Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Textbook Piracy

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the increasing number of college students that are downloading illegal copies of textbooks using the same file-trading technologies used to download other media. Textbook Torrents, is one of the sites being used and is reported as promising, ‘more than 5,000 textbooks for download in PDF format, complete with the original textbook layout and full-color illustrations.’ They even incite students to start scanning their textbooks, "Scan as many of your other textbooks as you can, and put them up here for others to benefit from. There aren't very many scanned texts out there, so let's change that." Also on the site's forums users often list the books they would like to see uploaded.

The AAP’s director of digital policy, Edward McCoyd is reported saying on illegal files that, ‘In any given two-week period we found from 60,000 files all the way up to 250,000 files.’

Scribd, a document-sharing Web site that opened this year is also mentioned. Scribd promises to remove any content that is uploaded without the copyright holder's permission and banning users that repeatedly abuse that rule.

So far, publishers have largely acted on an ad hoc basis and targeted the sites making the material available, rather than the students themselves.

What we are seeing is de javu. We saw the same in music with the early Napster and Kazza services and although they were different, the drive was the same. If the content isn’t available someone will make it available. If you overprice or value it someone will do it cheaper. If you lock it up and restrict access and usage, someone will free it. Today Academic text is were the most digital content and activity is and it interesting that the problems are now starting to be very visible in this sector. What does this say of the other publishing sectors, particularly Trade?

Scanning a book isn’t a simple task and takes time and effort but when the content isn’t there in the format required, some people will do it themselves, and then they will share it. The current dearth of trade digital content has to be addressed and the existing channels fully supported. We also can't expect consumers to always understand and respect territorial restrictions in a global digital environment.

We can’t expect consumers to buy ereaders in the current content vacuum, as the potential consequences may be bigger than the investments that some are apprehensive about today.

1 comment:

Mark Majurey said...

"Scanning a book isn't a simple task and takes time and effort..."

Or so we all thought! For around $2500 anyone can procure a home-scanning set up that will digitise 500 pages per hour to a standard much higher than flatbed scanners.

Don't want to spend that much? Cash-strapped student? Wanting to heed the exhortions and philosophy of Textbook Torrents? Then less than $50 will gain you entry to the club:

For those publishers still wary of digitising because of the threat of piracy and the ease with which hackers can circumvent any DRM out there... you've been warned. There is, of course, one guaranteed way to frustrate the pirateers... just don't publish!

(Go into the alcohol industry instead because, as the strap line on tells us: You can't torrent beer!)