Wasn't this exactly the sort of thing that copyright was supposed to prevent in the first place?

    • by westlake (615356)

      MAFIAA go after casual downloaders, destroying people for having downloaded a few songs which are usually freely available on the radio anyway. In the meantime, people are scanning and selling other people's books for profit - and getting away with it. Wasn't this exactly the sort of thing that copyright was supposed to prevent in the first place?

      The rights agencies have money and organization.

      The writer may have to pursue an infringement on his own if his publisher is unable is unable or unwilling to do s

  • A little off topic I guess, but how did college professors get around the ethical challenge of selling their own books to their class as a requirement and charging whatever they felt like for it?

    ~S

    • by SomeJoel (1061138) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:39PM (#33282236)

      A little off topic I guess, but how did college professors get around the ethical challenge of selling their own books to their class as a requirement and charging whatever they felt like for it?

      ~S

      They downplay it by never using or even mentioning the required book in class.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ZorinLynx (31751)

        When I was in school they'd frequently assign books that were never used in the course. I started saving hundreds of dollars by not buying books until I absolutely needed them.

        I think professors let their course change and shift semester after semester, end up stopping using a book but still require it... Meanwhile, the publishers laugh their way to the bank... :P

        • I did this, too, and did quite well in some classes without the book.

          I had a professor that required us to buy a book he co-authored but he gave each student that bought a new copy a few bucks, approximately what we would've made in royalties or something. It was a pretty good textbook for the material covered.

    • by deinol (210478) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:42PM (#33282260) Homepage

      Even worse is that many university bookstores will mark up prices above the MSRP. I remember once as a student I found the exact same book in both the Textbooks section and the normal bookstore area. The one in Textbooks was 20% more expensive. And they wonder why students started buying their books on Amazon.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        That's actually typical. While I've only gone to 3 colleges, all of them were like that. The idea was that the people who could shop elsewhere would and the people on financial aid would spend the money at the campus bookstore. It's just a way of getting a cut of the scholarship money. What got absurd was that sometimes all you'd have to do is literally walk across the street and the prices would drop substantially.
    • A little off topic I guess, but how did college professors get around the ethical challenge of selling their own books to their class as a requirement and charging whatever they felt like for it?

      ~S

      Money trumps ethics every time.

      If you would like to see a detailed case study of an experiment into this effect, please look up "America"

      I actually had one proff who wrote a 400-page humanities textbook for her class, and sold it as a photocopied reader for $25 (to cover the print and binding costs). That was the only time I know of where ethics were maintained in a situation like that.

      • At the University Press I worked at, we helped publish an Advanced level Ukrainian language textbook that simply didn't exist for use before she spent 5 years writing it. Book sells for about $60, and it's an actual hardcover textbook, not a photocopy, and it's built for at least 2 years of advanced-level study. I'd say that also qualifies as maintaining ethics.

      • by c6gunner (950153)

        If you would like to see a detailed case study of an experiment into this effect, please look up "America"

        Or, you know, you could maybe try traveling to America. Only I don't think you're allowed to board a plane while your head is still wedged in your ass.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      Actually, my experience with professors in post secondary is that they were very understanding of students' budgets, and were strongly opposed to outrageously priced books. And two professors in particular that I had I remember had apparently fought long and hard with their publisher to keep the price of their books down. Where many comp-sci texts could cost a hundred dollars and up when I was going to post-secondary, the books that were written by either of those professors were under $50, but no less in
    • I am a mathematics professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, and I published a textbook [wstein.org] that I use in a course I teach. According to Washington State law, any royalties I receive as a result of purchases of my textbook by students in the course must be donated to the university (I tracked student purchases and donated a corresponding amount to UW). Second, I got permission from the publisher (Springer-Verlag) to make a free PDF version of the book available.

  • by djk1024 (1209862) <dennisjkrueger@yahoo.com> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @05:56PM (#33282372)
    On page 12 of the Lulu scan, the author discusses the relation of his book to "Calculus: Early Transcendentals" and explains that he is attempting to provide an alternate which exactly follows the topics and formats of the original so that students can us it as a less-costly substitute. I didn't go beyond that so maybe it's a scan, but the author does address the issue.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kadaki (31556)

      The preview doesn't seem to let you go further than page 12, so I can't say for sure, but that explanation appears to be a smoke screen to hide the fact that it is in fact a copy of Calculus: Early Transcendentals. The copyright page is definitely taken from the original textbook and the table of contents appears to be as well.

    • Just because he addressed it doesn't actually make it legal though. I hope there's some kind of follow-up on this story saying what, if any, repercussions there are.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:03PM (#33282418)

    I'm not really outraged by the person who posted the book on Lulu for profit. I'm outraged by the fact that anyone would pay good money for a pirated textbook...especially when you can get it here [thepiratebay.org]. This is unacceptable, people! Learn to Internet!

