Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Education Books Media The Internet Technology

Expensive Books Inspire P2P Textbook Downloads 511

jyosim writes "A site called Textbook Torrents is among the many sites popping up offering free downloads of expensive textbooks using BitTorrent or other peer-to-peer networks. With the average cost of textbooks going up every year, and with some books costing more than $100, some experts say that piracy will only increase." Having just completed graduate school, I can attest that quite a few books are in that more-than-$100 range, and that they're heavy besides. But the big-name textbook publishers are much less interested than I am in open textbooks, even if MIT has demonstrated that open courseware is feasible, and Stanford and other schools have put quite a bit of material on iTunes.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Expensive Books Inspire P2P Textbook Downloads

Comments Filter:
  • by MacDork ( 560499 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:53PM (#24019943) Journal
    I always wondered how the P2P/Napster thing would have turned out if it had been given a better, more descriptive name like: Library of Alexandria []
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by monxrtr ( 1105563 )

      In a way, political and legal earthquakes and mob burnings of free information sites are serving to strengthen the integrity and resiliency of a fast evolving Library of Alexandria, even if it is not yet labeled as such. One day such a data repository may also very well fit onto a key chain sized flash drive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:53PM (#24019951)

    You are stealing from the pockets of the professors who change the text book every semester making your used book worthless.

    • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DanWS6 ( 1248650 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:02PM (#24020133)
      I only had one professor that required us to buy a book that he had written and it was actually one of the best text books I bought. The book was paper back so it was light and not a pain to carry, it cost $20 and it was actually relevant to the course.

      I doubt he even made a profit on it, he seemed more interested in providing us a fairly inexpensive valuable learning tool. Too bad other professors couldn't be bothered.
      • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Interesting)

        by eth1 ( 94901 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:43PM (#24020775)

        You're lucky, then.

        I had one professor that was too lazy to keep changing the book every year. He just wrote up some crappy software that was required to be able to do the coursework, then threatened an instant fail for anyone caught violating the software license by selling it along with the textbook. The only place to get a legal copy of the software was along with a new (very expensive) textbook.

        • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:4, Informative)

          by BrentH ( 1154987 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @04:44PM (#24021871)
          That is actually illegal, is it not? You are allowed to sell what you bought, no matter what.
          • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:16PM (#24022313) Homepage

            While the first sale doctrine may protect the sale, it doesn't oblige the professor to pretend it didn't happen. He's free to give the buyer any grade he wants or no grade at all, or at least it'll be a civil case based on any agreements between you and the institution and the institution and the professor. At least in the US I think the institution would cover their ass and say you got a grade as required, it's the professor's grade and that decision is final. I don't think there's any way you could force an institution to issue a grade, no matter how much you've deserved it...

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by no1home ( 1271260 )

              Here in the US, many students feel that the tuition buys good grades, studying be damned. Classes have, in many but not all cases, been dumbed down for this very reason. Students (and their parents) have sued over and over again for grade increases AND WON, despite the fact they frequently didn't deserve the better grade. So, actually, the professor should be very afraid of a law suit, warranted or otherwise. Our universities still produce some great minds and great workers/creators/etc., but the grade

        • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Cowpat ( 788193 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:04PM (#24022157) Journal

          that's what exam boards are for:
          "Why does your class have a 90% fail rate?"
          "I insta-fail anyone who doesn't buy my textbook"
          "Erm, right. We're giving everyone a concessionary pass and giving this module to someone else next year."

          OTOH, this is my 4th year in taught academia, and I have only just come across a lecturer who directly set questions from a textbook - I always used to chuckle when I saw references to textbook exercises being used directly. If you get to give feedback at the end of the module - make sure that everyone complains about being forced to buy the textbook. During the term, make sure to complain to anyone within earshot about it too.

      • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:45PM (#24020811) Journal

        Nowadays, most profs aren't allowed (by either law, Board of Regents ethics codes, or by school policy) to require their own authored textbooks for taking their own classes.

        OTOH, this hasn't stopped a "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" racket where two profs teaching the same subject in different schools or states will each require the other's authored textbook (at some pretty hefty prices) as part of the coursework.

        (IIRC, it depends on locality, and some may have a limit on what they can charge otherwise for the things).


        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Beetle B. ( 516615 )

          Nowadays, most profs aren't allowed (by either law, Board of Regents ethics codes, or by school policy) to require their own authored textbooks for taking their own classes.

          [Citation Needed]

          I took a course that used the prof's text book. The dept and/or university required him to donate the equivalent he would get in royalties. He was allowed to do this.

          In my current university in a different state, another professor uses his own book as a textbook. Don't know if he has to donate anything or not, but he's been doing it for decades now.

      • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Interesting)

        by trum4n ( 982031 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:52PM (#24020941)
        My record was a published-on-site book by the professor, $276. Useless. We opened it ONCE in class, and maybe 4 times out of class. By the 2nd week i returned it to the book store claiming i got the wrong one, and 4 friends and i shared one. The prof drives a Cadillac. He doesn't need my money. I do. Tuition is $38,000/yr. He's one of those guys who thinks engineering should be expensive and hard to learn so there are less in the field, so they can charge more.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
          "The prof drives a Cadillac. He doesn't need my money."

          He might indeed need that money. A cadillac ain't that great a car...

          Now, if he was in a Porsche or high end BMW, well you might have room to bitch...


      • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Stevecrox ( 962208 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:08PM (#24022203) Journal
        I knew several lecturers who co-wrote several large paperbacks and had them placed into the library. They basically assembled information from dozens of text books and were structured to easily explain it (I have a photocopy of the RF Microelectronics book.) The books were for those interested in doing better in class and were designed to accompany the lectures. One lecturer even offered PDF sections of one of the books to help with certain parts of his module.

        All course material was free and easily accessable on a modified version of ms exchange, which I can still access 1 year after leaving university. I used to recieve around 1000 pages of module information for every module and while every lecturer had a recommended reading list after the 1st year in University I noticed the free course material often went into greater depth and was better explained than the books I was paying £50 for. I am excluding information gained from classes when I say "course material".

        Thats the Univeristy of Plymouth for anyone who's looking to study Electrical/Electronic/Computing/Communications Engineering. The lecturers there teach because they honestly have a passion for the subject and try to imprint it onto their students.
    • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Informative)

      by stranger_to_himself ( 1132241 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:26PM (#24020501) Journal

      Academics often contribute to textbooks without being paid. I wrote a chapter for a textbook recently and am currently working on another, and I won't get any financial return for either - I consider it a part of my job. Having said that the books do turn out to be quite expensive, I put that down to the low numbers the publisher expects to sell.

      Writers of very popular course books will get some return, but for most of us writing specialist texts this isn't the case.

      • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:44PM (#24020797)

        Writers of very popular course books will get some return, but for most of us writing specialist texts this isn't the case.

        So wouldn't it be better if specialists in the same field, perhaps from different universities, set up a public read limited write wiki site where articles on various topics of interest, sample problems, and other course and research related materials could be created and maintained by the community to the benefit of everyone including the students? The materials would be complete and up to date, or at least they could be, and the distribution costs would be minimal.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by xtracto ( 837672 ) *

        Academics often contribute to textbooks without being paid. I wrote a chapter for a textbook recently and am currently working on another, and I won't get any financial return for either

        You might not get any financial return, but you will get popularity. Academic success is rated by the number of published papers, and referenced papers. Remember, 'publish or perish'.

        BTW, if the site admin from the textbook torrents is reading, I found the following info interesting:

        First, I swear to you that I will do everything in my power to prevent the server's logs from falling into the hands of those that might use them against you.

        What he should do is remove the logs. Remo

    • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:26PM (#24020513) Homepage
      America gets a bad enough rap with the state of our education system today. Don't make it worse by leaving our students behind the rest of the world! Where would we be if our students didn't understand the latest developments in trigonometry or first-semester calculus? The changes in Newtonian physics from year to year alone are enough to keep a team of textbook writers employed around the clock.
    • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Informative)

      by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:34PM (#24020643) Journal
      There are very, very few academics that make any kind of living off of doing textbooks. Fewer still make the sort of per book royalty that you are assuming exists. It's usually more of a one-time payment. Professors aren't like John Grisham or Tom Clancy.

      Changing editions every few years is something done by the publishers. I know, I used to work very closely with the local (independent) college bookstore. We would specifically try to get used copies of books that professors request, because it would be cheaper for students (and undercut the corporate-owned bookstore down the street), and only then resort to new. But, when a publisher changed the edition, the used market for that book would dry up. I don't know where all the old copies went, but usually we couldn't even find them.
      • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:50PM (#24020905) Journal

        Mainly because the sale price of the used book if no colleges are using them quickly drops $1 or so. Someone might have this used book, they check to see the going price, its only $1, they shelve it and forget about it forever.

        I wonder if there is a business to be made on that kinda stuff. Posting a list of all the books you have then letting you know when the going price for that book goes up or there is someone wanting the book who can't find it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by InlawBiker ( 1124825 )

        I know where they are. There are several hundred pounds of them in my basement. They're there because I missed the deadline to sell them back to the bookstore before a new edition came out and now I'm stuck with them. But I figure if I hold on to them long enough, eventually a new addition will come out re-arranged in the exact configuration these old ones are in and they'll be worth something again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        For several years I was the textbook buyer for a mathematics department at a large university in the US. Based on my experiences in that job, I must agree that it is the publishers making the money and pushing the new editions to hamper the sales of used books. Faculty often get "free copies" in exchange for reviewing the book (some payment, especially if you don't adopt the new text). One book rep was even honest enough to admit this to me, "off the record" as it were. There were two markets of students, a
    • From TFA (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WinPimp2K ( 301497 )

      He said that if the problem worsens, publishers may have to take other steps to prevent piracy, such as releasing a new version of most textbooks every semester. The versions could include slight modifications that could be changed easily--such as altering the numbers in math problems. "They may compelled to," he said, "in order to stay one step ahead of the pirates."

      Hmm changing editions every semester instead of once per year, three-four editions per year. Sounds like some publishers are really not und

    • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Informative)

      by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:44PM (#24020787) Homepage

      You are stealing from the pockets of the professors who change the text book every semester making your used book worthless.

      There are some logical and factual problems with your post.

      • First off, if a book is being changed "every semester," then that's not changing from one edition to the next of the same book, it's changing from one book to some other, completely different book. That doesn't happen because a professor is trying to line his pockets, it happens because a professor tried a book and didn't like it. New editions do come out more often than they should, but new editions of a book don't come out "every semester."
      • The typical college textbook has to be used by dozens of different schools if it's going to be commercially viable. The most successful books are used at thousands of schools. Therefore the chances that the professor making textbook choices is also the author of the book are fairly small.
      • I think the real phenomenon you're really trying to describe, in a garbled, confused way, is that the publishers bring out new editions of books about every 2-3 years. Yes, this is an abusive practice. Yes, it's meant to kill off the used book market. Yes, it tends to enrich the author of the book. However, what you don't seem to understand is that when this happens, the professor who's using the book in his course has absolutely no choice in the matter. I'm a college professor. Here's what happens in this situation. The book rep shows up at my office, we chat a little bit, and then she gets to the point: the 9th edition of Halliday and Resnick is coming out in a couple of months. The 8th edition will no longer be available from the publisher. Here's the ISBN on the new edition. Here's a free copy of the new edition. The bookstore will have to order the new edition for next semester. End of story. I have no choice whatsoever about whether to switch to the new edition. There's a bad guy in this story, but the bad guy is the publisher, not the professor using the book.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Carnivore ( 103106 )

      Professors tend to have gone to school when textbooks were much more reasonable in cost. One of my physics professors was shocked when we told him that the book he had picked was $110. He said that he had paid ~$10 for books when he was in college.

      It turns out that the publishers just send a lot of books to the professors without telling them how much they cost. The naive ones don't check and the students get screwed.

      It seems to me that the only justification for such high prices is the limited print runs t

      • Re:Dirty thieves (Score:5, Insightful)

        by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:23PM (#24022363)
        Um, considering what a semester hour costs shouldn't the professor pick the *best* book not the cheapest. If a professor is handicapped by a poor book then you're not going to get a lot of value for your money and time invested in the course. Of course the best textbook might be no textbook at all, but that's a separate argument/discussion.
    • My professor almost lost his head when we told him how much we paid (over $60) for the textbook he wrote. He was getting something like $5 for each.

    • Nice of them to charge $120 for a book that has virtually no useful content but is required to get the assignments out of and then refuse to buy back the books because they are out-dated supposedly.

      I've taken to looking for PDF versions of all my text books and tech books both because of price and because I want to be able to carry massive amounts of useful books around on a laptop or a e-book so I have them when I need them. Even the books I actually buy I try to find a torrent for because I don't want to

  • About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frizzle Fry ( 149026 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:54PM (#24019959) Homepage

    The problem isn't just that they are expensive, but that the publishers are trying to bilk the students. They include CD-ROMs they know are useless as an excuse to charge higher prices and they come out with a new "edition" every year that changes the page numbers and exercise numbers so that students can't rely on used textbooks.

    They got too greedy and pushed too far and that is what will actually give people the motivation to push back.

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:02PM (#24020125)

      When I was in school I found my recall was highly photographic and associative. I assume this is present to different degrees in most people.

      When I recalled something in a book I would recall where on the page it was and what was around it. I'd recall how far I had to flip into the book roughly before i'd have to turn individual pages. Even the weight of the binding was memorable.

      I found I could learn more from books that had heavy covers, and glossy pages for easy turing, layots that were generous not compact with lots of color and visual reminders.

      Thus to me a pdf file of a book on the screen or a Kindle are just viscerally anti-cognative even though the information might be identical.

      The visceral nature of a book in not replicated on laser printed and bound paper. It just does not flip right for me.

      • by Frizzle Fry ( 149026 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:08PM (#24020239) Homepage

        You can print and bind a book at Kinkos or throw it in a three-ring binder for well under $100.

      • by jhfry ( 829244 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:29PM (#24020561)

        Though I agree with you in practice, I think you fail to recognise that the same phenomonon can exist in digital media...

        When I watch a video using my computer, I can very quickly find a segment of video by adjusting a slider, and I find that I am usually suprisingly accurate.

