Cracking down on Textbook Torrents

Ars Technica and The Chronicle of Higher Education reported today about the torrent site Textbook Torrents‘ removal of several files after receiving a request from academic publisher Pearson Education.

“On Friday, we received a request from Pearson Education, one of the bigger textbook publishers, listing 78 torrents that they wanted disabled. While they are acting on extremely shaky legal ground, we are not in a position to fight a legal battle with the organization. As a result, in the interest of allowing the continued existence of this place, I have acceded to their request and disabled access to the listed torrents.”

It’s been a while since I’ve had to purchase textbooks, so I was initially surprised to hear that there were torrents of scanned textbook files; however, (and I am in no way justifying the practice) it makes complete sense. Textbooks are *incredibly* expensive. Selling back your used books is infuriatingly unprofitable. Scanners are cheap. And students are angry.

While sharing textbooks is more time-intensive than sharing media files, site owners are promoting this as a service to students, and encourage them to “give back”. Taken from Textbook Torrents’ rules page:

  • If you have saved enough money by using this site (say, $200 worth of textbooks), please go out and buy a scanner. 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.
  • If you have found all your texts on the tracker (lucky dog), you can afford to buy a text that you don’t need specifically for the purpose of sharing, or borrow one from a friend. Think about how much money you would have been wasting if it hadn’t been for your fellow members.
  • If you have not found anything of use here and have to buy all your books, please think of your fellow students. Devote an evening or two to scanning some of the texts you have on hand to ensure that future students will not be in the same position as you were. Karma will pay you back, sooner or later.

This looks to be an issue we’re going to hear more about. While Textbook Torrent seems to be the major go-to resource for free textbooks, it is by far not the only place. Go to any torrent site and search for “textbook”, and hundreds of files come up. Just since the story about Textbook Torrents came out, other torrent sites are taking notice.

How is this going to change textbooks? Will we soon be able to go to and buy individual chapters (DRM-protected, of course) to download? Just have to wait and see.

Katrina Adams
Howdy folks! I'm an Instructional Designer at UT Dallas. I have a Bachelor's in Elementary Education from Angelo State University and a Master's in Computer Education and Cognitive Systems from the University of North Texas. I've been working in edtech for 11 years. Hmm... what else? I'm a *huge* fan of that little Irish band called U2, and I'm a bigtime Firefly/Serenity advocate.

3 thoughts on “Cracking down on Textbook Torrents

  1. Matt Crosslin

    It’s pretty sad how their ‘rules’ directly contradict their disclaimer on the bottom of the front page:

    ‘All peers must be the original owners of the material they share. If they are not the original owners then they need to abide by all copyright laws. By becoming a member of this site and/or uploading, each peer is in agreement with this Disclaimer.’

    They say they need to abide by copyright rules, and then they tell people to break them in the rules. They say they are rebelling against ‘overpriced’ books, but then encourage people to steal the books. If it was really about high prices, then why don’t they encourage people to send in what they think is a fair price to the textbook companies?

    Hypocrisy is a river deep and wide…..

  2. Matt Crosslin

    Oh, and I have to point out that geeks have been scanning full comic books since the first scanner was invented. Textbook scanning has existed under the radar for several decades, at least until now.

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