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Textbooks With EULAs

timothy posted about 9 years ago | from the oh-boy dept.

Education 743

overshoot writes "We all knew it was coming, didn't we? Now Princeton University and nine others are introducing DRM'd textbooks. For a 33% discount, students get a 5-month node-locked e-book instead of all that glossy paper. Maybe Congress should just get it over with and change the law to allow EULAs on printed works?"

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Five months? (3, Interesting)

tobybuk (633332) | about 9 years ago | (#13285329)

And just what happens when you need to revise for exams? This sounds like a very badly thought out idea that someone didn't want to work.

Re:Five months? (5, Insightful)

Freexe (717562) | about 9 years ago | (#13285407)

Sounds to me like a really well thought out idea.

1. Arrive at uni and buy E-books (profit)
2. Months in the course starts
3. Books 'run-out'
4. Re-buy book. (profit)
5. Course finishs
6. Book run-out again
7. Exam timetables come through
8. Start revising
9. have to buy books again (profit)

a bit of a change to the normal list, but 3 times the profit!

Re:Five months? (1)

boarder8925 (714555) | about 9 years ago | (#13285419)

And just what happens when you need to revise for exams?
Simply buy the books again.

Change computer clock? (2, Funny)

pin_gween (870994) | about 9 years ago | (#13285483)

Would rolling the clock back on your computer give you instant access again? I know it works with some "free trial" software.

Stallman was right up to this point ... (5, Insightful)

DoktorTomoe (643004) | about 9 years ago | (#13285331)

And for a dollar more (3, Funny)

faloi (738831) | about 9 years ago | (#13285332)

They can bribe a CS major into unlocking the book forever!

Learning? (3, Insightful)

DenDave (700621) | about 9 years ago | (#13285333)

Ok so what of the academic ideals of spreading knowledge and learning? This is a result of american school industry.. It is unfortunate that learning has become a profit commodity for a privileged few in what is supposed to be a land of equality and opportunity for all...

Sad sad sad...

Re:Learning? (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | about 9 years ago | (#13285374)

It is unfortunate that learning has become a profit commodity for a privileged few

Have you seen the cost of tuition lately? Universities have always been about being a profit commodity...not that much 'learning' happens there, anyway...

Re:Learning? (4, Insightful)

sam_handelman (519767) | about 9 years ago | (#13285413)

There was a period, from about 1945 to 1980, when University education was essentially affordable, even at priveleged private schools. Supporting yourself (eating, finding a place to live, etc.) was more of an issue than paying for the education itself.

  So, no, higher education has not *always* been a for-profit activity. However, in the absence of popular activism and resistance, and insistence on education as a fundamental right, not to mention a devotion to higher principles among the people engaged in the educational endeavor itself, that is what it will become.

Re:Learning? (1)

Lifewish (724999) | about 9 years ago | (#13285422)

a) A hell of a lot of learning happens at a good university, the trick is finding the good ones.

b) Universities aren't all about profit. Given the crappy wages that academics generally get, a healthy dose of idealism [] is an absolute necessity for maintaining progress.

I have at least one professor who is, IIRC, extremely rich and only teaches because he wants to "give something back" to the academic community. Any attempt to kill that kind of spirit impoverishes us all.

Re:Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13285425)

No kidding, what medicine or technology ever came out of a university ? Look, maybe your college sucked. The fact is, you have to be choosy when selecting, and you should be choosing the choosy ones. You can't just go to Southern Illinois University and expect to get a good education. A college degree without the college being specified is worthless. It only has worth when it's from a rigorous institution. Otherwise, your point stands, there isn't much learning going on. But that's the students' faults in addition to the faculties'.

Re:Learning? (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | about 9 years ago | (#13285494)

Just because tuition is expensive doesn't mean that universities are turning a profit.

Yes tuition is too expensive, yes DRM'd text books is a terrible idea, but no, the cost of learning is not the university's fault. It's expensive to hire qualified instructors (experts in their field), expensive to fund their research, expensive to provide them office space, etc. etc. etc.

Research is expensive, and if tax payers aren't willing to subsidize it with property taxes they will end up paying for it when their kid goes to college.

If you really want to blame the schools for something you can start by criticizing the trend that everyone is smart enough to get into state. If you start rejecting people who really aren't qualified to be there in the first place we can direct some of their grant money to better qualified students who need it just as badly.

There are many things wrong with the current university system, but greed isn't one of them.

Re:Learning? (4, Insightful)

dsginter (104154) | about 9 years ago | (#13285399)

Ok so what of the academic ideals of spreading knowledge and learning?

You must be new to the US - welcome!

Here, we do whatever we can in the name of corporate profit. This includes screwing the students, which we have been doing since the advent of education.

Re:Learning? (1)

LoyalOpposition (168041) | about 9 years ago | (#13285468)

Ok so what of the academic ideals of spreading knowledge and learning? This is a result of american school industry.. It is unfortunate that learning has become a profit commodity for a privileged few in what is supposed to be a land of equality and opportunity for all...

Well, the problem is too few people volunteering to do it. Fortunately, in you we've found just the sort of person willing to embody those ideals. Simply work full time, unpaid, providing those benefits to those people. That's all there is to it. Just queue up in that short line, and work until there's equality and opportunity for all.


Re:Learning? (1)

lightyear4 (852813) | about 9 years ago | (#13285493)

Text is text is text is text. Either someone will throw a clever OCR program at screen caps or just copy and paste it right over. Graphics and inline multimedia are more...icing on the cake than anything else; the printed word should stand by itself.

I prefer to and ENJOY keeping my textbooks after I'm through with them. Who doesn't have a shelf or two devoted to reference books??

And besides, I've been a computer junkie for 20 years, but they still haven't entered noticeably into the physical world where learning is most efficient: Who wants to take notes onscreen? Hilighters work wonders on paper. Will you enjoy hours upon hours pouring over your textbook in front of that eye-straining cycling of your CRT?

"privileged few"? (1)

sczimme (603413) | about 9 years ago | (#13285505)

Ok so what of the academic ideals of spreading knowledge and learning? This is a result of american school industry.. It is unfortunate that learning has become a profit commodity for a privileged few in what is supposed to be a land of equality and opportunity for all...

Explain, please, how the introduction of this DRM e-book diminishes or eliminates availability of the following:

- libraries, which are generally cost-free to the user, can provide access to books, magazines, technical/medical journals, and the Internet (Note: rants about Ashcroft, et al are irrelevant here)
- bookstores selling inexpensive new books (e.g. paperback)
- bookstores selling used books, often at a small fraction of the original price
- information available on reputable web sites (for access issues see Libraries)

People that want to learn will find a way. Whether that learning takes place inside or outside the halls of academia depends on the individual.

Besides, if you had read even the first paragraph of The Fine Article, you would have seen this:

When students at Princeton University, the University of Utah and eight other colleges start combing their school bookstore shelves for fall semester textbooks, they'll find a new alternative to the hard-covered tomes they're used to buying. (Emphasis mine)

No one is required to buy the e-books, so your classist argument falls rather flat.

Ah, the joys of copy-protection... (4, Insightful)

KiwiRed (598427) | about 9 years ago | (#13285336)

So, any money on how long before the DRM is cracked, and the textbook is "Available now, on a P2P Network near you!"

Re:Ah, the joys of copy-protection... (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | about 9 years ago | (#13285373)

I'm under the impression that ebooks already have been cracked.

Big nasty case a few years ago, some poor russian programmer we detained for NOT violating any laws in his native country.

Re:Ah, the joys of copy-protection... (5, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | about 9 years ago | (#13285429)

I believe this [] is the case youre referring to.

And yes, ebooks have been cracked, and will be again. Particularly when you foist them upon a young, rebellious, smarter than average, and technologically savvy demographic group.

This bright idea is doomed to failure, and I for one am going to enjoy watching it go down in flames.

Re:Ah, the joys of copy-protection... (1)

Freexe (717562) | about 9 years ago | (#13285467)

or someone with enough time on there hands to press print screen 600 times

One word (1)

i_should_be_working (720372) | about 9 years ago | (#13285478)


More words. This may be tedious to do all at once, but if you are reading the book anyway just do it everytime you finish a page.

Well, why not? (3, Insightful)

MaestroSartori (146297) | about 9 years ago | (#13285338)

They allow EULAs on shrink-wrapped software and shrink-wrapped DVDs already, what makes books any different?

Personally I think EULAs are a crock, and the issues of liability and usage they may or may not cover should be dealt sensibly in some different way. Possibly, in the case of software, by companies taking some responsibility for their products. In the case of DVDs, I don't think there should be a license of any kind. But maybe that's just me...

EULAs on books (5, Informative)

overshoot (39700) | about 9 years ago | (#13285398)

They allow EULAs on shrink-wrapped software and shrink-wrapped DVDs already, what makes books any different?

I can't wait. The reason is that the US Federal courts have a long body of case law on the "first sale" doctrine. A publisher tried to put the equivalent of a EULA on a book back in the 19th century and got shot down, big time.

If someone makes the argument in court that they should be able to have a EULA on a book because they manifestly can on an e-book and there's no fundamental difference, the court is either going to have to twist itself into at least two additional dimensions to avoid either shooting down EULAs on e-books or overturning more than a century of fundamental copyright law.

Re:Well, why not? (1, Troll)

AviLazar (741826) | about 9 years ago | (#13285445)

In the case of DVDs, I don't think there should be a license of any kind.

Why offcourse there shouldn't be. They should also make everything open source. That way, a company that spends millions in developing a product can give it away for free - w/o recouping any of their costs. Silly people trying to earn a living.

Re:Well, why not? (2, Insightful)

MaestroSartori (146297) | about 9 years ago | (#13285486)

Yeah, because I didn't spend money to get the DVD from them in the first place did I?

Oh wait... Maybe they should just allow copyright and trademark law to allow them protection instead of saying I can't watch my DVDs however I like.

psh (1)

chills42 (750137) | about 9 years ago | (#13285345)

it's gonna take more than a 33% discount to get me to buy the books... and that's if they're not drm'd

So much for selling used books (5, Insightful)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 9 years ago | (#13285347)

Selling old books was a nice source of cash for me at the end of each semester. Buying used books at the start saved a lot too. I'm not sure a 33% discount will be enough.

Re:So much for selling used books (1)

goldspider (445116) | about 9 years ago | (#13285382)

Considering that you usually can't recover 33% of the purchase price when you sell a book back to the store, this is actually a pretty good deal. I had plenty of $100+ books that I only got $20 for on re-sale.

Re:So much for selling used books (1)

Council (514577) | about 9 years ago | (#13285405)

There are few areas where everyone can win by circumventing some economic thing, but school books are one of them. Buy and sell books from other students and avoid being gouged by bookstores who are raking in absurd percentages. is doing it. I got all my books during a recent semester for $200, in good condition. I went through the bookstore and totaled up what they would have cost new: $750.

Re:So much for selling used books (1)

broller (74249) | about 9 years ago | (#13285427) is great for this too. My books this semester would be $250 but I'm getting them all from amazon for $85.

Re:So much for selling used books (1)

toad3k (882007) | about 9 years ago | (#13285474)

I tried amazon and a few other sites my last year in college, and was only able to save 5 or 10 dollars out of like 700 by going the online route. Maybe I needed to look harder.

I ended up just not buying any books.

Re:So much for selling used books (1)

goldspider (445116) | about 9 years ago | (#13285442)

That's assuming that the same books are being used from semester to semester. Often professors publish new editions of their books every year (or sometimes every semester) and require the latest for the class.

Shady as hell, but I don't know a way around that.

Re:So much for selling used books (3, Interesting)

OglinTatas (710589) | about 9 years ago | (#13285456)

One way publishers get around that is by introducing new editions of text books every year, which differ only by incorporating the errata fixes, and different homework problems. (so everyone needs to buy a new $150 book) You can get a better price selling your books to off campus book coops, and you can get a better price buying your books there. If students could manage to organize enough (this isn't the '60s) they could really save a bundle if everyone bought used books, and they all pooled some cash to buy one new edition, then distributing the homework problems as necessary.

Re:So much for selling used books (1)

garcia (6573) | about 9 years ago | (#13285464)

I'm not sure a 33% discount will be enough.

Well, obviously we had different experiences. Being one of the lucky ones with a book scholarship I didn't have to worry about my books very often *but* when I did I was not pleased at the "cash turnaround" at the end of the semester.

Buy a required book (used) for $53 and get back $7. Buy a required book (new) for $78 and get back $0 as they aren't using that edition next semester.

School books are a ripoff and the closest thing to racketeering that you can find.

Difference. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 9 years ago | (#13285348)

The Difference between Paper and Digital Media is that Digital Media can be copied without any degrades while trying to make copies of books are first expensive, and can cost close to the book, and secondly every copy of the copy will be of lower quality. So DRM is far more important for Digial then Paper. This is the same reason why the Music Indristies are far more panicy about MP3 then coping your music on tape. Because after a while distributuin will degrade on tape.

Re:Difference. (1)

a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) | about 9 years ago | (#13285372)

Well I was always under the impression that its quite possible to get a higher quality work of a book by copying it. Most paperbacks usually have cheap paper and cheap ink.

Not in a photocopier but say by photosetting it and printing it out in high quality paper on a high quality laser printer.

Re:Difference. (1)

Itchy Rich (818896) | about 9 years ago | (#13285375)

Because after a while distributuin will degrade on tape.

Industry bodies are also making a bigger fuss about mp3s than analogue copies because people are able to distribute them near-anonymously on a massive scale.

Re:Difference. (2, Informative)

badfish99 (826052) | about 9 years ago | (#13285447)

No, the difference is that copying digital media can be done for free once you've paid the one-off cost of a computer, whereas copying a paper book requires feeding a photocopier with paper and toner, which costs money.

When you buy something like a book, some of the price you pay goes towards the cost of duplicating the item, and some of it goes to paying off the fixed costs of the manufacturer (such as buying the printing press). Actually you would have been happy with a duplicate of the book, but so long as you cannot make that yourself for less than the retail price, you will happily pay an amount that covers both elements of the cost.

But digital is different: you can duplicate it yourself for free. So the incentive to buy it at retail prices must be something other that a financial one. The same problem would arise with other things if we had matter duplicators like we see in sci-fi, no-one would want to pay for their food, and we would have to have DRMed meals.

Re:Difference. (2, Insightful)

Lussarn (105276) | about 9 years ago | (#13285462)

You are talkning about illegal distribution which is only one side of DRM. Illegal use is another side which doesn't have a counterpart in the analog world because EULAs (and DMCA) don't exist there.

I can understand they don't want their work copied so the illegal distribution part of DRM is understandable. The illegal use part of DRM is totaly fucked up though. These books selfdestruct in 5 months?!? Music bought on iTms may only be played on apple aproved hardware?!?

Where went our consumer rights in this digital world? These schemes makes owning something of the past. Licencing is the new world order, or as I see it ju another word for good old fashion renting.

Re:Difference. (1)

LoadWB (592248) | about 9 years ago | (#13285496)

Even so, MP3s aren't "exact" copies of the original, anyway. It's a lossy compression. I'd think the music industry should be more concerned about WAV files being distributed than MP3s. But then, since most people, neophytes, etc., don't care about the quality, it's close enough to the real thing to *be* the real thing to them. ::shrugs::

Long time ago, I used to take my CDs over to a friend's place, rip them on his Windows 95 machine using some music rack program to 22Khz (sometimes 11KHz) stereo WAVs. Then I'd upload them to my Amiga and convert them to Fibonacci-delta compressed IFFs.

But to the point, I agree with you on the degradation issue on print media versus digital media. Good or bad, we're heading towards a world where everything digital will be rights-managed, and we'll need permission to do anything. At least, until the revolution comes. :P

Sounds like a bad deal to me (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 9 years ago | (#13285349)

The hardcopy version lasts years. The electronic copy is 2/3 the price and only usable for 5 months.

Fifteen years after I graduated I still refer to old textbooks from time to time. If you don't want to keep it you can always sell them after use, and probably recover more than a third of the original price.

Re:Sounds like a bad deal to me (3, Interesting)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 9 years ago | (#13285384)

Don't forget that this requires an expensive electronic device to read! Add the cost of a laptop if you need to use it anywhere (even over several years of books) and it is a worse deal.

I don't like the idea that a crippled version is sold for a marginal savings when it shifts so many costs to the user. Saving to pdf or whatever is a lot cheaper than printing, and I want to see a much better share of that savings.

Re:Sounds like a bad deal to me (1)

joeybagadonuts (849172) | about 9 years ago | (#13285414)

So don't buy it. I, like you, kept my texttbooks from long long ago, and occasionally look at them. But I had several room mates who would be in line at the bookstore to sell them back the day after their finals. That's the target market for these.

I agree 1/3 off is crazy - 2/3 is probably closer to the real value, given the textbook versioning game the publishers play anyway - new version every 2-3 years to force upgrades.

Paper books aren't going away anytime soon, so Don't Panic (tm). Until every student has a tablet PC I don't see these things being very popular, and certainly not "mandated."

Thesis Defense (1)

AtomicSnarl (549626) | about 9 years ago | (#13285420)

Fifteen Years? How about needing them the following year to prep for your Thesis Defense?

Ok, I see (RTFA) where the book can be "unlocked" for several semesters, but really...

How hard is it to strip the headers off a PDF and keep the body text?

Re:Sounds like a bad deal to me (1)

DuctTape (101304) | about 9 years ago | (#13285458)

Fifteen years after I graduated I still refer to old textbooks from time to time.

Amen to that! I still have a lot of my old textbooks since, for example, Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science hasn't changed all that much.

Besides I still prefer the dead-tree version since I can scribble notes in the margins. IMHO, online is best for reference, not for in-depth learning.


Frist Post? And What a DUMB idea (5, Insightful)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | about 9 years ago | (#13285350)

Paying 2/3 retail for a book you can't mark in, underline, or ceremonially BURN after the class is over?

Re:Frist Post? And What a DUMB idea (1)

SenFo (761716) | about 9 years ago | (#13285471)

I've never used an eBook, but I would imagine that if it's not already, eBooks will eventually provide the ability to highlight, underline, bookmark, etc. And what's stopping you from burning your eBook at the end of the semester ;-)?

EBooks are a failure... get over it (4, Informative)

DogDude (805747) | about 9 years ago | (#13285352)

I don't understand some people's (companies') obsession with e-Books. They didn't catch on. People don't like them. They're a royal pain in the ass. The article says that there are roughly $3.2 million dollars worth of e-books sold every year. $3.2 million?!? That's essentially -zero-. So why are companies still trying to push what has been proven time and time again to be a product that nobody wants? It ain't gonna work.

Re:EBooks are a failure... get over it (3, Informative)

Bvardi (620485) | about 9 years ago | (#13285479)

Actually I buy my casual reading almost exclusively in ebook format - but through (baen, scifi and fantasy publisher)

The difference is they offer a variety of formats, NO DRM, and you can redownload any time if you lose the original file. (I've done that a few times when I had to wipe out my palm and restore)

Ebooks will only catch on when they are convenient, and less expensive than the paper versions (the webscription model is about 5 books for 15 bucks US... certainly reasonable)

Compared to other publishers with onerous DRM, prices that frequently are MORE than a paper copy - and they have indifferent selection at best.... I can understand why most ebooks don't do well - but I personally hope baen keeps on doing what they are doing. (heck they've pretty much hooked me for a steady 15 bucks per month since I tend to buy every month when it comes out)

Re:EBooks are a failure... get over it (1)

goldspider (445116) | about 9 years ago | (#13285499)

I would argue that people DO want e-books (books take up space, kill trees, etc.). People DON'T want absurd restrictions placed on their usage.

However I can see the other side of this as well. Publishers want to sell e-books (no shipping charges, cheaper to mass-produce, etc.). Publishers DON'T want unrestricted e-books to be copied and proliferate around P2P networks.

A balance needs to be struck here between the financial needs of the publisher and the financial needs of their customers.

Re:EBooks are a failure... get over it (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 9 years ago | (#13285502)

Because, should it ever catch on, it essentially becomes money for nothing.

Re:EBooks are a failure... get over it (1)

Fished (574624) | about 9 years ago | (#13285513)

Just an observation: the one point at which EBooks are more convenient is that I can carry my whole book-bag on my laptop. I use this quite a bit for theology research, having Greek & Hebrew Lexica, assorted dictionaries, commentaries, and 20 bible translations on hand at all times without have to carry a 100lb. bookbag.

So ... (1)

kalla (254222) | about 9 years ago | (#13285355)

Does this mean I'll have to watch 5 minutes of ads before I can start studying? Just what I need, popup ads with calculus, someone hang me already!

