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DRM Books Businesses Education The Almighty Buck

$200 For a Bound Textbook That You Can't Keep? 252

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-textbook-buyers-have-had-it-too-good-for-too-long dept.
netbuzz writes: "The worst of DRM is set to infest law school casebooks. One publisher, AspenLaw, wants students to pay $200 for a bound casebook, but at the end of class they have to give it back. Aspen is touting this arrangement as a great deal because the buyer will get an electronic version and assorted online goodies once they return the actual book. But they must return the book. Law professors and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are calling it nothing but a cynical attempt to undermine used book sales, as well as the first sale doctrine that protects used bookstores and libraries."
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$200 For a Bound Textbook That You Can't Keep?

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  • One can only hope... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:23PM (#46944073)

    That this will create a generation of lawyers and judges who have a fundamental hatred of DRM.

  • by Mr_Silver (213637) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:31PM (#46944109)

    Whilst it might not be for everyone, here I am sitting at my PC looking at my Computer Science books (purchased between 1995 and 1998) and I don't think I've opened any of them in the past 10 years (looking at you "Unix System Programming" by Haviland and Salama, reprinted in 1994).

    If I get a DRM free digital version after the course has ended and the pricing is right, then this might actually be more useful than a pile of dead wood taking up space on my bookshelf - most of which is probably long out of date.

  • by l2718 (514756) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:39PM (#46944193)
    As a university faculty member I consider the cost of textbooks whenever I choose one for a course. I try to never require students to buy the book (I'm not always in charge of the course I teach, so I can't always do this), and I prefer books that are available on SpringerLink [springer.com] (whole-book DRM-free PDFs are available to all our students since our university subscribes). I doubt many faculty members will actually assign this textbook.
  • by tylikcat (1578365) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:52PM (#46944335)

    I keep having conversations with my students where I explain why they shouldn't pirate books, or at least should make sure that the authors are getting paid (for instance, buying a legal copy then pirating / cracking it if it has DRM to get a useful one.) ...and yet I have a lot of trouble trying to work up enthusiasm for telling them not to pirate textbooks.* Particularly problematic, as I've shown a few how to torrent. (Heck, I've shown faculty members how to torrent.)

    * As opposed to professional reference books.

  • by tylikcat (1578365) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:15PM (#46944501)

    This was my stance for a while, though my workaround was to buy hardcopies of the book and then pirate a softcopy (mostly for reference books which I didn't want to haul around). And then I decided I didn't want to devote the space or weight to the hardcopies.

    It's not ideal, but there are too many authors whose work I really like some of whose work is under DRM. (And it's all fine to rant at the authors, but until they're really quite popular they aren't really empowered to fight this on their own.) So I am very loud about preferring non-DRM'd books, and will buy them preferentially. And I do not share non-DRM'd book I have legally purchased... and seed torrents of those I pirated. It sucks, but it's the best compromise in my specs.

  • Re:Because they can. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:38PM (#46945061) Journal

    yes, except most universities will go along with it and force would be students to buy the books under those conditions or not go into law. This requires more than just voting with wallets.

    Photocopier. And yes it may be technically illegal. But sometimes a little civil disobedience is necessary. In fact, as a law student, you could make that your thesis.

    Unbind the book, it saves time. Then re-bind the book or just hand back a stack of loose-leaf -- your choice.

  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:53PM (#46945153)
    I go to a car dealer and hand him a small bucket of money. He hands me the keys to a car. I pay a certain sum every month. After a couple of years I get to keep the car.

    But wait! There was a contract that said I was only leasing the car. I have to give it back. Other than that piece of paper, the transaction looked like a sale, felt like a sale and smelled like a sale. That would make it a sale, right? I don't think the courts would agree.

    I pay a fellow a "down payment" for the keys to an apartment. I pay him a certain amount every month. After 20 years I own the apartment outright, yes? (That's longer than many mortgages.) Looked like a sale, smelled etc... but I signed a paper that says it was only a rental.

    I go to a mall. I hand money to a fellow behind a counter and he hands me a pair of shoes. That smells like etc. I go to a bowling alley, hand some money to the guy behind the counter and he hands me a pair of shoes. But that's not a sale?

    Unfortunately, we live in a world where the very idea of ownership is being undermined by EULAs, licenses that can be rescinded at any time, and moves like what AspenLaw is doing here.

    They're being quite up-front in their terms. It's not a surprise at the end of the term to find out the book has to be returned. Do car leases, apartment or house rentals, or the existence of lending libraries also undermine the concept of ownership, or are they simply alternatives to outright ownership?

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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