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E-Reserves Under Fire From Publishers 208

RackinFrackin writes "Publishers Weekly has a story about a copyright lawsuit lodged against several faculty members and a librarian at Georgia State University. The case, Cambridge University Press, et al. v. Patton et al., involves e-reserves, a practice of making electronic copies of articles available to students. From the article: 'Rather than make multiple physical copies, faculty now scan or download chapters or articles, create a single copy, and place that copy on a server where students can access it (and in some cases print, download, or share). Since the practice relies on fair use (creating a single digital copy, usually from a resource already paid for, for educational purposes), permission generally isn't sought, and thus permission fees aren't paid, making the price right for students strapped by the high cost of tuition and textbooks, as well as for libraries with budgets stretched thinner every year.'"
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E-Reserves Under Fire From Publishers

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  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:40PM (#32569436)
    Sarcastically speaking, I feel so sorry for the publishers losing out. They charge such unnecessarily exhorbitant prices and change maybe a word or two or chapter organization resulting in a new edition to obsolete the old. Maybe it is high time professors fought back against this extortion.
  • by professorguy ( 1108737 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:43PM (#32569496)
    Does an educational publishing house exist to disseminate information to the people who will use it to improve our society? Or does it merely gobble up the maximum amount of money without regard to the impact on society?

    Well, I guess now we know.
  • by p14-lda ( 517504 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:47PM (#32569570) Homepage
    That is of course ignoring the professors who write the books for their courses and are happy to have new revisions every year to keep that part of their revenue in tact :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:50PM (#32569608)

    Only thing? I'd ask for my money back.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:53PM (#32569662) Journal
    In most other industries this would be considered illegal as a clear conflict of interest.
  • by Cwix ( 1671282 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:59PM (#32569770)
    The professors write the book ,send it to a publisher for editing and what not, and the book is sold back to the SAME SCHOOL, and others. Thats how it works right now. As far as Im concerned, these professors should forward their books to the lit department, have some undergrads edit, and pretty it up. then post it on the schools server. Then schools could share their librarys with other schools, so every school will have available on its server every fucking book they need. Problem solved.
  • by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:59PM (#32569772) Homepage
    I think it's up to those of us who do "Information Technology" all day every day to educate people on why this is bad.

    Ultimately they and their ilk would stop all uncontrolled dissemination of information for their own private profits.  That would be bad for all of humanity, and must be successfully opposed.

    It probably will cost some people their jobs in the process.  I understand that and I still say it should be done anyway.

    I'm pretty sure the future which includes greater human education and knowledge will provide more and better jobs, though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:00PM (#32569784)

    publishers are not creators

  • by __aapopf3474 ( 737647 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:02PM (#32569814)
    From TFA:

    "Indeed, to the uninitiated, scholarly publishing is a curious enterprise. Simplified, it works something like this: universities or the government subsidize a professor's research. The professor, who is required to publish frequently for professional advancement, gives his research to a scholarly publisher, usually for little or no money. That publisher, who adds value through editing, peer review, and production, assumes the copyright, packages, and sells the research back to the university at a markup. And those mark-ups have proven significant over time, especially as the digital age has fostered an explosion of new databases and resources."

    In my department (Electrical Engineering), new faculty are offered a support package to get started and then the faculty go out and get funding. At least 51% of the funding they find is paid to the University as overhead. It is difficult for faculty who don't have external funding to attract grad students or pay for computers. The funding comes from the Government, but much of it comes from corporations.

    In my experience, publishers no longer do any editing. I had an expensive text book on "Quality" and the author misquoted John Kennedy. How could this get by an editor? Authors submit camera ready text to academic publishers.

    In my experience, peer review is managed by an unpaid faculty member who distributes material to other unpaid faculty members who distribute the material to unpaid students who do the review and pass the review back up the chain. This is actually very good because it gets students to review the work of others.

    The reality is that academic publishing is a dead-end. Journals are in trouble. Conference proceedings and self-publishing of text books are on the rise. Recently, he only thing that I've heard faculty say that publishers provide is that publishers sometimes show up at conferences with a table of books which faculty browse. This seems like a weak basis for a business.

    Reading the TFA, it seems like the publishers should just settle. Georgia changed their ways.

  • by MalHavoc ( 590724 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:04PM (#32569840)
    I did RTA, and I didn't see the name of the E-Reserves product Georgia is using, but I am betting it is the same one they sort-of open sourced a few years ago, and that I am currently maintaining at my own institution. I am in the middle of building a new E-reserves system because the one that Georgia State created is in a bit of a need of a rewrite in order to work on newer versions of PHP.

    This is a big deal. Institutions often pay incredible amounts of money to provide library catalog services, and reserves are a huge part of any course system. Instructors often bring stuff into our library, from their own collection -- a magazine article, a couple of photos, whatever -- and now, more than ever, they exist only in electronic form (videos, PDF files, etc). You have to put these things some place.

    This stuff needs to be worked out. I see a few people already posting about how expensive college is... the last thing I'd want to see is the costs of license fees for copyright being passed on to students. That's seriously suck.
  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:06PM (#32569864)
    Screw Cambridge University Press. I just lost my assitantship(read: tuition waiver) because we don't have enough funding in my department. If we had to pay even to read every single copy of an article, most of the graduate departments would be gone. In any case, how is this any different from making copies out of a physical book in a library? If they are going to go after us, they should be going after every single library that holds their books and also owns a copier, since apparently that is costing them fees as well. Where they say "Rather than make multiple physical copies, faculty now scan or download chapters or articles", they really mean "Rather than BUY multiple physical copies, faculty now scan or download chapters or articles". Oh, yeah, and remind me never to publish with Cambridge University Press.
  • by Posting=!Working ( 197779 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:08PM (#32569888)

    Amendment 28 : The right of a corporation to earn the same or more profits as last year shall not be infringed by congress or reality.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:13PM (#32569962)

    Most people don't see American academia for the industry that it is. Most people still incorrectly think of it as something pure, and free from commercial influences.

  • Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:30PM (#32570262)
    Open source all course materials and stop fucking around with for-profit publishers.
  • by netruner ( 588721 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:34PM (#32570340)
    Now how will all of the no-value-added middle men make their livings if this type of philosophy takes hold?
  • by Xonstantine ( 947614 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:37PM (#32570374)

    Yes. The government is paying most of your tuition.

    You misspelled taxpayers.

    Speaking of which, I paid $5500 in property taxes last years (and a big chunk of that goes to the juco).

  • by rcuhljr ( 1132713 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:52PM (#32570630)
    let me help you with the reading. if you bought stuff from the bookstore. Although very few of the books we used in undergrad were actually on resale site, when you go to a sub 2000 attendance college there's a good chance you aren't on the big buy lists. Normally you'd buy books from friends who'd taken the class previously provided you didn't get version owned. Even then the savings wouldn't always be phenomenal since you'd need to split the difference between the price the store payed to buy them back, and the cost of used books at the store.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:03PM (#32570800) Journal

    You are, however, ignoring one problem on the other end. Copyright infringement is so cheap that it's not easy for publishers to compete, even if they were to price it "fairly".

    So, don't compete then. We don't need textbook publishers anymore.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:07PM (#32570838) Journal

    Publishers know one thing: don't fuck with tenured professors. These guys have contributed a lot of material (both as articles and as books) to the publishers, from which they gain usually very little to nothing. But the profs have the attitude that they'll send a copy of the article to any scholar that asks for it. Some even have automated e-mail systems which send the article in an automated e-mail. And publishers always let them do that, because they know what is the true source of their bread and butter, and know better than piss them off. Ask any tenured prof if they are worried that the publishing hose will come after them for distributing copies of their articles; their attitude is "Bring it on, make my day."

    Senior scientists HATE giving up copyrights to the text and every picture they publish in the article, to the journal, without getting anything in return - not to mention that they are the authors of the whole article, and must even carefully format it according to the capricious guidelines of the journal! Oh yeah, and the peer-review is done by other unpaid scientists. People are furious and anger is boiling. Does this publishing house really want to stir this nest of angry wasps? The UC boycott of NPG [] didn't come out from a vacuum. Cambridge University Press could find itself on the receiving end of something similarly unpleasant. Yes, they are very prestigious and with a long tradition - but so does Nature Publishing Group.

    If the situation blows up to a sufficient degree, we might see a revolutionary change towards copylefted, openly accessible scientific papers and notebooks. Public Library of Science is moving in that direction, and I can only hope that the movement/trend picks up momentum and steamrolls the greedy publishing houses and journals.

  • by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:19PM (#32571038)

    Why not? There is little change from one revision to the next. In fact, one large, often quoted cost of the textbooks is the shipping costs. Another is printing costs. Another is storage. (our college didn't like to buy back books that weren't used the very next term, since they didn't have anywhere to store them) How much do you think it costs to ship 500 calculus textbooks to a college? One would think with no expensive full color printing and binding, along with almost no distribution or warehouse costs, the price should be a small fraction of what it was.

    Heck, without the bookstore marking up the cost to pay for their costs (office space, salaries, etc) and no distribution and storage costs, you really just have a author, some marketing and IT costs for distribution, and of course, editing and proof reading.

  • by twidarkling ( 1537077 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @06:14PM (#32571866)

    So, don't compete then. We don't need textbook publishers anymore.

    Yeah, you do. Maybe not dedicated companies, but you still need publishers for textbooks.

  • by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) * on Monday June 14, 2010 @06:15PM (#32571882)

    In the strange world of academia, the main way that you can show your worth is by being published by recognised journals and book publishers. Often it is a requirements of working at an institution. Self publishing and e-publishing would not be accepted for this. It seems that doing what is best for the students is secondary to building prestige for universities.

  • by supercrisp ( 936036 ) on Monday June 14, 2010 @06:27PM (#32572016)
    This comes up frequently. Does anyone who says this have ANY idea of how little royalties are for these books? Does anyone ever stop to consider that the prof who wrote the book might well believe that the book he or she wrote is the BEST book in the field? (Of course it may be crap, but the author is likely to be convinced of its value.) I regularly assign students to read things I've written--not books, mind you, but brief essays or other preparatory materials. The only difference is no money is changing hands. But, if and when I have enough material, it will become a book I will then likely assign. The way I see it, I am thereby freed up to talk about OTHER things, such as nuances of the material, recent developments, or applications. Finally, I can't imagine that anyone teaching is doing it for the money. If you're in the sciences, you likely are or could be making much more in industry. In the humanities, you're not going to be making money no matter where you go--and you knew that starting out. This tiresome idea that the prof is price-gouging students is why faculty can't provide simple services like bringing in a box of bluebooks, folder, or what-have-you and asking a nickel apiece for them. Instead students have to make an extra trip to the campus bookstore to get charged more for the same item. Anyway, seriously, at their most malevolent, for the majority, faculty are indifferent to students. But the greatest part of us actually like and care about the people we teach.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama