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DRM Books Businesses Education The Almighty Buck

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

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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  • Because they can. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:16PM (#46944019)

    They aren't in it to make the world a better place. They are in it for the money. And so it is perfectly logical for them to take as much as they can get.

    Vote with your wallet.

  • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:17PM (#46944031)

    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.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:26PM (#46944087)
    I would be laughing at law students and law teachers and lawyers in general, if I didn't know they'd "recoup" that money by screwing me later.
  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:36PM (#46944153)

    A manufacturer is attempting to circumvent the secondary market by only lending its products instead of selling them. This isn't an end run around the "first sale" principle exactly because the publisher doesn't plan to sell the books in the first place.

    What they are trying to do should be legal -- but hopefully it won't work because professors will refuse to assign this textbooks.

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:10PM (#46944473)

    I disagree that it is ALL of them trying to suck you dry. There are some out there who are interested in providing education over just taking your money. They might be hard to find, but they are out there.

    But, let's face it. With all the easily available student loans out there that are federally backed, sucking money out of students is a profitable business. The very program that makes federal loans so readily available has artificially increased the price to the point where a 4 year degree can cost a $100K. My tuition was under 5K a year some 20 plus years ago. My whole education cost under $20K for a 4 year degree. Now we are paying $25K a year, 5 times the price? Something is wrong here.

  • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:42PM (#46944665)

    This isn't an end run around the "first sale" principle exactly because the publisher doesn't plan to sell the books in the first place.

    That sounds like an end run to me. When something looks like a sale, feels like a sale, and smells like a sale, it should behave like a sale, including all of the rights and privileges associated with ownership. And at those prices, this sure as hell looks like a purchase to me, rather than a rental. 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. How long until the first sale doctrine stops applying to any form of media at all, regardless of whether it's digital or physical?

  • by Bob Gelumph ( 715872 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @09:30PM (#46945383)
    What on earth is unethical about using online resources to study? My university has heaps of online resources for legislation, cases, journals, some text books, etc. You do realise what century it is, right?
  • by iNaya ( 1049686 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @10:18PM (#46945661)
    People like you who think we have to PAY TO DO SOMETHING are the reason why society is so fucked up.
  • by AudioEfex ( 637163 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @11:48PM (#46946293)

    That actually leads to my question about this - what if you lose it? What if you get robbed, what if you are just forgetful and leave it somewhere, what if your dog eats it....

    There are a million things that could happen. The article makes it clear that you can mark it up, highlight it, etc. do whatever you want to it - they don't care about the condition, just want it back after. So do they charge you a penalty for not returning this obviously used item that seems destined to be destroyed? Do you have to sign a contract to do so? It seems to me that there must be some penalty there, which they would have a really hard time justifying if challenged - I mean, how much is a used, beat-up book worth?

    I also had to kind of giggle at the "lifetime access" to their digital version - I'd want that one in writing, with a refund policy, so in a few years after this doesn't work and they shut down the website, folks would have recourse.

    The whole thing is just so shady. The whole textbook business is, really. Just an industry based around exploiting those already being exploited and signing away their possible future earnings to get an education and a chance at bettering themselves starting life in debt.

    I was lucky - I went to a college that didn't really use textbooks. We had plenty of books, probably many more than the average class at most schools (8-10 books a class wasn't odd), but very few "textbooks" proper - I don't think any of my classes required one - the science or math kids may have used some workbooks, but I went to a private college that didn't believe in such things and I count myself lucky. It was also small enough that the professors and other students kind of knew who could and couldn't afford the required texts and were completely supportive of sharing, reserve shelves (in fact, just about everything was on a reserve shelf if someone really needed) and any other methods we had to use - because it's the learning that's important, stupid, LOL, not supporting various corporate profit interests.

  • by PPalmgren ( 1009823 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @09:22AM (#46948375)

    This is technically incorrect. Put aside that its a bad investment for a minute and think about this: While I'm not a car person and couldnt give two shits about what I drive, to some its an amenity they enjoy, like a big screen TV or a computer. To use an analogy people here would understand, these people are the kind of people that get a new computer every 2 years because they have to have the latest and greatest, and to them, those of us in old clunkers are like the geezers who have a 10 year old comp that's 'good enough.'

    The cost of ownership between lease and own for someone who gets a new car every 3 years is relatively break-even assuming reasonable mileage, mainly due to rapid depreciation and the interest cost associated with the car loan. The big difference is that the owning cycle has more upfront costs to get ahead of the equity chase. That seems counterintuitive, but let me explain. Say you purchase a $30,000 car and put the same down as you would have on the lease, lets say $4,000. In 3 years that car is worth around $18,000, so you have to pay at least $8,000 in 3 years just to break even to buy a new car at full price, which comes out to $230/mo with interest included. Everything over that payment is technically a down payment on a new car in 3 years. On a 5 year loan, the monthly payment would be between $500-$600/mo. The lease for the same car is going to be around $300/mo. Technically you pay a little more for the lease, ~$50-$70/mo, but as you can see the upfront cost is lower. This means you can predictably drive a nicer car continuously for less money on your monthly budget at the cost of spending a little more on the tail end of the 10 year average.

    In short, yes a lease is a little more costly but the difference is much smaller than 'far more' and is useful for someone who treats a car experience as an enjoyment and not a mode of transportation/investment. Car dealerships make relatively little on leases and mainly use them to secure a used car base, they make more in financing interest on new cars and sales of used cars. The salesmen are typically reluctant to focus on offering leases for this reason.

    As a note, I absolutely abhor wasting money on cars and will prob drive my paid off car until it falls apart. Just playing the devil's advocate. I have worked with what I like to term 'car people' and they have a completely different mindset when it comes to cars than I do. I think its a giant waste of money, but they think the same way of all my tech stuff. To each their own.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly