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Coursera Partners With Chegg To Offer Gratis, DRMed Textbooks for Courses

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the first-hit-free dept.

Education 91

An anonymous reader writes with news on Coursera partnering with publishers to give students access to more textbooks. From the article: "Online learning startup Coursera on Wednesday announced a partnership with Chegg, a student hub for various educational tools and materials, as well as five publishers to offer students free textbooks during their courses. Professors teaching courses on Coursera have previously only been able to assign content freely available on the Web, but as of today they will also be able to provide an even wider variety of curated teaching and learning materials at no cost to the student." Zero cost, but not without cost: "Starting today, publishers Cengage Learning, Macmillan Higher Education,Oxford University Press SAGE, and Wiley will experiment with offering versions of their e-textbooks, delivered via Chegg’s DRM-protected e-Reader, to Coursera students. We are also actively discussing pilot agreements and related alliances with Springer and other publishers. ... The publisher content will be free and available for enrolled students for the duration of the class. If you wish to use the e-textbook before or after the course, they will be available for purchase."

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I'd prefer paying over DRM (3, Insightful)

Casandro (751346) | about a year ago | (#43665167)

Since DRM costs me money I would pay more for the DRM-free version.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43665181)

These are free books during the class. You have the option of buying them for the class, but I'm curious where you're going to be able to buy them for less than $0.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#43665231)

They're also college students. I'm absolutely sure the DRM will last when they start charging for it.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43665363)

The same place kids got free etext books when I was in college. The DRM will be stripped and the books will be available from the usual suspects.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a year ago | (#43665499)

Free is not "less than $0"

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43665615)

Fine gratis.
FREE(libre) text books are not going anywhere the publishers will fight them on every front.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43665839)

Which is completely missing the point. Do you have any idea how expensive it would be for them to give away books with no time limits attached to them? I'm as opposed to DRM as anybody else, but this is one of the few instances where it makes any sense.

I'm not really sure where coursera would get the money to buy all those books or why the publishers should have to give them out for free.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43665885)

It would cost upwards of $0.
Making copies of files on a computer is generally free.

Texbook publishers should for the most part go die in the gutter. There is no reason why a new calculus book has any value more than one long out of copyright. Schools should move to those works whenever possible. Textbook publishers have too long made their money on a captive audience recycling the same material into new versions every year.

I doubt the voters or those who run universities will ever push for this simple cost saving measure.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43665949)

And under this scenario, who precisely pays to create these textbooks?

This kind of attitude is why people don't take geeks seriously. Somebody has to pay for the cost of writing these books. And yes, you could probably use a book from 80 or so odd years ago, but the way that it's presented is archaic and is going to lack the progress that we've made in terms of teaching math. It's unlikely to represent the practical applications that have become much more important in recent years.

But, ultimately, somebody at some point had to write those books, just because it's public domain now, doesn't mean that it's consequence free. If we only use public domain works, then that's all we're likely to ever have. Which means that no new work being created and placed into the public domain. For something like math which is relatively settled, that's not the worst thing ever, but for many other subjects things aren't as cut and dry.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43666093)

The taxpayer. Once every couple decades, if you want to keep it up to date in terms of language.
People don't take geeks seriously for many reasons. A well thought out way to reduce textbook costs 100 fold or more is not one.

The publisher barely pays the author now, that is not a big cost for them. Look at how text books are created, the authors work for peanuts.

Almost all subject below the graduate level are that settled. None of them need to be updated yearly.
Publishers only do that to kill off used book sales.

Creative works will not cease to be created, humans have a need to create.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43666355)

Yeah right, we can't even get the government to maintain the bridges, and you think they're going to convince the tax payers to fund something like this? Especially seeing as most of them are not going to directly benefit.

It was hard enough convincing people that we needed health care reform, and that's something that ultimately affects everybody who hasn't aged into medicare.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43666423)

I think a single school board could do it.
A reasonable size school district can fund such a thing for 1 book at a time as they replace them.

I think we all directly benefit from an educated society, but that is probably me being geeky again.

The problem with health care reform is that it was another bullshit half measure.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

HiThere (15173) | about a year ago | (#43668311)

I don't know how it's going, but the last I heard California was in the process of creating a large number of free (libre) college texts.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (2)

Wookact (2804191) | about a year ago | (#43666767)

Yes, that would be great until people who believe things contrary to science were elected to the board that writes the science books.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43666895)

That changes nothing.
Those folks now pay big money for text books that fit their worldview. This would only mean they could have their insanity cheaper.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

morgauxo (974071) | about a year ago | (#43668837)

Anybody have a link for a pdf of an out-of copyright calculus book? I'd like to compare it to my old (but not THAT old) text book that I kept. Is the difference worth paying $100-$200 per semester? I'll reserve judgement until I see it for myself.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about a year ago | (#43692339)

Fuck you.
  Fuck you. Education is a benefit to all of society which gets paid back by advances in technology and the industry creation which results. This is so basic it's not even worth arguing about. Education should be 100% free paid for in full by the government who should exert cost controls and force universities to live with them.