  • In first year i was sitting on a bench at mac studying for a calc exam and this nosy old guy sat beside me and asked what i was studying. After a few minutes of talking about the course/book I noticed he started subtly defending it. Turns out the guy wrote the book and he never mentioned it the whole time.

    Sidenote: Its actually a pretty good calc text. Cheaper would be nice. And the many editions seems like a money grab.
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:27PM (#33282670) Homepage

    I've had this happen to me, with a copylefted textbook I wrote. I think the situation was simply that the guy who did it knew the book was freely available as a PDF, but didn't realize it was possible to buy a copy in print, so he just set it up on lulu so he could produce one copy for himself. Can't remember if he was complying with all the terms of the license or not. I contacted him about it, he explained what he was trying to do, and we straightened everything out. I think lulu had by default put him as the author, since the book was made on his account, but he wasn't intentionally trying to claim authorship of my work.

    Anyway, this seems like the biggest non-story ever. Lulu is a print-on-demand publishing business. They're one of these online businesses that is able to make a profit because they have no human beings paid to interact with customers on a one-to-one basis. I use them for my books, and I'm fairly happy with them, although there have been a few hassles here and there. When you set up a book to be produced and sold by lulu, you upload a pdf and click through on a form that says you agree to a certain contract. The contract says that you have to be the copyright owner. Sounds like whoever put these scans online clicked through the contract, but is violating it. Nobody at lulu reads your book when you upload it. They're not a full-service publishing house with acquisition editors, copy editors, etc. Whoever posted the slashdot story could have just clicked on the "Report This Content to Lulu" link and told them it was a copyright violation, and presumably lulu would have dealt with the issue. But I guess it's more fun to have the story run on slashdot.

  • Response from Lulu (Score:5, Informative)

    by jbcox (1880964) <jcox@lulu.com> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:36PM (#33282754)
    Thank you very much for bringing this to our attention. Claiming copyrighted material as your own is a clear violation of our policies and we are pulling down this content from our site right now. If at any time you come across questionable material on our site, please do not hesitate to contact me at jcox@lulu.com.
    • by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:56PM (#33282946)

      Sad part is, they didn't bring it to your attention it appears. Good old CmdrTaco and the poster (Albert) thought it'd be more effective to not tell you and sensationalize it a bit here in some sort of attempt to turn this into yet another GPL war.

      Bringing it to your attention properly would have simply meant they clicked on the link on your website to report it.

      I appreciate you taking the high road here and trying to say thanks, but lets call it what it is, this is a bunk story written for ad clicks by a couple of douche bags trying to get more page views from the angsty slashdot teenagers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        On the plus side, I am now aware of lulu.com and quite possibly I may use their services in the future...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Nyder (754090)

        Sad part is, they didn't bring it to your attention it appears. Good old CmdrTaco and the poster (Albert) thought it'd be more effective to not tell you and sensationalize it a bit here in some sort of attempt to turn this into yet another GPL war.

        Bringing it to your attention properly would have simply meant they clicked on the link on your website to report it.

        I appreciate you taking the high road here and trying to say thanks, but lets call it what it is, this is a bunk story written for ad clicks by a couple of douche bags trying to get more page views from the angsty slashdot teenagers.

        If you think so highly of this site, why are you here?

  • OMFG!!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anita Coney (648748) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:39PM (#33282774) Homepage

    Are you telling me that people can use technology to infringe copyrights?! Why haven't I heard about this before?! How is this even possible?

  • Editions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:50PM (#33282888)

    What irks me most about textbooks is the "editions" scam. Every year or two a "new" edition comes out which makes the "old" edition not usable in the current course. The scam is that there is very little difference between the "new" edition and the "old" edition; just enough to change page numbers and a few examples. The worst part is that there is no need for a new calculus book; how much has first year calculus changed in 12 months?

    • Must be the schools that you went to.

      The schools/universities that I went to used the same books year after year until they go out of print. In one case, the professor decided that there was no current in-print book which was adequate for the course and successfully managed to get the author's permission to distribute photocopies of the out of print book to his class.

      I could have sold all my textbooks to the following year's class but for some subjects, I opted to keep them for myself. I wasn't the first ow

    • by Vegeta99 (219501)

      I got a degree in Spanish along with my main degree, and the bastards would change the quizzes at the end of the chapters! They'd keep the questions and the options the same, but change the order of the options. You can pick up a Spanish document from 500 years ago and it will read the same as Spanish of today.

      Hell, you could pick up something written almost a millennium ago, and it would still be readable. And yet, every semester, new fucking edition.

      The reason? The "Penn State Bookstore" was really owned

  • Has anyone actually bought the book and looked at the insides? Perhaps the folks at Lulu were lazy and swiped preview snapshots, but the contents of the actual book aren't directly plagiarized. Also the summary says "appears to be", as in "I didn't actually buy the book and validate my complaint."

    I don't know, the evidence doesn't appear to be enough to support the accusation.

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