        When I read a long webpage (mostly slashdot comments), and return to it later, I KNOW without a doubt that more comments have been added because something seems further down on the scroll bar than I remember.

        The physical association can be translated to digital, especially if some thought is given to it. For example, what about a reader that applies a slight hue to the pages; eg as you get further into a chapter the pages become more red... I would bet that you could scan very quickly to a page with minimal practice. Add some sound whenever you change pages so that the tone changes depending upon how far into the file you are, maybe even include a visual "stack" that will show the ratio of pages before to pages after your current page.

        With enough forms of reference, you will be able to train your mind to locate data in a file just as quickly as you do in a physical book. Then of course there is the clickable index, search functionality, table of figures (with thumbnails), etc... all this adds up to a book that is far more of a reference tool than paper books.

        I don't want to sit and read a novel on a computer, or most ebook readers... but textbooks could be VERY powerful if implemented correctly. I am quite certain that the only reason that they haven't all gone digital yet is that the college crowd also happens to be one of the largest populations of copywrite violators and they know that they will only sell one or two copies of the book!

        If I were them I would license text ebooks to the teacher/school instead of selling them to the students. For example, they 'sell' the ebook to the school to freely distribute to it's students, however for each student enrolled in a class that requires that text they must be paid $x. It would be relatively easy to prevent teachers from illegally using the text (offer a reward to students who report it) there is little incentive for the school/teacher to violate the license as they will simply pass the cost to the student as a fee, and finally the returns can be just as good as the license would only be good for that single class session.

        It's only a matter of time... traditional publishing will die off eventually, it may take a generation or two, but it will happen.

    • Exactly. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khasim ( 1285 )

      Sad isn't it?

      For 99% of the courses, 99.9% of the material will NOT change from year to year.

      Yet the textbooks are re-released almost every year.

      Now, the only downsides I see to having Free (as in Freedom) textbooks available in digital form are:

      #1. The answers to the exercises WILL be available on-line. So? If the instructor cannot come up with his/her own exercises then s/he needs to find a new job.

      #2. Printing on a laser printer is more expensive than in a print shop. But if students only print out the e

      • Re:Exactly. (Score:5, Funny)

        by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:11PM (#24020303) Homepage Journal

        I must admit it will be easier to send a pdf rather than an actual book when I outsource getting my degree overseas.

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

        by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:25PM (#24020483) Homepage Journal
        Or the instructor could just not collect/correct homework as well as grade on tests. One of my favorite profs in college did just that. He would assign problems, but would never collect them. He could tell if you did them by how you did on the tests/quizzes which were always based on the same concepts he stressed in the homework assignments. The best side affect was that he would answer ANY question you had on your homework. You didn't have to play games like you had to with other profs/TAs who would say, "well, I can't tell you that, but what if you ask me this?" and would wind up wasting your time and theirs. All in an effort to not give you a hint which would allow you to answer the question without "earning" said answer. Of course what happened instead is all the students would simply do their homework in giant groups or just google for the problem(surprisingly effective)

        Not to mention a huge part of the learning process is making mistakes when they don't cost very much. That is part of how I learn at least. By grading us both on homework and tests you are telling us its better to make sure you know how to game the system than it is to actually UNDERSTAND the material.
        • In high school (early 1990s), I had a calculus teacher who was _required_ by the school system to count homework as part of the grade. So, he had a simple formula:

          1. You only turned in your homework on the day of a test.
          2. If you got above an 80% on the test, you obviously did enough of the homework to understand the concepts, and so got 100% for homework.
          3. If you had below a B average on the test, then he'd count to see if you had tried doing the homework -- not that you got the right answer, but would just coun
    • Re:About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by InlawBiker ( 1124825 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:07PM (#24020219)

      Yet another industry's outdated business model falls victim to progress. Publishers and authors have a right to earn a living from their work, but so long as they're unfair about it people will subvert the system.

      Textbooks are ideal for digital distribution - no shipping, no heavy books to carry, and they're seachable. They'll just have to drop the hefty, inflated pricing model. Sorry guys!

      Publishing will go digital, kicking and screaming, but they'll go. Amazon knew this, why do you think they're pushing the Kindle so hard? As an avid reader I'm almost on board but not quite yet.

      • Re:About time! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:22PM (#24020443) Journal

        Kindle is not an accurate use for digital distribution. It's a big ole marketing hype. Kindle is akin to 1 step of a complete staircase.

        Content control is not the solution, and the device is a piece of garbage. DRM and other problems []left and right. People just like that it's cheaper than normal books. This not being kindle's fault but the publisher's own.

        Wait until people create a double sided OLED bendable/foldable reader....then you're good. I'm sure its being developed as we speak, probably by MIT or CMU.

        Once book prices go reasonable online (say 2-5 bucks a book at maximum), then things will sell like hotcakes and piracy will drop. For now, even e-books for some books [] are ridiculously priced.

        Internet/computers have created their own market for pricings. Until pricing gets to a volume level instead of scarcity level, things will continue to be purchased illegitimately. I'm not going to trade a night of going out to the bars just to buy a textbook...but I will download it free [] instead.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 )

        Publishing will go digital, kicking and screaming, but they'll go

        Thus will end the history of Mankind. A thousand or ten thousand years from now, there will be no books, no written history of any kind. A hundred years from the day print books go away, history will be in the hands of those who control the bits and bytes. And, history will be changed with a simple PERL script.

        And, when something happens, a supervirus, a massive EMP pulse, whatever, then access to the data, and possibly the data itself will be gone.

    • Re:About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SputnikPanic ( 927985 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:11PM (#24020287)

      I'm of mixed minds about this. I support reasonable copyright laws -- "reasonable" being the operative word there -- and I object to piracy on general principle, but I have to say that the practices of some companies or industries are so egregious that I have a hard time mustering any sympathy for them. Textbook publishers are a case in point. New editions every other year, absurd prices ... it's really quite a racket. I remember one hydrology textbook that was about 200 pages and cost $70. I bought the book, copied every page at 10 cents per page, and returned the book the following day. Can't say that I was all that broken up about what I did. Seventy bucks for a 200 page book is ridiculous ... and that was more than 10 years ago. I can't imagine what that company is asking for a similar book today.

  • I always tried to buy used books or buy from another student. It's quite a scam really, several courses I never even opened the book and passed the class successfully. Books are heavy, and it was a pain having to carry a bag full of them. I wouldn't have minded if they would've allowed a solution to buy a license to an e-book for the semester. Some of my classmates went so far to buy a book, scan every page and return it for a full refund before the cut off date. What a hassle.
    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:01PM (#24020115)

      Tricks of the Trade:

      If the teacher hands out a syllabus with homework: take photos of every single homework problem. I had a good high res camera. Much faster than scanning. When it came time to do homework I just printed out the problem and did it. I got a $5 2 edition old book to actually use as reference.

      Learn if the teacher actually hands out problems from the book, if not, get an edition 2-3 old.

      Get an 'international' edition. Yes, those poor Chinese/Indians get cheap Microsoft products AND cheap books. Be careful, it won't be hard cover.

      When returning books: Find the UPC of the "New" edition, slap it on your old edition and return it. Do it during the highest rush when the checkers in are just trying to get through everyone. I think I would net around $100 a semester buying $5 books and returning them for $30. Screw you book store.

      • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:19PM (#24020383)

        A note on the 2nd trick. You have to be of greater than a certain intelligence. I used a Chem book 2-3 editions old for Chem I/II (It's freaking chemistry...). I couldn't use any of the "Turn to page XXXX" instructions. Homework never came from the book (there was no homework).

        Worst case was they re arranged the chapters. Chapter 4: Reactions was now Chapter 14: Reactions. You have to be smart enough to know how to use a table of contents. I suggested this to my brother (freshmen last year) and it was lost on him. He broke down and ended up buying a book.

        One more:
        Buy from EARLY. Most large schools will post their required books before the end of the previous semester. Now is prime time to be shopping. You'll have them for the first day of school and know well ahead of time if they'll work.

        Last resort:
        For all my engineering books the Engineering Library kept 2 copies at all times that you could not check out. If you're waiting on a book or really want to kill time, you can live in the library to do your homework. If nothing else, just copy the problems out of it every few weeks and use your 'useless' copy as reference.

        Finally, Engineers, keep your books. I wish I did. I can't name the times I've needed flow equations, thermo, controls, etc. Sure most of it is on wiki, but it's not in the format that you learned it. Unless you go straight into marketing or something, you're probably going to use something at least once.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ari_j ( 90255 )
          Mod parent up, Insightful. Very few of my textbooks have I regretted selling back. Among them, physics, calculus, probability, and Latin. I actually ended up re-buying Wheelock for posterity later on in life.
      • by kalirion ( 728907 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:34PM (#24020647)

        When returning books: Find the UPC of the "New" edition, slap it on your old edition and return it. Do it during the highest rush when the checkers in are just trying to get through everyone. I think I would net around $100 a semester buying $5 books and returning them for $30. Screw you book store.

        Don't you mean "Screw you poor student who later bought this book and didn't realize the problem until it's too late"?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hyppy ( 74366 )
          Any reasonably intelligent student who is shelling out their own money, and not daddy's bankroll, will triple check the title, edition, and authors of any textbook they buy.
    • by veganboyjosh ( 896761 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:02PM (#24020123)
      It's my understanding that a lot of schools will contract out the buyback program at their school, and there's companies that travel around and buy the old books, presumably to sell at other smaller schools, online, etc.

      Once I figured this out, I brought a bunch of my used, older textbooks back to my current school at the beginning of one semester to return. some of these being from another school in another country. since the buyback company's software had the isbn/book in its system, they gave me credit for the book. I came back the next day with a bunch of my wife's old textbooks, and some more of mine, and after one or two books came up not in their system, a supervisor came over and informed me that I couldn't just unload my old books onto them, despite their computer having accepted them, and despite the posters everywhere talking about "unload your old books...this week only..."
  • It's about time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord_Frederick ( 642312 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:55PM (#24019985)

    The scam of requiring a new textbook every three years with the page numbers being the biggest change almost makes the music industry look like nice people.

    • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:04PM (#24020171)
      No, really, why was the parent modded funny? It is true: textbook publishers routinely release "new editions" of books where only practice problems and page numbers have been changed, to try and force students to buy new books instead of used books. I've seen error that persist in edition after edition, or books where the problems themselves weren't even changed -- just the order and numbering of the problems. It is a disgrace, especially when professors go along with it (sometimes the professors are even collecting royalties from the books in question).
  • Just what we need, yet another 'industry' to harass us and call us names.

  • I support this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koan ( 80826 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:57PM (#24020027)

    After having to pay for a new algebra book (75$'s) because, apparently, algebra changed since last year and the teacher insisted I have the new book.
    The majority of cost for me to go to a community college here in California is the books, and it is such a scam by the book companies, which also left me wondering "does the teacher get a kick back?"
    Why would an algebra teacher insist on the latest book? Because his exercises are there so it makes it easy to correct? Why?
    Who cares it's a rip off any way you look at it.
    This is one example of information that should be free, or extremely cheap, at least when it comes to types of knowledge (math) that has not changed for centuries.

    • Re:I support this (Score:5, Informative)

      by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:04PM (#24020173)

      Some teachers get a kickback (esp. if they are the author of the book) but here in Florida a law just passed that prevents requiring a book that the teacher wrote, unless it is on a departmental level (as opposed to the course level)

    • Re:I support this (Score:5, Interesting)

      by The Ancients ( 626689 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:06PM (#24020193) Homepage

      The majority of cost for me to go to a community college here in California is the books, and it is such a scam by the book companies, which also left me wondering "does the teacher get a kick back?"

      Yes, teachers do get a kick back. One of my professors told our post grad class (during one of the much loved 'pub lectures') how they could stand to make $1000s from recommending the 'right' books.

      • Re:I support this (Score:5, Informative)

        by wanerious ( 712877 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:22PM (#24020435) Homepage

        The majority of cost for me to go to a community college here in California is the books, and it is such a scam by the book companies, which also left me wondering "does the teacher get a kick back?"

        Yes, teachers do get a kick back. One of my professors told our post grad class (during one of the much loved 'pub lectures') how they could stand to make $1000s from recommending the 'right' books.

        I'm a physics/astronomy professor, and this is news to me. In fact, there is a state law (OK) that prevents us from receiving *any* financial incentive from textbook reps. In fact, it is even illegal for us to sell our evaluation copies. There are always unethical people on both sides of the street, I suppose.

  • by techmuse ( 160085 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:58PM (#24020035)

    The big problem here is that the price of textbooks has increased at a far higher rate than inflation. Students are forced to buy whatever textbook their class uses, so the publisher can set whatever price they wish - the students still have to use the books. Essentially, the publishers are granted monopolies on books for specific groups of students.

    To combat this, many students buy used books. Many school bookstores offer few or no new textbooks for some classes, because they make a lot of money buying textbooks back and reselling them for more money. Publishers claim this further drives up the price, because they don't get a cut of resales. This may be true, but they've created this situation by pricing new textbooks so much higher than what their market can reasonably afford.

    What they are really talking about here with changing the problems is shutting down the used textbook market. If you can't use the book from last semester, the used book becomes nearly worthless.

  • wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:59PM (#24020051)

    I've benefited a lot from the GPL, but in the back of my mind I've always considered Richard Stallman as something of a crackpot.. A bit too odd..

    But the more I think about it, the more he makes sense. He's talking about software, but imagine if other knowledge was as free as the source code. Imagine how *anyone* could learn and be productive without the barrier of money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've benefited a lot from the GPL, but in the back of my mind I've always considered Richard Stallman as something of a crackpot.. A bit too odd..

      But the more I think about it, the more he makes sense. He's talking about software, but imagine if other knowledge was as free as the source code. Imagine how *anyone* could learn and be productive without the barrier of money.

      Hello... creative commons []?

  • When I was in college, I had lots of classes where we needed multiple $100+ textbooks - more than the cost of the course! I had a class once (business law) where the professor wrote 3 of the five books we needed and charged $90 for each book (paperback) and he required all five books. As far as I saw, we never even used two of the books out of the five!

    College textbooks are completely ridiculous - and the material is not changing enough to warrant the insanely high costs. So, I say - good for the students t

    • by monxrtr ( 1105563 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:41PM (#24020747)

      Textbook torrents are specifically for the purpose of education!

      Title 17 of the United States Code

      107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use40

      Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

      Yarrgh! Victory in sites, Captain. Yo ho ho!

      Once this is easily demonstrated, music will be as easily demonstrated next. Knowledge Is Power!

  • Why is this a surprise? College students are already known to be some of the heaviest P2P users, and frequently only look at their textbooks for a single, 4 month long course, and never again afterward. It makes no sense to spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks that are never used again after than period, and selling the books back rarely makes up the cost of the book.

    The worst are courses where the books are updated year-by-year so that the practice problems will be different (I've even seen cases whe

  • Clearly most subjects don't dramatically change from year to year (intro physics, algebra, calc, history, etc...). Why do professors always want to use the most recent version? Is it only because they know everyone can get a copy? Wouldn't it be easier (and legal) to solve this problem by publishing a page-number alignment table so that ALL old versions could be used in the same class?
    • There is sometimes more going on behind the scenes than that. This isn't like elementary school, where the teacher put the best interest of the students first (at least when it came to school supplies). Universities sign various deals with vendors of all sorts, including textbook publishers, and those deals usually impose requirements on the university. For example, my school's freshman engineering courses used a CAD tool that nobody had heard of, because the school had a deal with the company that marke
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bcrowell ( 177657 )

      Why do professors always want to use the most recent version? Is it only because they know everyone can get a copy? Wouldn't it be easier (and legal) to solve this problem by publishing a page-number alignment table so that ALL old versions could be used in the same class?

      I'm a college professor. We don't have any choice about changing editions. The old editions just go out of print. The actual changes from one edition to the next may be minor, and students who are able to get their hands on an old editio

  • by The Ancients ( 626689 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:03PM (#24020149) Homepage

    Our Introduction to Finance course in uni had a decent approach to the textbook issue. We had the option to purchase the text book, but were also given free access to a PDF version of the book online through our uni intranet, which was locked to prevent printing or saving.

    Yes, having to view it online was slightly inconvenient, but for many cash strapped students it was less convenient than having to fork out wads of cash for the print version.

    Before anyone says it - yes, I mean 'free' as in we didn't have to specifically pay to access it - of course there's fees and such forth that cover the cost.

  • And the scheme of revisions that only change the spelling errors and the problems/answers is deplorable. It's a shame that people supposedly in the business of education engage in such activities. More curious to me however, is the fact that educational institutions haven't banded together to write and share "open" textbooks.
  • where are the answer keys?
  • How about publishing tables that merely list equivalent pages and exercises between versions -- would that be legal? It would allow students to use old versions of the books,
  • The worst, imo, are the ones that aren't heavy, and are still expensive. I had one in college, for Theory of Computation, that was $80 for a 200 page book. That's 40 cents a page! It was a pretty good textbook, but I was still glad that I was able to just borrow one from someone else for the semester.
  • and the bastards won't even give me an electronic copy. Hell, I'd pay more for my calc text if there was an digital copy.

    Why(besides the typical bullshit reasons)can I not get a nice electronic copy of my textbooks when I buy them? Only one book ever did that and it was my stupid java book.

  • "With the average cost of textbooks going up every year, and with some books costing more than $100, some experts say that piracy will only increase."

    It's not my intention to troll, but this certainly won't help the cost aspect of it. College textbooks are different from music CDs in their profit margin. They differ at least in the cost of production and the frequency of purchase. There has to be some justifiable reason for professors to write these books -- they need compensation for their time.

  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:10PM (#24020285)

    It's been a number of years since I worked as an adjunct professor, but even then textbooks were outrageously expensive. I didn't even want to specify textbooks for my classes, but the school administration would always force me to pick one to use for the course. The reason was that the school made money from every textbook sold. It killed me to force struggling students to purchase expensive textbooks that they would hardly use, but I didn't have much choice. In a way it was as if the school was hiding part of their tuition within the book costs.


  • I'm sorry but I can't sit and watch liberals destroy themselves in the pursuit of free works.

    Its one thing that the likes of any number of political musicians might suddenly find themselves without a fat paycheck once CD sales approach zero, its quite another when the very academic backbone on the country is assaulted.

    It takes an enormous amount of work to make a good academic text. You can't just learn something like physics by skimming a few blog quotes, or get a real sense of any field, for that matter, by reading books. Is it unfortunate that they cost a lot? Yes, it is. But books have always been historically valuable things and the bulk of that value has been in the content.

    I've read MIT Open Courseware and a lot of it actually is not that deep. A few syllabi and class notes and homework assignments is not the same as the book the class refers to!

    Textbook authors deserve to be paid. If you have a society where authors do not get paid, you basically wipe out the entire academic basis of learning in the USA, and with it, our country. People's quests for knowledge about the world will not go away when you get rid of books, and, instead of books, they will have their heads filled with muddy, wrong and incorrect web sites all measured more by how many clicks they get from adsense than any real academic measure of the value of the work.

