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.
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 Amazon.com and buy individual chapters (DRM-protected, of course) to download? Just have to wait and see.