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The Right To Read: Time Limited Textbooks

michael posted more than 14 years ago | from the disaster-unfolding dept.

News 477

qbasicprogrammer writes: "Vital Source Technologies is now providing time-limited medical textbooks to universities. Password protected books as predicted in The Right To Read by Richard Stallman are finally becoming a reality." Starting on Oct. 28, (when the other part of the DMCA comes into effect), you could face a civil lawsuit and criminal penalties of up to five years in jail and a fine of $500,000 for reading someone else's textbook. See the NYU FAQ, the Advogato discussion, or the company crowing about new revenue opportunities.

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Appauling (2)

Ender7 (148649) | more than 14 years ago | (#822030)

If a person purchases a book they aren't allowed to let someone else read it? What kind of ridiculous day and age are we living in when electronic means are being created in order to prevent sharing and helping one another? Yes, please sign me up for the electronic devestation of my right to be nice to other humans!

This makes a lot of sense (2)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 14 years ago | (#822031)

Think about it, it makes a lot of sense to have medical textbooks that are time limited.

Consider eating eggs for example.

1950 Eggs are good for you.

1970 Eggs are bad for you.

1980 Eggs aren't so bad for you.

Stupid.. (1)

photozz (168291) | more than 14 years ago | (#822032)

I still have my textbooks from my breif stint in tech school. They have proven to be increadibly helpfull as refrence materials, and for teaching the kids. are we coming to a time when we are esentialy going to have to pay "maintenece" cost just for trying to retain knowlege we learned?? how many people remember EVERYTHING they learned in school?

illegal to read someone elses book? (1)

barabbi (55893) | more than 14 years ago | (#822033)

you could face a civil lawsuit and criminal penalties of up to five years in jail and a fine of $500,000 for reading someone else's textbook

How does this work? I always thought that books were legal for anyone to read as long as two people weren't reading it at once.. (by making a copy of the book). By the same law that you can have mp3s of your cd's you legally own at work and home. as long as you aren't listening to them at the same time.

are they now 'Licensing' books now in a shrinkwrap EULA?


Bookstore Buy Backs (1)

Dios (83038) | more than 14 years ago | (#822034)

Just how much do I get when I sell it back to them? I promise it'll be in perfect condition.

Man.. I shared so many books... what a load of crap.

It depends on whether your profs publish to CD (2)

NotQuiteSonic (23451) | more than 14 years ago | (#822035)

It isn't unusual to be forced to buy the crappy book your prof published. I think that, more than anything else will drive whether schools move to eTexts.

Time locked medical texts (1)

kmcardle (24757) | more than 14 years ago | (#822036)

Boy, this sounds like a bad idea....

I'm sorry, Mr. Jones, but the time lock on my text has expired, and I won't be able to perform your life saving surgery today.

Ouch. All doctors are in "practices"! They need the books to help get it right. Ouch.
then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel is just a freight train coming your way

Hmmm... (2)

BJH (11355) | more than 14 years ago | (#822037)

OK, time for all you idiots that have been calling RMS a maniac to eat your words. He was dead on target with this one.

Quite frankly, I find the idea that you can be charged for reading over someone's shoulder one step short of the "Thought Police". No way would I ever spend money on a textbook that was licensed like this.

(BTW, I work for a publishing company, and I can tell you that the higher-ups would drool at the idea of such a system. The day I have to work on such a book is the day I quit my job.)

Aren't computer manuals time limited (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#822038)

Perhaps not in fact, but in practice.

If you were hiring a system administrator, and (s)he showed you the Netware 3.1 and DOS 5.0 manuals (s)he knew backwards and forwards, would you be impressed, or would you ask for the next candidate?


Damnit guess you'll actually have to buy it. (1)

Policetape (226370) | more than 14 years ago | (#822039)

Damn, I guess I can't photocopy that book and a chapter by chapter basis anymore. Also, where will I draw my pictures?

That final link... (2)

Happy Monkey (183927) | more than 14 years ago | (#822040)

By implementing the VSTi system, however, universities contractually agree to require at least three titles per curriculum topic. Therefore, the number of titles used by students increases significantly.

Well, isn't that wonderful. The number, and source, of required texts for our future doctors is no longer determined by need, but by contractual obligation to the publisher...

Thought experiment (4)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#822041)

Imagine a world where ALL textbooks are password-protected, time-limited, etc. How does Steve Wozniak learn electronics? How does Edison learn physics or engineering? How does ANY person of limited means learn ANYTHING? And how do we pool our knowledge on anything from "how do you set the VCR clock" to "how do you make starship"?

There are powerful societal reasons to keep information transfer as free (in all senses of the word) as possible. Unfortunately, these reasons don't translate well into the language of capitalism. There is no way to say "a rising tide lifts all boats" in Capitalismese.

Discussion question: How do you explain this to business people (who run the country) OR build it into the economy?

Is this such a surprise? (4)

icqqm (132707) | more than 14 years ago | (#822042)

The DMCA was created for things like this. You're not buying books, you're buying licenses to read books. It's like a library where you pay. And someone will come up with a way to break the woefully inadequate protection system they have there so people can read the books when they like, and they will be sued, even if they live in some other country. And we will be better off because with rights and freedom, chaos would immediately ensue.

The Year is 2005... (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 14 years ago | (#822043)

Are you breathing air? Have you paid this months air bill? That's a $500,000.00 fine, mister!!!

Outrageous... its Capitalcratic politics, and its eating us alive!

-- "Almost everyone is an idiot. If you think I'm exaggerating, then you're one of them."

George Orwell was right... (1)

MECC (8478) | more than 14 years ago | (#822044)

Although not an orwellian phenomenon as such, restriction of books is up his alley. Isn't there anyone out there that understands what is happening?

Re:This makes a lot of sense (3)

Happy Monkey (183927) | more than 14 years ago | (#822045)

Consider eating eggs for example.

1950 Eggs are good for you.

1970 Eggs are bad for you.

1980 Eggs aren't so bad for you.

Actually, I would say that 1950 eggs are pretty bad for you, whether you are talking about year of origin, or quantity...

From the FAQ @ NYU on VitalBook (1)

iceT (68610) | more than 14 years ago | (#822046)

" What about a computer? The VitalBook version for the 2000-2001 academic year is fully-developed on the Apple Macintosh. You must
have an Apple PowerBook for this application.

Yeah. Right. I guess the future dentists of the world will not be able to run Linux or even Windows.

How they get away with it (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 14 years ago | (#822047)

I think the issue here is that in essense they are charging you a subscription to access the information.