    Indeed, there's a lot of that already.

    But hey, if all of these professors want to work for free... they are more than welcome to it, but I guarantee them this - preachers -never- work for free, and, if people want to screw over universities because they don't want to pay their authors, then, we'll wind up reverting back to a medieval society.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:35PM (#24020661)

      No one is saying they shouldn't be paid. What most are saying is that the true market value of their work is much lower than what they sell their stuff for, mostly because they use highly unethical tactics to artificially increase their asking price such as

      * Monopoly lock in (students have no choice but to buy their goods)

      * Bribes to institutions and teachers

      * New editions whose sole purpose is to make older editions incompatible so as to kill the second hand market.

      Simply put, their business practices are unethical and dishonest.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Most professors make bugger all from their textbooks - try asking a few before you go off on a rant.

      I write a couple of articles here and there and once you calculate income per hour it's less than minimum wage.

  • by querist ( 97166 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:31PM (#24020597) Homepage

    We know about the [] initiative. I can't see anything on their site about how they validate the textbooks. It's easy enough with books that are published by existing publishers, but what if you want to write an open textbook?

    One of the things that makes a textbook an acceptable reference in research is that it is peer-reviewed. That peer-review has the benefit of checking for errors as well as giving some assurance that the content is correct. I'd hate to buy a maths book that messed up how to do a derivative.

    We need the peer-review if these books are ever going to be taken seriously. This is a not a radical idea. It is, in many ways, a return to the past when academic ideas where exchanged freely.

    What I would suggest is that those of us with Ph.D.'s in our fields set up some sort of agreement to review each other's "open source" texts under a few conditions (negotiable, of course).

    One of those should be that if I'm going to review the textbook for free that the textbook itself should be available in a usable form for free or nearly free Download the pdf for free or for some very small amount to help offset hosting costs. There is no reason an electronic copy of a textbook should cost $90.

    A second condition, courtesy, would be to mention the reviewers.

    A third would be to include some blurb in the text about the whole open textbook thing and why the textbook was published at so little cost, etc. In other words, spread the word.

    Printing costs money, and that is understandable. Lulu, and other services, offer on-demand printing. The OWASP project offer their materials via Lulu at cost, and free for electronic download.

    I know there are many Slashdot readers who have Ph.D.'s in their fields. I also know that there are many who will be offended by my mentioning the Ph.D. or other doctoral degree as a qualification, but if we want these texts to be taken seriously in universities, then they need to follow the criteria that universities use when assessing textbooks. Sorry. If it is going to be taken seriously, then at least the "lead" author needs to have the degree or be someone very, very famous in the field (such as Bruce Schneier).

    I'm going to contact the Open Textbook people, but I'd like to see who here in the Slashdot community would be willing to put in some time to see something like this work. Here's a chance to fight back in a way that is legal, ethical, and just may work.

    There are plenty of people on Slashdot who are more than adequately qualified to write university-grade textbooks on various subjects.

    I'm sure some people are going to flame me for this. It was not my intent to offend anyone. I am an adjunct professor, so I am somewhat familiar with how textbooks are evaluated and selected.

    I think we can make a difference here, just like the OSS community have made a difference in software.

    I find it amusing that the CAPTCHA for this post is "computes".

  • by bigbigbison ( 104532 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:42PM (#24020759) Homepage
    I went to take a look and see if there was anything interesting and the site has already gotten a cease and desist from Pearson Education [].
  • by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @04:34PM (#24021707) Journal

    Back in the day, expensive texts made sense. Why? Because the publisher received a typed manuscript with equations, etc *written* in. They then had to take that, reformat, etc, etc, etc and finally set the machines up and print the thing. A very time intensive expensive process.

    That being said, the world has changed. What publishers get today is pretty much a finished work. And because we've entered the wonderful world of computers, they just need to input the file and push the start button. It's now a considerable cheaper process. But, yet the price of texts has increases very much disproportionally.

    What I find deplorable, is that old texts like Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis (1976) costs $185 (hardcover) and $90 (softcover). Then there's Dudley's Elementary Number Theory (1978) which cost ~$120 when I bought it a couple years ago and Nering's Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory (amazon says 1976 but my copy says 1970) which costs $145. All three being some of the best books in there respective fields. But, the cost is prohibitive and quite frankly nonsensical. There's exactly zero reason why they should be so expensive when it is clear that they have since recouped the cost long ago.

    I gotta say that if the publishers get significantly hurt because of downloading, they've done it to themselves. I won't be shedding any tears.

  • All Hail Dover (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BlackGriffen ( 521856 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @07:05PM (#24023481)

    Dover [] publishes textbooks that are old, but still useful, for a far more reasonable price than they charge for new textbooks.

Don't get suckered in by the comments -- they can be terribly misleading. Debug only code. -- Dave Storer