This is how other nations do it. The cost of the crippling debt imposed on students is a drag on the economy. The resulting student loan debt is NOTHING but the next bubble unless you take seriously that 1 in 60 of all dollars in the world (all money that is) SHOULD naturally be American student loan debt, that statistic sounds about right to you.

This war isn't going to stop until the universities and ther power they wield over society is done. On the way, all these publishers are just collateral damage.

That's what you get for setting yourself up to try to profit by endebting people before they've even been given a chance to start their lives.

  I am sure university admins and the text book publishing industry get their rocks off when they think of how well their economic hit-man tactics work on people stupid enough , er make that young enough, to buy their line that they're an absolute necessity to participate in a modern economy at any price. I am sure the craggy 60 year old admins and tenured creeps who walk around campus get some deviant sexual thrill from contemplating how fucked all the smiling young people around them are without any of them even knowing it and how for the next 30 years they'll be paying and and all of their spare income to support their lavish lifestyles and gold plated retirement deals....

The monster needs to be starved to death. It's money supply lines need to be crippled, broken and finally cut off, it's legitimacy destroyed. College is a scam. Textbooks are a scam. The people perpetrating these scams should be prosecuted under RICO statute, found guilty and then jailed.

Re:I'd prefer paying over DRM (1)

HiThere (15173) | about a year ago | (#43668341)

Depends. Free (Creative Commons, FDL, etc.) is considerably cheaper then $0. Free (gratis) can be a LOT more expensive.

Free as in Not Free (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | about a year ago | (#43667277)

These are free books during the class. You have the option of buying them for the class, but I'm curious where you're going to be able to buy them for less than $0.

Are they really 'free', or are they actually subsidized via licencing agreements between the school and the publisher, and just being included in the tuition costs as a result of being part of the school's general budget expenses? I'd bet the latter, and they are just then charging you more if you want a permanent copy.

Re:Free as in Not Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43668279)

Since Coursera courses are free, yes they really are free for the duration of the class, there is no tuition fee to hide the cost of this in. Perhaps the publisher hopes this will increase their sales.

Now cash-strapped students (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about a year ago | (#43665207)

Can throw a chegger.

I'm curious (1)

xQuarkDS9x (646166) | about a year ago | (#43665217)

I'm curious as to why in the article they didn't mention exactly what model of e-reader is used. Such as is it a modified Kindle, Kobo, Sony, or other brand ereader?
And also why do they think no one will break the DRM and keep the books for themselves on their own personal ereader? Far as I know DRM has already been broken on e-books so that they can be converted to other formats as need be depending on e-reader support.

Re:I'm curious (3, Insightful)

MindStalker (22827) | about a year ago | (#43665283)

DRM enforces licensing, it doesn't and can't stop you from stealing. It allows a middleman (like iTunes, Amazon, etc) to say "Ok, we've rented your title XYZ to buyer for 2 days, so we will pay you X under our agreement." Without it Amazon is left with "Ok we gave your title to XYZ he promised to erase it in 2 days, but we all know that won't happen." Amazon doesn't really care if you steal it, the publisher slightly cares, but in reality they are happy that people are renting it and they are getting a steady stream of money. The rental model of digital content would be non existent without DRM, even if it is fundamentally flawed.

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43666691)

Don't you think the owner of the tablet will care if you steal it?

Oh... you meant copyright infringement. I guess stealing the tablet is murderalization of it's rights.

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43667089)

It's not "stealing" when people copy files or remove DRM on them or use them in ways others don't want on your own machine. Don't be one of the misinforming people trying to make "stealing" happen unless you're a DRM shill, god help you, and intentionally trying to mislead.

Re:I'm curious (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about a year ago | (#43667777)

I said "Amazon doesn't care if you steal the file".

And I was referring to rented content, the kind that you might watch through Amazon Prime. If you pay $2 for a 2 day rental, but instead rip the bits and saved them to watch later, yes you've stolen their content that wasn't intended for you (the bits were intended for your machine, not you). Yes, if you purchased the movie out-right for whatever price it is, I agree with you, you have every right to mangle the bits any which way you want. But renting a movie from blockbuster store, making a copy of it at home, and returning the rental is a form of theft, however you wish to put it.

Re:I'm curious (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#43668287)

but instead rip the bits and saved them to watch later, yes you've stolen their content

Sounds like you copied it instead. It doesn't matter what they intended the bits to be used for.

But renting a movie from blockbuster store, making a copy of it at home, and returning the rental is a form of theft, however you wish to put it.

But you haven't stolen anything.

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43668585)

Fuck off you pedantic faggot.

Re:I'm curious (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#43668683)

To be more precise, copying without permission is rape.

Re:I'm curious (1)

hammyhew (2729501) | about a year ago | (#43668735)

But renting a movie from blockbuster store, making a copy of it at home, and returning the rental is a form of theft, however you wish to put it.

Really? It's theft? Then what was stolen?

Re:I'm curious (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#43668273)

DRM enforces licensing, it doesn't and can't stop you from stealing.

Of course it can't. How could DRM stop you from physically stealing an item? That doesn't seem likely.

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43665303)

Of course there's always the analogue circumvention: Point a camera at the screen and turn the pages.

Re:I'm curious (1)

Gutboy (587531) | about a year ago | (#43665377)

I'm curious as to why in the article they didn't mention exactly what model of e-reader is used.

It does, and I quote " ... delivered via Chegg’s DRM-protected e-Reader ...", which is, according to this [chegg.com] page, just an HTML 5 web page.

Re:I'm curious (2)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about a year ago | (#43666227)

Loaded up their sample and had a look at the traffic logged in my proxy when I changed a page, loads up hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of json-delivered images to assemble one page.

The DRM might work until you get an OCD hacker on it who will focus on how to reassemble the thing.

And each page spikes my CPUs to 50% for a minute or two as it switches.

Re:I'm curious (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#43667351)

Doesn't need reassembly -- your web browser already does that. On Macs, the display sent from the application to the graphics processor goes through DisplayPDF... which converts whatever's in the window to PDF. Doesn't take much to script taking window contents and buffering to disk, then changing the page. The result is a PDF with the actual original contents (text, images, etc) which beats screenshots.

Just saying.

Re:I'm curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43672697)

It's web based, and appears to be browser/OS independent (at least, their demo book works with Firefox on Linux).

They aren't giving you a download of a DRM book, just a postscript-like interface to view it online.

Gratis with purchase (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#43665265)

...is not gratis at all, just course materials included. Slashvertisement much?

Re:Gratis with purchase (5, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#43665431)

Meh.

I guess all those articles and comments talking about how Linux is also gratis are really just advertisements, too. You still need to buy a computer to do anything with it.

Students signing up for a course generally expect that there will be overpriced textbooks required. An arrangement that promotes a wider array of textbooks free of charge is notable.

Re:Gratis with purchase (1)

Kalriath (849904) | about a year ago | (#43669377)

Purchase of a FREE course - Coursera never charges for anything. I'm a little confused by your assertion.

Support? (4, Interesting)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#43665271)

I once rented an online book from some company for a statistic's course. Much like this company I had to download an e-reader which was released by the company itself to read my DRM enabled book. The problem was the e-reader app was horrible and only worked on Windows and Mac. Now I can accept the fact a Linux version wasn't available and I'm okay with that but even with in Windows large portions of the book just wouldn't render correctly, I was left with incomplete formulas and totally unreadable paragraphs. Not to mention if my date wasn't set PERFECTLY I couldn't even open the stupid reader in the first place.

If this company can pull it off and manage to release ebooks that have good readers attached, that render perfectly and are supported on Window, Mac and possible Linux then I'm totally on board with it. Other wise it really is more of a hassle then buying the book in the first place.

As much as I complained about buying books when I was in school, I usually use them for reference now. I find myself opening old Micro-controller books to get over a weird glitch or I open the calculus book to figure out a small issue. So well I did hate textbooks initially, I'm rather glad I kept most them now, 8 years later.

Re:Support? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43665463)

But do you really need to use the textbooks for that sort of info - seems like precisely the stuff you could find on the Internet.

I've kept exactly one textbook from many years of buying the stupid things - my intro Chemistry course book written by David Brooks at Texas A&M. For some reason it's been the best refresher for that subject that I've come across - quite possibly because I learned it from the book.,

But I guess the point I'm making is that textbooks these days, even for special, obtuse bits of knowledge, are less likely to be useful these days. If you really think it's that good, you can buy it at the end of the course.

Sounds like a perfectly sensible model. I must be missing something.....

Re:Support? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43665665)

"But do you really need to use the textbooks for that sort of info"

Yes I do. Try finding the full and detailed rebuilding documentation for a GM 60 degree V6 including all the technical details on what you do to upgrade the blocks defects to match all the corrections that were put in place by 1995 when they discontinued it.

How about the superior house building techniques from the 50's and 60's in full detail? (Yes a home designed in the 60's is 800X better than one designed today for a lot of reasons) Only now are we seeing the return of eaves that are designed for location and seasons to take advantage of shading or heat gain in winter. The internet is devoid of any details, yet my brothers old engineering books have intricate detail and the math right there.

A large amount of real information is not on the internet.

Re:Support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43665747)

"800X better"

Define 'better'.

Re:Support? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43666045)

No, homes built in the 50s and 60s were often worse. The most egregious examples of this have already been knocked down or fixed. I say this as the owner of a 1955 built home that falls into the latter category.

When built the insulation was a total joke, fuel was so cheap they put in basically none. The windows were a single pane of glass, its r value is probably 0.

Re:Support? (2)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#43665743)

For me it's the odd nuggets you can find in them that is worth more then hours of searching on the net. For instance in one of my circuits I was designing I had to calculate a drop on a transistor, except that the drop you calculate is always wrong for the application. If I didn't keep my one textbook about transistor design networks and didn't happen to have this one circuit in it, I would of been lost, spending hours trying to hunt down the issue, not the mention the math would of told me I was right.

Re:Support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43666751)

not the mention the math would of told me I was right.