This is really no different from some existing technical knowledge bases on the internet where you (or your uni) has to be a paid up subscriber.

Interestingly enough this is similar to the model that microsoft are considering using for software. No longer will you be hindered by having to constantly buy new M$ software... instead you will only be able to rent it. That way everyone has the most recent versions and they can forget about backward compatibility.

What is even more interesting is that so many people, particularly /. readers slam these economic models as unfair. Yet there was a fair bit of support for the suggestions that were made by myself and others about how the RIAA could put all the music ever made into a streamable database and charge people $20 a month to access it rather than having to buy cds.

Only one question. (2)

sporty (27564) | more than 14 years ago | (#822048)

Since we all know any "secure" form of information can be broken in any way or form, do they have a way of tracking which book goes to who? There's something to be said about just copying the text content only, but what does this company do when 50 people make copies of their books? Do they have a way of marking each cd in a unique fasion?


Net positive? (2)

a42 (136563) | more than 14 years ago | (#822049)

This could turn out to be a net positive. I'm not suggesting that it will cause the public to "rise up" and strike down the DMCA, but... it could draw some serious attention and paint the whole thing in a seriously unflattering light. Most people I talk to don't know or care about the DMCA. When I try to explain it to them in terms of DeCSS, Napster,, etc. their eyes just sort of glaze over. Maybe this is something that the average citizen can relate to.

The writing is no longer on the wall (1)

the_other_one (178565) | more than 14 years ago | (#822050)

Public libraries are soon to be illegal.

Only the rich may be permitted to read.

Technology Is Also the Publisher's Friend (1)

westfirst (222247) | more than 14 years ago | (#822051)

The content companies bitch and moan about how the new technology is threatening to destroy their business. Copying will be so easy. But the debate never comes around to the new rights that the content companies are giving to themselves. If you bought an old style book, you owned it and could share it with a friend, sell it, or keep it for the future. Now, they want to bind up knowledge and keep you as a subscriber for life.

I wish the content companies would admit how much they're gaining for the new technology instead of just growsing about how it threatens their existence.

Massive Legal System DoS (1)

Luminous (192747) | more than 14 years ago | (#822052)

I guess one of the best protests we, the people concerned with the rights associated with buying a bok, is to begin a massive violation of the law and tie up the legal system with hundreds upon thousands of cases of 'booksharing'.

Then when court dates for other civil and criminal actions dry up, effectively shutting down the system, someone might get a clue. If not, this is one crime I will willingly commit. It is my book, my property for which I paid my money for.

Are you a booklegger?

Time to become an ex-pat (1)

CoreDump (1715) | more than 14 years ago | (#822053)

This is so frighteningly Orwellian I can't believe it is actually happening.

Time make copies of *all* your books/data/publications and move them to a data-haven. Yes, they aren't just for Neal Stephenson books any more. See:

------------------------------------------------ ------------

Technical issues (4)

harmonica (29841) | more than 14 years ago | (#822054)

The website of VitalBook hasn't got a lot of technical details -- or at least I didn't find them. I'd ask the typical questions:
  • What should prevent people from cracking the encryption system like it has been done with other systems?
  • How do they make sure that the time they check against to see if the user is still allowed to read isn't faked?
  • What about the well-known problem of people not liking to read from the screen?
  • If I have a printing privilege (as is mentioned on the website), can't I simply print into a PostScript file and read that file as long as I wish (and distribute it)?

Re:This makes a lot of sense (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#822055)

Actually, I would say that 1950 eggs are pretty bad for you, whether you are talking about year of origin, or quantity...

no caviar for you

What a waste of money (1)

bsdbigot (186157) | more than 14 years ago | (#822056)

Unlike digital books, like the VitalBook, once you purchase a textbook, it's yours FOREVER! I could see paying $3600 for a lifetime subscription to a digital service, if the information was really that important to me... textbooks are most valuable after the schooling experience, when they become not learning fodder, but reliable reference material. So, as a dental student at NYU, I have to pay $3600 for the VitalBooks that are only good while I'm in school, then pay for additional materials when I go to my residency? This calls for a boycott!

Bring on the Dark Ages! (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#822057)

I hope you all like the world you are creating.

It'll work in Universities... (2)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 14 years ago | (#822058)

Anyone that has tried to go through registration or financial aid in a university will know that this will go on without a hitch...
Universities are a military dictatorship (at least mine was, the bloodsucking bastards...), and the college kids are used to being screwed... royally... twice a day.

-- "Almost everyone is an idiot. If you think I'm exaggerating, then you're one of them."

Re:Whats the problem? (3)

david614 (10051) | more than 14 years ago | (#822059)

Do you understand the implications of restricting the free-flow of ideas in a democratic society? If the principal means of distributing knowledge are restricted, you have your first step (a big one) on the road to the creation of a self-perpetuating oligarchy -- with high and criminal-law protected -- barriers to entry. And what about the ability of individuals (this is America isn't it) to self-educate from easily affordable and readily available sources of information. What about the World Wide Web?!

On the other hand, maybe ubiquitously available napster type applications, plus faster bandwidth availability, and wide-spread dissemination of dvd-encryption busting tools will leave these fascistic proposals on the scrap heap of history.

Here's Hoping.

Press Release (3)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 14 years ago | (#822060)

Redmond WA, Monday 28th August -- Microsoft Press today announced that they will be moving all their current publications into a time limited form.

This is designed to alleviate the current problems they have of failing to get it right the first time.

We were unable to get a comment from microsoft, but a preprepared press release says "By allowing a user to only use the textbook for the first hour after purchase we hope to be able to provide up to the minute content. Since our standards change so regularly users will never be misled by outdated content".

Beta testers were reported to be pleased with the books although there have been several injuries as a result of the impromptu warning:

"This textbook will self destruct in five seconds"

Re:Hmmm... (2)

Riplakish (213391) | more than 14 years ago | (#822061)

How do we know that RMS didn't inadvertantly give the company the idea in the first place? Some currency-whore could have been trolling around looking for the next big cash-orgy, and stumbled across RMS's article, and the article became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just a thought.

medical warez (4)

mmca (180858) | more than 14 years ago | (#822062)

So how long before med students are downloading "Principles of Internal Medicine" at the krad super 'leet med text warez site?