But the grammar would've told you that you were wrong.

so far coursera (1)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#43665277)

exists to generate private profit off public institutions like UC irvine the University of Pennsylvania. in July 2012 they floated the idea of selling student data to potential employers, and to date havent really turned much of a profit. interesting statement from John Doerr, Any revenue stream will be divided, with schools receiving a small percentage of revenue and 20% of gross profits according to wikipedia.

The advertiser supported model in my opinion is a terrible idea. Studies like citizenship and immigration could just serve as vehicles for targeted advertising from the Heritage Foundation, while child nutrition and cooking are all too easily worked into the budgets of companies like Unilever and Kraft. Advertisers have a history of steering content based on their interests (Sanjay Gupta mostly exists to ensure you get your daily dose of targeted pharmaceutical advertising)

IT'S A TRAP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43665315)

Most obviously.

Gratis? (1)

tqk (413719) | about a year ago | (#43665321)

Methinks Steppenwolf's classic [youtube.com] has gone mainstream.

CORPORAL CLEGG (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43665361)

Corporal Clegg had a wooden leg
He won it in the war, in 1944.
Corporal Clegg had a medal too
In orange, red, and blue
He found it in the zoo.
Dear, dear were they really sad for me?
Dear, dear will they really laugh at me?
Mrs. Clegg, you must be proud of him.
Mrs. Clegg, another drop of gin.
Corporal Clegg umbrella in the rain
He's never been the same
No one is to blame
Corporal Clegg recieved his medal in a dream
From Her Majesty the queen
His boots were very clean.
Mrs. Clegg, you must be proud of him
Mrs. Clegg, another drop of gin.

Long past due (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43665459)

The college text book business has been a racket for generations. The vast majority of information has been public domain and lets not pretend the text books are superbly written or edited. They have the study material students pour over as quickly as possible so they can pass the next round of tests... rinse and repeat.

Shifting to ebooks that will increasingly be public domain is the future.

The only reason I could see to remain with copyrighted books is if they offered something the open source books didn't.

Write them better so the students actually learn more or are less bored by them. Or offer novel insights, methods of approaching problems, or research. Something you're just not going to see anywhere else.

If you have nothing in your text book that isn't in the free text book... what exactly is its purpose for existing at all?

And why would students spend their limited resources on your book?

It needs to stop. The worst are the science and liberal arts books. In the science books you get science knowledge from 100 to 200 years ago sold for 400 dollars a book. And in the literature books you get compilations of public domain books sold for 80 dollars a pop.

Why exactly are we doing that?

Hopefully this and a few other innovations will suck the fat out of education budgets.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43665767)

The only reason I could see to remain with copyrighted books is if they offer something open source books didn't.

They do. Mass appeal.

Now you're welcome to believe that the mass market is mistaken or misguided, but in the end they are still the most qualified to say what it is that they want. If you don't want to give that to them because you want to further your own agenda, pushing open source content, no matter how benevolent and altruistic such an agenda might be, I'm afraid you're not likely to win over many believers.

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43666331)

Le sigh, sir.

Okay... first let me acknowledge your hostility. I don't understand why you're so worked up but possibly I gave some offense.

Getting past that, lets go through your argument point by point.

1. The market is not really given a choice here since students don't really have a choice and professors aren't really buying the books. Therefore conventional market forces do not operate. Here you're going to tell me students could always choose to leave a class but that's a big hassle. Often students can't even change professors despite them being terrible because the university simply doesn't have another class that fulfills degree requirements in time slots the student has open. That being the case students will suffer bad professors or even classes they do not want but which fulfill requirements and so are taken regardless.

2. While I have no problem with admitting that the professor is more likely to know whether a given text book satisifies class requirements then myself, I do question whether they're terribly concerned about picking the best book. Its low on their personal list of things they care about. They choose something sufficient and then move on to something else.

3. As to my "agenda" you really have no idea what my agenda is and have therefore assumed it. Possibly you've somehow rolled the dice correctly and randomly derived by whole world view. But that is unlikely. As to my agenda and how it relates to this issue, my interest is in freeing students to make choices that are in their best interest. Further, I am offended by any institution that exploits captive consumers and abuses that situation.

4. As to believers, what we are dealing with here are market forces. Believers don't enter into the equation. What you are contending with is the rising of the sun in the east which will make its passage across the sky and set in the west. Certain things inevidably follow from certain conditions. We and witnessing a transformation of many segments of our economy and various institutions throughout our society. Everything from this web 2.0 media outlet we are arguing in to changes in manufacturing, to various other changes throughout our society. Why would education remain unchanged when everything else is changing? That's unrealistic. Now can I predict what those changes might be or their consequences? No. I am not a fortune teller. However, I do see "pressures" that have been built up over a long time and certain technological and social changes are creating opportunities for release. My prediction is that the pressure is great enough in certain situations that those paths will be used to release the pressure. I further predict that with that use it will trail break the path thus making it easier. This will effectively catalyze the reaction making it progressively easier to self sustain.

I regret your emotional antipathy. But I suspect it is born of confusion, misapprehension, and misplaced hostility. I am not your enemy.

Have a lolly pop and go about your business.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43668293)

First of all, I took no offense at what was said previously, nor was I trying to be particularly hostile. I was merely attempting to point out what I believe is a factual error in judgement, however, which is the notion that copyrighted content does not offer anything that open source content does not.

Leaving aside the notion that open source content itself is often copyrighted anyways, my point is that the public, as a general rule, consumes vastly more conventional content than open source. Whether this is because the public is not being given a choice in the matter or not (that they aren't is actually a fallacy... there is plenty of open source content available, the most that can be argued is that the open source content is not marketed as much... but how is that the fault of conventional content?), the fact remains that the general public still *believes* that it wants the conventional copyrighted content. This is how belief enters into equation, and is why it is ultimately extremely important. When I referred to as "your agenda", you may have interpreted that phrase as indicating that I was hostile towards your views... I am not. I used that term because it is based on idealistic views that still ultimately reflect what you personally believe, and like so many idealistic notions, it ignores the reality of what people are indicating that they want here in the real world - which is still conventional copyrighted content. Trying to argue with the public suggesting that they don't know what it is that they are supposed to be wanting in the first place, whether or not you understand your goals to be in their best interests and not your own, is not a good way to further that.

Re:Long past due (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | about a year ago | (#43668717)

I don't think that the public has any beliefs as to what it wants - it simply doesn't know any better.

Seriously - why is anyone paying for Algebra books? Kahn, Coursera, Udacity, MITx and others are changing the landscape, albeit slowly. Freely available text books for core subjects are inevitable. The movement just needs some momentum.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43668997)

Whether people don't know any better or not is entirely independent to whether or not they *believe* that they they do.

People don't always want what's in their best interests...they usually want whatever they *believe* will be best for them. You aren't going to convince anyone that you know better than them what they themselves are supposed to actually want. The only way you'll be able to convince them is by showing them content that they *do* want.

But so far, any such efforts at showing people the real benefits of open source and public content hasn't been terribly effective at convincing them that they should be changing their focus. I'm not saying it hasn't made any difference at all, but you can hardly argue that the mindset of the general public has already been convinced (since you yourself said earlier that in many cases, you don't see people being even offered any choice in the matter). So for the time being, the main thing that conventional content still has over alternative content, as I said before, is mass appeal.

Change that, and you'll have something. Until then, it's just an idealistic goal whose only bearing on reality rests entirely upon the willingness and drive that people who uphold that ideal to make it so. If in the end, such people are unable to compete with conventional market forces and convince the public that alternative content is superior, is that the fault of conventional content makers, whose only real sin would have been in such a case to have an already-existing substantial market share? Is it the fault the public, for just not knowing any better? Or is it the fault of those who held those ideals in the first place, and who either simply didn't do enough to increase awareness, or else who perhaps simply had goals which were not compatible with reality?

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43669865)

As to offense, then I misread your post. We'll leave it at that.

As to open source content offering everything... That isn't really what I was saying. I was talking about university textbooks. Especially books covering well trodden subjects that haven't really changed remarkably in a long time... especially at the undergraduate level.

Now I see that your argument was largely a reaction to the term "open source" that you feel with some legitimacy is treated as a panacea for all things wrong in the universe. I've seen the same trend on slashdot a few times and have likewise shaken my head at them.

I am not however talking about open source in general and probably that's the wrong term for these books. Rather, public domain or something with a less rapacious license agreement. Especially for truly OLD content... content that was old long before any of us were born... I'd expect not to pay high licensing fees. For example, if I get the collected works of Shakespeare for an English Lit class should I pay a lot for that book? Now, clearly if someone went to the trouble of printing a big book for me then that has to be compensated. The book cost money to manufacture. But it cost NOTHING to write because the people publishing it didn't write it. So if and when I do buy that book, I expect to pay for manufacturing and distribution. But I am NOT paying for editing or authorship since it can't be edited without misrepresenting itself and the author is extremely dead.

I am not some pie eyed idealist. I can see why you might think that given their frequency on this board. But my post was more about an effective monopoly that exists in the school publishing market and how this might help to alleviate that situation.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43670815)

My original point remains, however.... the conventionally copyrighted content has more mass appeal than public domain content.

Whether or not the latter would be of more benefit to the public is irrelevant... what people believe that they want for themselves is what matters, and it's being provided to them by an industry that is all too happy to take money from them in exchange for it. But making money isn't unethical. The only sin the conventional industry is even remotely guilty of is that they are not encouraging their customers to seek alternative content from other sources. But in a capitalistic society, shouldn't it be the responsibility of the providers of those other sources to market themselves? You can't fault those industries for the general public's unwillingness to seriously consider alternative publicly available content.

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43672587)

As to appeal, you have no way to know that when people aren't being given a choice. Students do not choose their textbooks.

As to making money being or not being ethical... Again you've confused me with someone else. Your argument is a straw man. You think I'm someone I'm not and have started arguing robotically against me never mind that you lack the information to make such judgements. I have no problem with people making profit. I have a problem with having no choice over who serves me when I pay for something. If I have no choice, then I'd just assume it not become an easy target for casual exploitation.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43674427)

As to appeal, you have no way to know that when people aren't being given a choice. Students do not choose their textbooks.

I trust you can see how these two statements are contradictory. If you do not know when people aren't being given a choice, then you would have no way to confidently assert that students do not choose their textbooks. If you can confidently assert that students do not choose their textbooks, then clearly you know that they aren't being given a choice.

But really, my point still revolves around the comment I made to this remark:

The only reason I could see to remain with copyrighted books is if they offer something open source books didn't

And again, they do offer something: mass appeal. That the public consumes them continually is indisputable evidence of this. Even if they aren't given a choice, you can't argue that the public at least *believes* that they are doing what they want for themselves.

I'm not disputing the notion that people can often act in ways that are not in their own best interests, or possibly even entirely self-destructive, but it's still generally true that people will do things that they at least *believe* to reflect what they supposedly desire to do for themselves... and it's certainly true that you aren't liable to convince people that you know what's best for them better than they do for themselves simply by implying that they are only acting like sheep, following what everyone else is doing, and not being given a choice.... again,even if such an assertion were true.

For the time being, however... my point remains that conventional copyrighted works do offer something that alternative publicly available content does not: It offers mass appeal. Until the public actually starts consuming publicly available works for themselves, how can you possibly assert otherwise?

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43675917)

They literally cannot offer mass appeal since the students are not given any choice in the matter.

Its an absurd argument. Please make a less silly one.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43689527)

I don't know why you see choice as relevant.

The public voraciously consumes the content is irrefutable evidence that the public at least believes that the available content actually reflects what they really want... even if it is not in their best interests, they still believe that they want it.

Hence, mass appeal.

Now I can appreciate if you don't particularly want to personally cater to that particular business model, but that doesn't change the reality that conventional copyrighted works still offer that notion which alternative and public domain works do not.

The only way whether or not they are given a choice in the matter would not be completely superfluous is if people were being put in a situation where they could not possibly make a more informed choice about the matter if it were made available to them. The only people you can blame for the public not choosing public domain content over conventional works are the creators of such public content, not the people who consume conventional works, nor the providers of it.

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43690797)

By that genius logic you could conclude that people in North Korea are happy with everything they get because they consume it.

Its an extreme example but it hammers the point home. Choice is essential to make arguments about preference. If people are given no choice they cannot be said to prefer one thing or another due to what they consume.

If I stick you in a box with nothing but popcorn, could I conclude you prefer popcorn to all other types of food because you don't eat anything else? By your argument... apparently.

Sorry if that is coming off hostile. I have no ill will toward you. However, I do want to kill your argument with fire, cut it into a dozen bits, and bury them separately. Its a terrible argument that is unsupportable. Again, the hostility is not against you. It is against the argument. The argument is wrong. *cuts its head off and pushes the body off the castle wall*

The argument is dead.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43700241)

The opening statement to which I disagreed is that conventional copyright does not offer anything that publicly available content does not offer also. This is provably false, since publicly available content is not actually consumed to the same degree as conventional copyrighted content, so conventional copyrighted content offers the advantage over publicly available content of practical mass appeal (even if the public does not actually have any choice in the matter... they voraciously consume it as if they were freely making the choice to do so, so any lack of choice is superfluous to what they appear to believe that they want.

Certainly, if or when publicly available content actually has the mass appeal that conventional copyrighted content does (which one cannot actually say with any certainty has happened until at least just as many people are choosing to utilize public content as conventional copyrighted content), then the statement that conventional copyrighted content offers nothing that public content does not would have somoe validity. The statement, however, was made in the present tense, and it is the present condition to which I am referring... not some hypothetical theoretical ideal which may not ever even actually happen.

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43704131)

I didn't say anything what so ever. That's a straw man on your part. I limited my comment.

If you're not going to argue the point honestly then you forfeit your point and I can disregard your comment entirely.

Either argue honestly or you've no case.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43705687)

I didn't say anything what so ever. That's a straw man on your part. I limited my comment.

Ahem [slashdot.org] :

The only reason I could see to remain with copyrighted books is if they offered something the open source books didn't.

That's what I was disputing.... note that the point above is being made in present tense, not a hyothetical future ideal, and why I felt I could take factual exception to its position. Conventional copyrighted books *DO* currently offer something that alternatives don't. *YOU* may not place any value in what that is, but that does not mean it is not there... and by definition, will remain so unless or until alternative and public domain works catch up. I'm not disputing whether or not what you are proposing is any better... only that it doesn't reflect what people (generally) actually consume, and when one is looking for something that people actually appear to want (by virtue of the fact that they seem to voraciously consume it, even if they aren't being given any choice), it seems to make a lot of sense to just continue to offer the same sort of product to them until at least the general public actually makes some sort of clear indication that they don't want it any more.

And rants on slashdot are hardly reflective of widely-held public opinion.

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43706993)

As to copyrighted books that do offer something that public domain books do not... I am fine with that. And I did say that there were cases where there were such books. However, not in all cases. And if you're dealing with undergradutate subjects it would not be surprising if you could very easily teach the class using such materials. Furthermore, the whole point of this online education push is to increase the avaliability of free education materials. Look around. Everything from the Khan Academy to the online courses to now public domain textbooks.

Big names are going out of their way to build this future. You think the old system is going to be able to hunker down and ride out this storm? Possibly for their graduate programs. Which I'll point out that I acknowledged previously. However, their cash cow undergraduate programs are forfeit. One way or another that is getting peeled away. Its too expensive and to necessary for our society. Sadly the high school system which used to provide most of that education simply isn't working properly anymore. A mixture of several institutional cancers have eaten out its soul. Colleges picked up the slack... For a price. A price we can no longer pay. And now technology comes to the rescue... Again. You can disagree but the status quo is unacceptable.

And as to the existing books having appeal... the students do not choose them and so that remains an invalid argument.

Without choice it is impossible to claim they prefer them. Again, if I stuck you a metal box with nothing but popcorn... could I claim you prefer popcorn to all other foods in existence? By your logic... I could. Which is why your argument was absurd.

As to rants on slashdot not being reflective of widespread opinion... You do appreciate that is a reversible argument... Right?

In any case, this is an argument that will be proven by what people do and how the situation evolves. Time will prove one or both of us wrong. We'll see what tomorrow says.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43707229)

All I've been doing is pointing out how the notion that public domain and alternative works can offer everything conventional copyrighted works does is an idealist perspective, and arguably even an admirable goal for the future, but there's absolutely no possible way that you can assert that it's reflective of the reality in which we live in here, and now.

Time won't prove me wrong on this point because I'm not trying to speculate about how things might be someday, or what people will really want in the future. You are. Time might prove *you* right... but it also might prove you wrong. Maybe it's true that public domain content has a future to offer that conventional copyrighted content does not.... but for the time being, here and now... conventional copyright has a heck of a bigger mind share than public domain content does, and regardless of how little value you might place in that, perhaps owing to the notion that you may not believe it will last, in the end, it's still something. Here. Today. Not tomorrow. Unless or until things start to change. But that's up to people like you to make those changes happen... it's not up to the conventional content providers.

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43707373)

Then you can't object to anything I'm saying because I'm talking about the immediately future.

Since you don't address the future you are not commenting on anything I've said.

You literally cannot criticize my position without speculating.

So which is it? Are you speculating and therefore vulnerable to being proven wrong? Or do you have no point what so ever?

Choose.

You will not weasel around this point. I am not stupid. Silly semantic arguments will not stand.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43709661)

Actually, you appear to be addressing a future that is *not* immediate, unless by immediate, you actually mean some period of time that is simply not infinitely far away, but not necessarily soon enough that it is liable to matter to most people today.

Because frankly, if you see more than 2 decades away as "immediate future", you have a very different perception of time from most.

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43726747)

I mean something happening in the year or so. The ground work is being laid now. It is already happening.

Whether I am right or you are right will be proven in the next couple years.

Till then.

Re:Long past due (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43726889)

Oh, really?

Yeah... two years from now is something that'd probably qualify as immediate future for something of that scope.

However, one is compelled to wonder what you expect is going to produce such a huge change in mind-share. It's certainly not something most people would predict to be on the horizon anytime soon.

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43727037)

I need not claim total an absolute transformation to claim a turning of the tide.

Its the difference between the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning.

Re:Long past due (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43666583)

Name a few undergrad books at $400US a book! or books that only contain info from 100-200 years old.

I don't know any student who are forced to buy books - I wasn't when I was a student.

Re:Long past due (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year ago | (#43670387)

> Why exactly are we doing that?

Because most problems can be summed up in 2 reasons:

- Greed,
- People are idiots. (i.e. Where there is no vision the people perish. )

If professors would actually WORK TOGETHER to produce ONE FREE textbook then students wouldn't actually be getting ripped off. It is not like the rules of Physics, Math, etc., have changed in the last few thousand years.

This is precisely why Wikpedia is shit. It had the potential to be WHOLISTIC:

* Layman's introduction
* Advanced discussion
* Tutorial
* Examples - including audio, video, textual
* Implementation Details & Caveats
* Reference

I'm still waiting for the day for someone to do an Uberpedia this is a combo textbook+reference ebook properly.

Re:Long past due (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43672603)

I'm sure there already are free textbooks in pretty much all the undergraduate courses which are the real issue. Once you get into masters programs I can see some point to the proprietary books. But for undergraduate courses or high school courses? Its absurd.

Everything I need to know I learned from Sid Meier (5, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43665567)

Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
— Commissioner Pravin Lal (Alpha Centauri)

Fuck you and your DRMmed knowledge. I only rely on reference material that I know I can always reference.

Re:Everything I need to know I learned from Sid Me (1)

briancox2 (2417470) | about a year ago | (#43665919)

Ug, just when I'm out of mod points ...

+1 this please.

Re:Everything I need to know I learned from Sid Me (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year ago | (#43670511)

That's a darn good pseudo-quote!

Corollary: Only cowards use censorship.

Psssst... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43665749)

Hey kid,

Want some free textbooks?