Click here for Hot Teen Action
Click here for Sanford's Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy
Click here for QuakeV

Can't wait

Freedom of contract (4)

Kaa (21510) | more than 14 years ago | (#822063)

Before everybody starts to scream about having these guys drawn and quartered, I'd like to remind the esteemed Slashdot audience about such thing as freedom, and in particular, the freedom of contract. If there is no monopoly situation (and it doesn't seem like it) then why in the world should anybody be prevented from making a product (even if you believe it's bad) and trying to sell it? After all, that's what market economy means: good products succeed and bad products fail. For a good example look at Divx (Circuit City idea to sell time-limited movies, etc.) Was there any regulation/legislation necessary? No. Did the stupid idea die on its own? Yes.

Same thing here. These guys have to compete with real textbooks which, among other things, have resale value. If you think that you'd like to keep that textbook as a reference even after the course is over, why, then, don't buy the time-limited version. As long as there is a choice, I don't see any problems.

Granted, if any attempt is made to force such textbooks on people, I'd be in the front rows of the lynching mob. Other than that I have no objections to having a choice between a $120 paper textbook and (hopefully) $20 time-limited DVD.

It's funny how all the pseudo-libertarians around here are unwilling to let the market decide...


Re:illegal to read someone elses book? (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 14 years ago | (#822064)

No. They are licensing your use of a CD to 'read' those books.

It's legal, but it's bunk.
The difference between paying $600 a term for the 'vitabook' and paying $2000 for 'real' books is that YOU GET TO KEEP THE REAL BOOKS!

My eyes are huring (1)

funk_phenomenon (162242) | more than 14 years ago | (#822065)

I don't know about anybody else, but I would hate to have a textbook on computer. Firstly, I would never want to read any textbook on a computer screen (maybe on the electronic paper [] ). Secondly, who wants to find a record with a DVD. I love flipping through the book. It makes finding a reference easy. Most quotes and footnotes don't require long passages, so copy and pasting information is no problem.

Already I'm blasted for $600 (CAN $) worth of books each SEMESTER. I wouldn't need an electronic pain of a book to put more money in the publishers pockets.

Even the samurai
have teddy bears,
and even the teddy bears

FUD! (1)

blameless (203912) | more than 14 years ago | (#822066)

jail and a fine of $500,000 for reading someone else's textbook.


Come on michael, you know damn well the DMCA has nothing to do with reading someone else's textbook!

It will make it illegal to duplicate the DVD, but that doesn't prevent someone from sharing it anymore than it prevents you from playing Quake at a friend's house!

This an interesting story on its own merit, for many reasons, and does not need your sensationalism to get people's attention!

How about making annotations? (5)

Idaho (12907) | more than 14 years ago | (#822067)

I don't know about you, but most people don't like to read from a screen, not in the last place because you can not make annotations on your screen (well, at least it won't be a very smart idea :-)

While a portable TFT screen may help overcome the portability and glare problems, making annotiations remains a problem.

Especially in textbooks I want to make a lot of annotations. My opinion is that, up to now, most software that I have heard of that tries to let you do this, just plain sucks. Nothing beats a pencil and paper sometimes...

Now with that new write recognizion hardware you see around lately (running Linux :) my opinion *might* change....

not just a routine abuse (1)

drfireman (101623) | more than 14 years ago | (#822068)

Calling these time-limited peep shows books is an egregious abuse of the word "book." I think it's only fair to doubt the honesty, competence, and judgement of any author, publisher, or med school who facilitates this kind of product. Producing these peep shows instead of real medical texts is not consistent with any legitimate educational purpose.

Way back when I began college... (2)

GMontag (42283) | more than 14 years ago | (#822069)

About 20 years ago, when I began college, through just a few years ago (when I finally went back and finished college) the University and the professors used radically different methods:

1. They would have "new editions" of textbooks quite frequently. The main difference seemed to be the wording or order of questions assigned for homework. Calc books were the most amazing. Did not know Business student calculus was so dynamic as to require a new adition of the same book every year or 2.

2. "Class packs" were common a few years back, until some lawsuit against Kinko's stalled wholsale copyright violations by professors. Somehow, a way was found around that and class packs were available again, for a pretty hefty price, given the "quality" of a pile of xeroxed paper. BTW, even though the pile of bad quality printed paper was a collection of other's work, don't dare make a copy for a friend or the prof. would have a fit.

It seems that this latest twist has the same effect as the tactics used before, except the professors/textbook writers do not have to move the questions around every couple of terms.

However, in the past there were not any criminal hammers hovering over the students for these violations.

Visit DC2600 []

Textbook robbery (1)

bored (40072) | more than 14 years ago | (#822070)

I've always been annoyed by the $100+ textbooks. The usual excuse for charging $115 for a textbook has been the cost of "paper, printing, binding, stocking..." Now with these people charging $600 for a DVD it sort of proves that the college textbook industry is just greedy and can get away with outrageous textbook prices because they have a captive audience.

You'll like it, we guarantee it! (5)

ChaosDiscord (4913) | more than 14 years ago | (#822071)

So speaks the NYU Dental school's FAQ [] on the VitalBook:
What if I decide I don't like the VitalBook? First of all, the VitalBook has been extensively pilot tested and a beta-version was out for some time before the application was completed - that means, we don't believe you won't like it!
Wow, that's conviction. We're so certain you'll love the VitalBook, that if you claim you don't like it, we'll accuse you of lying.

Sure, the FAQ does go on to say that you can return it if you're not satisfied, but students starting in 2001 are told "It is our position that ALL dentists must have excellent computer skills to maximize their skill and knowledge as dentists." To help them build excellent computer skills, Apple PowerBooks and VitalBooks are mandatory.

Meanwhile, back at VitalBooks [] themselves, they comment:

Publishers are guaranteed 100% market penetration at partner schools who opt to implement the Vital Source system. Purchase of all included titles is mandated by the universities.

Here at VitalBook, we've taken care of little details like choice. Heck, you don't even need to be taking a given course to charge people for it:

Because the service is a global curriculum application, the fee comes in from each student each of the four years of their studies, regardless of whether they are taking that course that year.
And that pesky used book store where people can save a little money on their education and help protect the environment with reuse:
In the VSTi system, not compete against used copies of their own books....

My biggest hope is that as companies get increasingly... well... evil, it will become clear to everyone that this must be stopped. I don't want to live in a world where I license everything and own nothing.

This has no time limit. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#822072)


Note: The following text is a transcription of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These
amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the "Bill of Rights."

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not
be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a
manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly
describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand
Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger;
nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any
criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall
private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and
district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be
informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory
process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved,
and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the
common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States
respectively, or to the people.

The real Anonymous Coward has Slashdot ID -1. Anyone else is an imposter.

Right of Transfer (5)

sterno (16320) | more than 14 years ago | (#822073)

One of the things I see a growing need for is a protected right of transfer for any copyrighted material. Essentially the right protects your ability to transfer your access to any copyrighted work to another party at no cost. This right would not be limited to purchased items (something quickly dissapearing it seems), also extending to leased works where you pay for limited time access, etc.

This would make it illegal for Microsoft to sell licenses that restricted use of their product to one computer or one purchaser. The rights they convey to you would also be conveyed to any person you wished to transfer that software too. If you had permanent access to some medical database, you could transfer that access to somebody else (setting the ground for the notion of inheritance of intellectual property).

Now, to the benefit of copyright holders, I think it is fair to allow them to build in limitations that permit only one copy of an item to exist at a time. So, if you transfer your rights to an item, you cannot continue to share those rights. But I think there should also be built in requirements to allow for limited duplication of material for archival purposes (how many of us have lost our CD's to scratches?)


laws or no, it just won't work (1)

Jon_Sy (225913) | more than 14 years ago | (#822074)

Eric S. Raymond had a lot to say about information in the age of the Net. The boiled-down comment was:

if it's not in your head, it ain't private.

For every encryption there's a just have to want the info badly enough, or be disgusted enough by an Orwellian nightmare of a scheme.

Online Books (1)

waveeq (124588) | more than 14 years ago | (#822075)

I don't know about other people but personally i get sick of reading things online. There is nothing as good as reading good hard back copy. Also has any body considered the medical considerations of college students starting to read online. It would probably cause an increase in cases of carpul tunnel, bad eyesight.

Read the fine print (2)

kylerk (69856) | more than 14 years ago | (#822076)

What happens after I graduate? For students who subscribe throughout dental school, the VitalBook you have when you graduate will always be active. The College is finalizing a plan for alumni which will be announced later. If you decide to return the VitalBook after 90 days, or you do not renew the program after the first year, your VitalBook will become non-functional and will not work at all.

The NYU FAQ implies the DVD will still be readable (meaning NOT time limited) -- just won't be updated. It appears the story leading was misleading.


No hope :-( (2)

mirko (198274) | more than 14 years ago | (#822077)

Now it seems that even knowledge is becoming ISO9xx-ied.
Have these guys actually found somebody to share their pretentions with them ?
Let's take a look to their partners list [] ...
Jeeesus... They don't need partners, they construct theirs !
It is also strange to see Mac Powerbooks [] on all of their Vital Book-related pages though I am sure this will rather run on MS platforms.

PS: When will the toilet paper also be subject to non-disclosure-agreements ?
Maybe when electronic noses will be there to check who did uses one another's.


Re:It'll work in Universities... (1)

KnightStalker (1929) | more than 14 years ago | (#822078)

It's an old story. "I love this fucking University and this University loves fucking me."

I xeroxed an entire textbook! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#822079)

I was "required" for a class yet the bookstore was sold out of used and even new copies with "more coming in 4-6 weeks". So I xeroxed the entire book from the library's copy (where I worked). I used the "lost" xerox debit cards to do it too. They have no names on the cards. They all look alike. And we're just supposed to turn them in to library reprographics anyway (I guess so they can pockey the "lost" $$$). May as well make copies that were PAID for already.

If this shit with time locket textbooks (I assume on computer) happens, I'm downloading the whole friggin thing while I have access, and then selling the book to the next student who takes the class. Yes. How does "book buyback" programs work with this scheme?


As a starving college student. I certainly cannot always afford new textbooks. Looks like once again history is repeating itself. "Learning is only for the wealthy" and not for us plebs.

From VitalBook's FAQ (1)

petard (117521) | more than 14 years ago | (#822080)

This really does mirror what RMS describes. Frightening. Here's what VitalBook's FAQ [] says:

3. Who can use VitalViewerTMand can I share VitalViewerTM with a friend or with upperclassmen?

Only registered students and faculty are legally allowed to use the VitalViewerTM application or the VitalBookTM DVD. Any unauthorized use or distribution of the VitalViewerTM software is a major Copyright Violation and is subject to legal action. Please don't make us do that.

Wow. I used to just laugh at some of RMS's rhetoric. I think I can take him much more seriously now.

And I was in a bad mood to begin with today...

Re:illegal to read someone elses book? (2)

Hobbex (41473) | more than 14 years ago | (#822081)

How does this work?

Easy enough, simply put an "effective" access control on the book preventing more then one person from reading it, and then get them on "circumvention".

Since the DeCSS trial has showed us how relative the word "effective" is (to the surprise of those of us who though it had something to do with working as advertised), a pair of those "secret spy glasses" toys for kids is probably enough.

various items (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#822082)

Posting as AC...

How do you explain this to business people (who run the country) OR build it into the economy?

Why did the Fed raise interest rates? In part to keep lid on rising cost of wages due to low employment.

The established textbook distribution model does not help increase the quality or quantity of educated individuals that can fill the advanced job positions of an information-based economy.

Logic suggests that removing artificial barriers to a quality education will be good for society, and, also good for corporate earnings. Why? Better educated individuals --> Better business decisions/actions --> Better earnings growth.

Separately, what do you expect from the Ivory tower? You have to "earn" (read "pay") for that white coat.

It costs $1,200 more plus buying the computer. (2)

Borogrove (126006) | more than 14 years ago | (#822083)

This is great. They sell it to you the first year for $600, which saves you a chunk of money over the normal $1500 they say books cost the first year. Great. But then they charge you $1200 for each additional year, for a total of $4,200 over four years. But in their faq they say that on average a student only pays $3000 for books over the 4 years of attendance. And this makes sense how?

That's not even counting the fact that you have to buy an Apple computer to view the thing, which they're happy to sell you, of course. Go figure.

I guess they think that being able to search easier is going to be worth the $1200 extra you pay for the books alone, but last I checked, textbooks tend to have a pretty good index in the back for that.

I would assume (hope, anyway) that they give you some way to highlight and make notes while you're reading, and if they had any foresight they'd search that when you do searches later, which might be nice. I'd still go with a good old book I can keep on my shelf and won't have to worry about them deciding to deactivate someday.

According to the faq, if you finish the program and pay all the way through the 4 years, you'll have the books and they'll work forever. If you give them back before the 90 day period, you get your money back and don't keep the books. So what happens if you quit in between?

I'll stick to real books, thanks.