The first ones are free, until you're used to them and don't have any alternatives

The Right To Read (3, Interesting)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year ago | (#43665809)

DRM'ed textbooks...more and more it looks like we're headed for the world RMS envisioned in The Right To Read [gnu.org] .

Chegg? (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a year ago | (#43665881)

oooooh yeah. That's right. CheggPost was a great tool to not get screwed by ISU's bookstore. Because Craigslist hadn't gotten to Ames yet.

Yeah, no, I witnessed the jump from CheggPost, a free tool to help fellow students to "Chegg" the business trying to make money. It wasn't a good change.

No mentions of Stallman's short story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43665925)

I don't agree with him on a lot of things but credit where credit is due [gnu.org]

bad news for the students (3, Insightful)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#43666203)

Just a couple examples.
1) A student is out sick and plans a make-up final exam 2 weeks later. Oops, his textbook access died the day of the scheduled exam.
2) The ebook vendor accidentally kills off access on the last day of classes instead of the last day of finals.

Any time you let someone else control your access to information, you're headed for trouble. Or for world-wide distribution of python de-DRM scripts, I suppose.

Re:bad news for the students (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43668433)

This is for Coursera, they don't do make-up exams. If there is a problem with the textbook being killed early, then they will get access to the textbook fixed and most likely extend the due date for the exam.

Re:bad news for the students (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43668835)

Do you have any proof of this?
Could just as well believe in the flying spaghetti monster.

No, not without cost (3, Insightful)

chrism238 (657741) | about a year ago | (#43666269)

Free for students to use means that the students' page-by-page use of the textbook will be tracked by Coursera, with the analytics flowing back to course instructor and the book's author. "If something is free, you're not the customer, you're the product."

Waiting for the penny loafer to drop (2)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#43666543)

I am waiting for some MBA's penny loafer to drop and for Coursera to really start screwing the people taking their courses out of money. I am not against them making money and the product they are producing is generally quite good. (A bit more editorial screening would be nice) But certain lines can be crossed that would have me cross them off my list. If suddenly every course needed a paid for textbook in order to complete the assignments is one. But installing some DRM riddled reader is another. I don't even use the site's crappy web video-player.

Years ago someone showed that a local university's worst rated professors were the ones that made you buy a textbook that they wrote. In theory they should have rocked in that "Well he did write the book on it" kind of way. But it was just a selfish money grab and showed in their teaching and screw the students attitude.

One place that Coursera might lose if they were to become too greedy is to turn off the top professors. If you are a top professor at a top ranked university you aren't there for the money. I'm not saying that the professors would not want the money but that as an incentive it would be poor and they might not like the idea of cutting off a huge number of students. I would think that reaching 20,000 students instead of 200 would be fairly cool for someone who loves their subject.

What's a MOOC? (1)

JimtownKelly (634785) | about a year ago | (#43671123)

MOOCs make me lazy. 9 weeks into my first two Coursera courses, simply archiving the course e-mail, and now it's final exam week. . .oh my! To think I'd actually have to read a textbook too? So what if it's free. . .MOOCs are lame.

Self-contained materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43673567)

Most courses I have taken (all in CS) are self-contained. The annotated slides (which they share) are adequate. You really do not need textbooks. (The Automata course was an exception for me; I found the prescribed textbook to have details that made me understand the material. )

I think instead of textbooks, they can just offer reading notes on the content covered (like Dan Grossman's "Programming Languages" course). Of course in that case they can do it without tie-ups with any publisher, and thus avoid DRM in the scene.

DRM is their last stand (1)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about a year ago | (#43687965)

They need to kill anything that provides textbooks for free or they wont survive. We don't even have to wonder about this goal, we just have to wonder how they'll try to execute on it. . My best guess is embrace ,extend then murder- like \Microsoft tried to do with Java when it started out.

They'll offer their *versions* then their *versions* will be (all but) mandatory.

We can defeat this. We can defeat anything they try to do. We can take down textbooks, then course credit, then finally the whole degree granting system. It's days are numbered and if, through legislative fiat- the final refuge of scoundrels- say through mandatory *accreditation* for anything calling itself an "educational degree" then other nations who aren't owned lock stock and barrel by the 1% sociopath class, which at this point pretty well describes higher education and all the industries and personalities around it :

From:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/09/sallie-mae-student-loans_n_3247979.html [huffingtonpost.com]

"University endowments and teachersâ(TM) pension funds are among big investors in Sallie Mae, the private lender that has been generating enormous profits thanks to soaring student debt and the climbing cost of education, a Huffington Post review of financial documents has revealed.

The previously unreported investments mean that education professionals are able to profit twice off the same student: first by hiking the cost of tuition, then through dividends and higher valuations on their holdings in Sallie Mae, the largest student lender and loan servicer in the country, which profits by charging relatively high interest rates on its loans and not refinancing high-rate loans after students graduate and get well-paying jobs."

all those other nations and other people won't be following their lead and America can enjoy its status as an educational and economic backwater of graft corruption and crony capitalism.

That is, to the extent that's not already true.

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