Re:Thought experiment (1)

Kaa (21510) | more than 14 years ago | (#822084)

There is no way to say "a rising tide lifts all boats" in Capitalismese.

Ahem. You haven't thought about it at all, did you? One of the major advantages of capitalism is its, as Adam Smith put it, "invisible hand". He was the first to point out that out of millions of people all trying to further their own petty and greedy aims, a great deal of common good spontaneously arises. I am amazed how often that very old insight is forgotten.

And, in a simpler vein, not all capitalist games are zero-sum (meaning if one wins, another loses). The stock market is a prime example of non-zero-sum game: since "the world is long", rising stock market actually creates wealth. Yeah, yeah, I know, it mostly doesn't create wealth, but reflects wealth creation in the underlying economy, plus that wealth can be very unstable. It still doesn't change the point: a rising stock market does lift all boats.


NYU Faq (1)

Auckerman (223266) | more than 14 years ago | (#822085)

From the NYU faq: "How does the system work? The product that we are introducing this year is a version developed for use on the Apple computer. You will require an Apple G3 PowerBook ...with a DVD drive."

Yet another Mac on innovation.

What about our kids? (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 14 years ago | (#822086)

Things like restricted reading *needs* to change...
I'm not rich... does that mean my kid will be forced to be a blue collar mill worker, because I can't afford to pay for all the time he needs to study for tests? If this is the future, its not going to stop... next thing you know we'll be paying to breath the "united states air"......
Then again, that's already covered in taxes...

-- "Almost everyone is an idiot. If you think I'm exaggerating, then you're one of them."

Re:Hmmm... (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 14 years ago | (#822087)

Believe me, most companies don't need lessons in how to be greedier from RMS, of all people ;)

Re:Freedom of contract (2)

ChaosDiscord (4913) | more than 14 years ago | (#822088)

Kaa comments:
These guys have to compete with real textbooks which, among other things, have resale value....

Granted, if any attempt is made to force such textbooks on people, I'd be in the front rows of the lynching mob.

Part of the problem is that this is being forced on people. VitalBook themselves says:
Publishers are guaranteed 100% market penetration at partner schools who opt to implement the Vital Source system. Purchase of all included titles is mandated by the universities.

Go read VitalBook's page on the subject [] . Their list of "features" includes mandated purchases by schools (and NYU's Dental school is doing exactly this starting in 2001), and the removal of used book sales. They aren't competing with printed books. Frighting stuff. Given the current attitude of "save money at any cost" at universities, I can certainly see this spreading.

Re:illegal to read someone elses book? (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 14 years ago | (#822089)

Paying $2000 or $600 dollars for a fucking book ? That's insane, the most I've ever paid for a CS book is $200, do they rape the medical students because they are supposed to "make more"?

PS I get almost all my books used.

Re:Damnit guess you'll actually have to buy it. (1)

chowda (161971) | more than 14 years ago | (#822090)

No kidding! I like to fill in all the closed letters... I go through and fill in all the 'o' then the 'd' etc.. it usually takes an entire lecture to do a page, cause I like to be neat about it. I also like to erase entire paragraphs and fill in my own text.. I know who ever buys my used economics books is at least entertained for a while.

Re:Freedom of contract (2)

jellicle (29746) | more than 14 years ago | (#822091)

Score -1, didn't read any of the links in the article before replying.

Michael Sims-michael at

This will be you (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 14 years ago | (#822092)

"guarantees 100% market penetratoin at participating schools

significantly increases the number of titles students purchase each year

significantly reduces overhead costs associated with manufacture and distribution of textbooks

and promises continued licensing of publisher materials through continuing education

reates a copyright compliant environment on campus

gets rid of the need for used books

tailor-makes solutions to fit the unique needs of each campus


This sounds like hell to me.

Re:Freedom of contract (1)

devnullkac (223246) | more than 14 years ago | (#822093)

Yes, but the apparent problem here is that the transformation of the market for textbooks implied by the following:

Publishers are guaranteed 100% market penetration at partner schools who opt to implement the Vital Source system. Purchase of all included titles is
mandated by the universities.

When an educational institution has been incented to sign such a contract, students who wish to vote with their dollars will have to choose a different institution rather than simply a different textbook supplier.

Re:That final link... (1)

Alkaiser (114022) | more than 14 years ago | (#822094)

So damn retarded. I was against buying books in college in the first place. There were so many books on the "required" book list that the prof would tell you that you weren't going to use later on. Sometimes you didn't figure that out until well past the return date, and so you had this shrinkwrapped money sinkhole.

This is so wrong. In the first place, I would much rather have a REAL copy of the book. I know this is like, bad for trees and stuff, but reading a book on a DVD or a CD, or in HyperCard just isn't anywhere near as cool, and I'm just going to be so much more tempted to start up a game of CounterStrike instead of rereading that part on mitotic division. Even if I uninstalled everything else, falling asleep and getting drool in my keyboard, AND Keyboard Face would not be pretty.

On top of that, sharing books was a great way to hook up. You'd set up a study date, and accidentally forget one of your books in the car...then you two would have to share th same that's going to cost you $500,000!

The time limitedness of this all is incredibly stupid. I don't think I need to explain why to any coder who's ever bought books in class.

By the way, I'm glad the VSTi system is looking out for the well being of the student, making sure that they get the maximum amount of titles possible, while ensuring the demise of the entire nation's medical staff in just 4 short years. If you ever have a doctor from NYU screw up an operation on you, make sure to sue these guys as part of your malpractice suit, as well. (oh like the lawsuits that have been flying around in court recently made ANY more sense...suing AOL for Gnutella...)

Re:Appauling (2)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#822095)

It's not a book. It's software -- searchable, upgradeable content, with all the implications such as the culture of EULAs (There's no real legal r`eason, AFAIK, why a book can't be shipped with a EULA; it's just not particularly useful to do so given that beyond photocopying the book or plagiarising there's not much "wrong" that can be done with it).

No, not FUD. (1)

bkosse (1219) | more than 14 years ago | (#822096)

Read the Vital Books site. They specifically say you are not allowed to lend your VitalViewer or VitalBook to anyone.

Ben Kosse

Only digital books... (1)

LordSkippy (140884) | more than 14 years ago | (#822097)

The penialty would only apply to ditital books that have some copy protection scheme, such as a password login to open the book.

Still, it's a buttload of crap.

But professor, this book contains material that supports my arguements. However, you'll need to pay $399.95 inorder to read it.
I could let you read it, but then I'd have to have you arrested.

Re:This makes a lot of sense (5)

Captain_Carnage (4901) | more than 14 years ago | (#822098)

No it doesn't; at the very least having the information available gives you some historical insight as to where we were medically at any given point in time.

But the issues are much more serious than that... The DMCA is a very large step in the wrong direction for your freedoms in this country, and this is just another example of how the DMCA is going to strip you and all of us of our Constitutional freedoms if we don't wake up and DO something about it.

This country is becoming it's own worst nightmare; an Orwellian police state. Just look at the DVD lawsuit. People are being prevented from linking to sites because of the content that's there... is that NOT a violation of your Constitutional right to free speech? This particular article is somewhat remenicent of Farrenheit 451, where books were illegalized and burned in the street. Is this the kind of society you want to live in?

There is a war brewing... a war between the techological haves and have-nots. The people who have the information don't want YOU to get it, so they can monopolize their possesion of it and make money from it. That's what this is all about.

What's amazing to me is that we, the geek community, have done very little about this. The work that we do is being criminalized, rather than cherished as it should be. Reverse engineering, the act of figuring out how things work, is all but illegal, now that we have the DMCA. Freedom of speech is diminished, because you can't describe how something works if the creator made some half-assed electronic attempt to maintain control over it, thanks to the DMCA.

Why have we been so quiet about this? Write your congressman and let them know what an abomination you think the DMCA is. Visit the EFF's website [] and find out what you can about how the government is allowing big business to strip you of your Constitutionally "guaranteed" civil rights.

And when you finally get it, tell your friends.

Check out the OSS linux clustering technology called

NOT FUD! (2)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 14 years ago | (#822099)

Yes, yes, yes!

Come on blameless, you know damn well the DMCA has everything to do with putting WHATEVER THE HELL THEY PLEASE IN THEIR UNNEGOCIABLE, UNAVOIDABLE END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT.

Re:Aren't computer manuals time limited (1)

thrash_ (34661) | more than 14 years ago | (#822100)

I think you are missing the point. Yes, they are time-limited by the technology they contain. What these people are trying to accomplish is a text that is limited to, say, 6 months. You get to use it for a semester, then it self-destructs. Thereby, causing you to either renew the 'license', or just give up on that particular text.

If this is to occur, then the books should not be charged for. I mean, really. "Here's a book. You can pay full price, but you can't use it in 6 months." How ridiculous is that?

Won't last for long (1)

absurd (146685) | more than 14 years ago | (#822101)

Since it is impossible to control, it won't last
for long and they decide to give it up. Civil
disobedience is the keyword here.

Licenses... (2)

don_carnage (145494) | more than 14 years ago | (#822102)

You know, if this ridiculous 'license' thing takes off, I'm going to copyright my license plates and charge cops every time they run a check on them!


Re:illegal to read someone elses book? (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#822103)

They're putting their cost at $4,200 total over four years, versus $3,000 for the physical books.

And your VitalBooks are NOT deactivated if you pay for all four years; they're STILL searchable and fully functional aside from no longer receiving updates.

Re:Freedom of contract (2)

dbarclay10 (70443) | more than 14 years ago | (#822104)

You have a couple of good points, but the web site mentioned in the article also says that this'll be required at some point in the future. At least at NYU. In this case, the university could almost be thought of as having a monopoly.


Re:Right of Transfer (1)

lythander (21981) | more than 14 years ago | (#822105)

Transcender (maker of practice tests for EIA/TIA, MS and Cisco cert. exams) has a similar licensing scheme which prohibits resale of their product when you're done using it (i.e. you passed the test and no longer need it.) I understand the notion of protecting revenue streams, but I think it's time to enact laws protecting a consumers rights!

Re:Technical issues (4)

Kaa (21510) | more than 14 years ago | (#822106)

I'll take some wild guesses:

What should prevent people from cracking the encryption system like it has been done with other systems?

Nothing :-)

Other that DMCA, that is.

How do they make sure that the time they check against to see if the user is still allowed to read isn't faked?

They don't. They just hope that it's too much of a bother to people to reset system clock. In general, getting authenticated time is highly non-trivial.

What about the well-known problem of people not liking to read from the screen?

Simple solution: fuck 'em.

If I have a printing privilege (as is mentioned on the website), can't I simply print into a PostScript file and read that file as long as I wish (and distribute it)?

Because that would be a violation of the license. And we all know what a violation of an IP license is: it is theft. Theft, THEFT! Do you hear me, all you criminals, it's *T*H*E*F*T* and you'll all burn in hell! Aaaaaah...!!

Sorry. Got carried away a bit :-)


Market my ass! (4)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 14 years ago | (#822107)

Copyright is supposedly a limitation on freedom of the press for a limited time in exchange for encouraging more works to be created.

Copyright has been hijacked by the big corps at public expense; it is no longer for a meaningful limited time, and fair use, resale, loaning, viewing platform of choice, any number of traditional uses are history, according to the corps. Now here comes a new govt enforced violation of the spirit of copyright.

How can you call this libertarian? It's govt enforcement at public expense against the public good for private gain.


FAQ Punctation (1)

HarryCaul (25943) | more than 14 years ago | (#822108)

From reading, the NYU FAQ, I'd have, say that while, advocating that all DDS, students learn computer skills, they don't, feel the same skill, level is necessary, in terms of grammar, and punctuation.

Hmm. (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 14 years ago | (#822109)

American rampant consumerism... I'm wondering what the problem is.

You can either a) Buy the books at regular price or
b) Buy a limited-time licensed DVD-Rom with ALL the books on it, for a cheaper price. This is like a subscription.

Where is the problem? If you don't LIKE the idea of time-limited books, don't BUY them!

The real reason why this is awful. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#822110)

There is a very important reason why serious professional people (e.g., I'm an engineer-in- training) retain their textbooks after college: REFERENCE. You can crow all you want about how material keeps getting outdated, but not all of the background information makes it into the new text, and I do need to dig out stuff from old textbooks periodically to brush up. I know where that information is in my textbooks; I studied it. If this new system becomes widespread, professionals will need to try to get along on the minimum amount of reference possible (don't think the fees will come *down* after college!), and, where stuff disappears in new revisions, they will end up simply guessing at things they should have been able to look up. Often, they will guess right. Sometimes, they will guess wrong. Who will have to pay? You will. Bridges will fail. Surgeries will be botched. You can plan to sue, but real professionals carry professional practice insurance and simply pass along the bill. Why do you think medical help is already so expensive? Any hope for a sensible world to live in in 20 years time depends on explaining to your professors why you will be depending on your textbooks long after they give you that coveted "A". Make no mistake: this new "publishing" scheme is bad news.

Re:How about making annotations? (2)

KnightStalker (1929) | more than 14 years ago | (#822111)

It would be nice to have a paper *and* and electronic copy of the book. That way you could use the paper version for reading and the electronic version for *searching* -- I think searchability (and to a lesser extent, the ability to cut and paste) outweighs the negative aspects of online books.

Re:Library at Alexandra (1)

Sygnus (83325) | more than 14 years ago | (#822112)

Does anyone else remeber how the Chritains Burned Books?

This is not exactly true. The Library at Alexandria was not burned intentionally. The Roman Emporer at the time (can't quite think of his name ATM) had ordered the ships in the Alexandrian harbor burned; and the fire unfortunately spread onto the docks and to the library.

Re:Is this such a surprise? (1)

FatouDust (197743) | more than 14 years ago | (#822113)

I'm starting to have a growing unease with the concept of selling 'rights'. I suppose there is a certain amount of inevitability, since the ease of digital replication is causing a decreasing demand for sold products.

Nevertheless, there's something disturbing about the fact that a right to do anything can be bought or sold. The right to read a book, the right to listen to a song, the right to use a piece of software. I don't own my house, I pay for the right to live there for a time. The sale of a right, or a license, implies that there is an inherent owner who has all rights to the material, and an inherent buyer who has no rights, and can be induced to pay for such. With property ownership this is definable, but far less so with information.

Even using the term 'right' to define what's happening here has subtextual meaning. Many have fought for the rights as defined by the bill of, but there's a difference between the right to freedom of speech, and the right to read. Or is there?

"The not a suicide pact."

Re:laws or no, it just won't work (1)

Ananymous Coward (223308) | more than 14 years ago | (#822114)

It won't work because of Microsoft's Cut-and-Paste Technology

Just 3 Questions... (2)

nlaporte (116203) | more than 14 years ago | (#822115)

1.) The NYU FAQ says that you have to use an Apple Powerbook. Don't you think that they'll get a backlash from, say, the Windoze and Linux users who don't want to buy a whole new computer?

2.) Isn't it just a matter of time before someone breaks whatever sort of encryption thing they have on these and we get a DeCSS-like situation?

3.) What if you don't want to have to stare at a screen to read the book, but (god forbid) you want something tangible that you can scribble in and mark up?

We shall see what happens, won't we...

What about future referance? (1)

rotor (82928) | more than 14 years ago | (#822116)

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd sure want my doctor to be able to use his med school books as referances when he's treating me. I know I've never been able to remember every little thing out of a book and have a stack of referances that I consult regularly, and I'd expect my doctor to be no more super-human than myself.

Not really... (2)

Art Tatum (6890) | more than 14 years ago | (#822117)

Because breaking encryption of any kind for any purpose is a violation of the DMCA. So long as they have some sort of encryption method (even ROT13 would be enough) then it's illegal to share it becase sharing requires breaking of encryption. If Quake had some method of only letting one human play it, then letting someone else play, which would require breaking the encryption method, would be a crime.

Re:FUD! (2)

jellicle (29746) | more than 14 years ago | (#822118)

You haven't been paying attention to the DeCSS cases, have you? Access control measures are not the same as copy control measures. Hundreds of people are being sued in California and New York for creating/distributing a utility which allows them to watch DVDs - not copy them, but merely watch, especially in the California case - on unapproved players. Lawfully purchased DVDs.

Pay attention. This isn't about copying anymore (although copying is, of course, also covered). If your Vitalbook has a password, let's call it "foobar", and you give the password to a friend to read, both you and the friend have just circumvented an access control measure for private financial gain (otherwise the friend would have had to buy it). As of October 28, that is against the law. You're liable, and vulnerable.

Michael Sims-michael at

Ohmigod! I'm on the Lam! (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 14 years ago | (#822119)

I just took my Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone over to a friends house for him to read to his kids. Um.. It's a gift! Yeah! That's the ticket!

I can see some usefulness of timely books, but reference to previous medical publications is why professionals build libraries. (heck, I still have PL/1 books) I suppose I'll just have to boycott these types of online publications, after all, if nobody buys them then they'll have to change. Publishers *do* know which side of the bread the butter goes on (the down side.)

Vote [] Naked 2000

Makes Some Sense (1)

BlueMonk (101716) | more than 14 years ago | (#822120)

Okay, this is not something that would succeed in widespread application, I think, but in the application to which it is being applied (dentistry school, if I read correctly) it does make some sense. Some points behind my reasoning:

1) In the medical field, it is crucial that practitioners have the most current information.
2) The cost of buying these DVD's could very well be much less that buying all this material in printed form
3) The cost of "leasing" this information (especially if for just a short period of time) could be much less than permanently buying the rights
4) In some sense there's less waste in that you don't pay for information you don't care about after it "expires"

Re:Freedom of contract (1)

Mr. McGibby (41471) | more than 14 years ago | (#822121)

It's funny how all the pseudo-libertarians around here are unwilling to let the market decide...

Noone is suggesting that a law be made.

I think you misunderstand (2)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#822122)

Adam Smith's invisible hand is a means, "a rising tide" is a goal.

The invisible hand is a meta-statement about a free economy. However, we don't have a free economy, we have built in certain restrictions (patents, copyrights, anti-monopoly laws, etc). Also, the real world is not identical to theory (real people don't have perfect information or perfect logic). For these reasons, it is sometimes possible for the economy to be on a path that does not head towards the goal the society wants (a rising tide). My question is: What restrictions do we remove/add/modify to make that goal more likely.

Phrased correctly, these problems are amenable to mathematical analysis. I'm not competent to do the math, but I'm taking notes in the hopes that I *am* competent to do the phrasing.

Sounds like DIVX (1)

megalomang (217790) | more than 14 years ago | (#822123)

Well, it sounds like it has the viability of DIVX.

The best way to prevent such an unbelievable trend is not to buy into it -- even if the exclusive copyright is to the passworded publisher.

Simple capitalism will ensure that there will be a competing (although not interchangeable) work of literature that will be distributed under another medium.

IMO, the most enlightened writers will not allow their work to be distributed under such a restrictive agreement.

Either way, I'm not even sure that this means of distribution will even yield more revenue.

Re:Thought experiment (1)

Delos (20149) | more than 14 years ago | (#822124)

Discussion response: Don't bother to explain it to the business people. They're not stupid, but they are in the business of making money. Explain it to your representatives. I know the passage of the DMCA has us all bitter, but representative democracy still works, especially if groups such as ourselves organize on the internet. Don't like the DMCA? Explain it to the EFF and ACLU, with your checkbook or your volunteer time. They will challenge the law in court, and they may very well be able to win.

Missing the point (5)

Veteran (203989) | more than 14 years ago | (#822125)

By far the most important part of this is the ability of the producing company to turn off your ability to read the book.

This means that whoever produces the 'books' will have a lifetime ability to extort money from you: "Pay the yearly 'licensing fee' or we won't give you this year's encryption key."

Of course this year's encryption fee is just the 4 digit year (i.e. 2000, 2001) etc. but the DMCA forbids you to figure that fact out - since that is 'breaking a digital protection method'. The DMCA even forbids you to set the wrong date in the computer's clock to spoof a time when you had a good password - since that is 'bypassing a protection means', and subjects you to the draconian penalties of the DMCA.

Part of the reasons that women fear the outlawing of abortion is that it gives the police the right and the obligation to investigate every miscarriage. Part of the reason that geeks need to fear the DMCA is that it gives the police the right and the obligation to investigate everything that you do on your computer; "The CMOS clock on your machine is wrong, how do we know that you aren't trying to circumvent digital protection means on your computer? "

I can't wait until some lawyer figures out that all reading is covered by the DMCA since when you learn something you are making a copy into an electronic computer (your brain).


The law, 100's of millions of lines of code, not one line of which has ever been checked to see if it works.

VitalViewer is exploiting the educational system (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#822126)

I just read VitalViewer's comments to publishers, and I cannot believe how exploitive this company tries to be. A couple of quotes:

"Publishers are guaranteed 100% market penetration at partner schools who opt to implement the Vital Source system. Purchase of all included titles is mandated by the universities."

How can VitalViewer claim to the publishers that a university will mandate the use of the VitalViewer textbooks? I've never seen a university say "if you don't use this text book, you will get an F". I thought grades were dependant on the student's comprehension of the material, not on the purchase of a book.

"Because the service is a global curriculum application, the fee comes in from each student each of the four years of their studies, regardless of whether they are taking that course that year."

This one is the most appalling. They're actually claiming that universities will force students to pay for a product that they won't even use. Courses normally require a "mandatory" textbook, but many students used the libraries' copies, and passed anyway. I've yet to see an exam require a copy of the book's receipt.

"By implementing the VSTi system, however, universities contractually agree to require at least three titles per curriculum topic. Therefore, the number of titles used by students increases significantly."

I think they forgot to add "whether they're needed or not".

Students are already having a tough time going through university or college because of the enormous costs. Here in Canada, university is partially subsidized by the government, so the costs are lower, but it's still very expensive to get through a 4 year degree.

The scary part is that some universities have already adopted the VitalViewer system.


From the NYU FAQ (2)

Silver A (13776) | more than 14 years ago | (#822127)

What about a computer? The VitalBook version for the 2000-2001 academic year is fully-developed on the Apple Macintosh. You must have an Apple PowerBook for this application.

Ouch. Even though financial aid covers the cost, being locked into Apple would suck.

What does the VitalBook cost? For year one, the cost to the Class of 2004 is $600. If you continue in the program beyond year one, it will cost $1,200 annually (cost for the remaining three years is $3,600). Plus the cost of the PowerBook

What if I decide I don't like the VitalBook? First of all, the VitalBook has been extensively pilot tested and a beta-version was out for some time before the application was completed - that means, we don't believe you won't like it!

"Come the revolution, you'll all have strawberries and cream, and you'll like it!" This attitude bothers me enough, that if I was actually interested in going to dental school, I'd drop NYU from consideration for trying to force use fo the "vitalbook".

What happens in 2020, when the dentist who bought the VitalBook is trying to look something up, and his 2000 PowerBook dies, and his 2018 PowerBook isn't backwards-compatible with the VitalBook software? Books are always readable, unless they physically rot. Can you read those old MSWord 1.0 documents on 5-1/4 floppies anymore? Paper will never die, even if it stops being made from dead trees, because there is no technology beyond written language required to read it.

Well (1)

jaa (22623) | more than 14 years ago | (#822128)

I'd be more worried about some software company hawking a package that lets profs "lockup" their own eTexts, since ultimately the profs determine what texts are required for their classes. Currently, the profs make good money republishing/obsoleting their books, often for no other apparent reason than forcing next year's students to buy new books, not sharing or buying used editions.

Vital takes the profs out of the money loop -- so capitalism will work against Vital in many cases. The real story is: how many schools are using time-locked e-texts, and what is the growth rate of that practice?

HOAX!!!!! (4)

FlightTest (90079) | more than 14 years ago | (#822130)

I could be wrong here, and I probably am, but the "Vital Source Technologies" website LOOKS like a total hoax. I mean, come on, lets THINK a little instead of immediately going into anti-capitalism knee-jerk.

1) This will create the need for 2 textbooks, the electronic and the dead tree version. Ever hear of community colleges (at least that's what they're called here in California)? Typically, a fair number of people are there because they can't afford state college. If they can't afford state, they probably can't afford fancy computers. Many community colleges offer large computer labs for the students becasue they know the students can't afford computers. Will publishers REALLY want to maintain 2 versions of the same text?

2) I _LOVE_ the part where the publisher will update the content every year as part of the licence agreement. Ever look at the copyrights for some of your books? Ever wonder if some of those guys are still ALIVE? I've studied under professors who have written books (yes,we used their books, but I got lucky, they were pretty good books), and typically, there was at least a five year span between editions. What author is going to want to work hard enough to update his or her material every year?

3) Ever have a professor who seemed to have the book MEMORIZED? They guy hasn't changed his lesson plan in 10 years, and he's retiring in 5 and doesn't want to ever change his lesson plan again. You think professors like this are going to want texts that change EVERY YEAR? NOT!

4) As someone else pointed out, Universities make $$$$$ off used books. I know I typically got less than 1/2 of what I paid for a book that was used in the first place when I sold it back. I don't think the Universities are going to want to give up that revenue stream.

5) But wait, you say, the University will REQUIRE all this due to the larger revenue stream of requiring 3 books per ciriculum. Uhhh, they _COULD_ do this now, with dead tree books. But they don't. Ever seen a university try to force professors to do something? It isn't pretty.

6) None of the links on the bottom of the page work.

I could be wrong. I probably am. But this smells like hoax to me, or (here I go qualifying already) at the most a straw man to gage reaction.
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