Use of text books for longer than 5 months (4, Insightful)

jurt1235 (834677) | about 9 years ago | (#13285362)

I tended to use books a bit longer than 5 months as reference for later work for example. I think that Princeton is a bit short sighted on this one. The idea I thought was to educate people in how to use material, not in how to cram everything in your head so you do not need the book anymore, apparently since you have the material in your posession for only a limitted amount of time, you will have to remember it all , and if you have to remember it all anyway, why not just copy it (They do make you remember it (out of study perspective), so it is in your mind, so what is the difference with a hard or soft copy, or are you not allowed to remember it either once you have to return your e-book? (tricky laws those copyright laws).

Text EULAs are a bad idea, IMO (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | about 9 years ago | (#13285363)

I don't want some soulless companies to dictate the way I can use BOOKS.

What's next, EULAs on food packages? "You may not microwave this box for more than 5 minutes on High"

Wow! (1)

Dogers (446369) | about 9 years ago | (#13285365)

A whole 33% off, huh? No media costs, no distribution costs (comparatively) and it's limited in usage and time.

Is this brought to us by the same guys making the next gen DVD's or something??

The student gets screwed again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13285368)

This is just another example of how the student gets screwed. Before you could always keep the book or sell it to another student the following semester now you pay the money and in 5 months you have a worth piece of S#$T.

Electronic version = better index (2, Insightful)

Heian-794 (834234) | about 9 years ago | (#13285406)

I was about to post a snide comment about how anyone smart enough to get into Princeton will also eb smart enough to buy a used copy for a discount and then sell it back after it's not needed and save much more than 33%, but then it occurred to me...

If I were filthy rich, I might consider buying one of these things in addition to a real paper version. Some of those 800-page physics and biology texts don't have the best indices in the world, and frequently your mind recalls an interesting turn of phrase from the section you need to look at, but you can't remember what page it's on. A searchable electronic version would put you in the right place instantly.

Re:The student gets screwed again (1)

wheelbarrow (811145) | about 9 years ago | (#13285450)

I see the students benefiting from this as long as they have the free and voluntary choice to buy the discounted ebook or buy the full priced paper book. How is offering a voluntary choice to to students considered 'screwing'?

not Princeton, only the bookstore (5, Informative)

edfelten (135938) | about 9 years ago | (#13285376)

For the record, Princeton University has not signed on to this program. Only the bookstore is involved, and it is not affiliated with the university.

Re:not Princeton, only the bookstore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13285476)

Dear god, you read the article, gleaned something useful from it, and enlightened us all with an informative post?! Good god man, this /., where is your kneejerk reaction and anti-RIAA sentiments? I mean, you could at least PRETEND that they are forcing it on the students(which they aren't) in order to re-enforce the /. group think. Man.....posters these days.....

Re:not Princeton, only the bookstore (2, Insightful)

michaelbuddy (751237) | about 9 years ago | (#13285506)

Bookstores are ALWAYS affiliated with the University, I've worked at two of them. Don't think you can just plop a brick and mortar building in the middle of a college campus and not be affiliated.

They are given near exclusive rights to sell the schools merchandise and work with the instructors on books. Rarely do you see more than one competitor off campus selling the used books. The non affiliation means they can waste good money on stupid souvineer crap like cheesy light up pens, and they also carry a lot of the medical and art supplies for those students.

Affiliation is always there with a campus book store sitting in the student union.

33% discount?? (2, Insightful)

Flounder (42112) | about 9 years ago | (#13285377)

For a textbook that I can't resell to the bookstore, keep around for reference (I still refer to a few of my CompSci and Physics books), a 33% discount is crap.

And how long until the electronic version is the ONLY version available? A few years?

The best thing my compSci program did was standardize on regular computer texts (O'Reilly) that will be reused for years (or until the next update) rather than already outdated overpriced textbooks. Llama, Camel, UML in a Nutshell, Java Definitive, Interface Design and others still are used on an almost daily basis. Meanwhile, the $120 C textbook collects dust on the bottom shelf.

What's the problem? (3, Interesting)

Jeff Molby (906283) | about 9 years ago | (#13285378)

It's a new option that they're offering. If you think hardcopies offer a better value, keep using them. A 1/3 discount may not be enough to make this a roaring success, but they probably have some upfront costs to defray. If the market balks at their price, I'm sure they can get it down to 1/2 before too long.

This is awful (4, Interesting)

b17bmbr (608864) | about 9 years ago | (#13285379)

I kept many of my college texts. In fact, right now, I'm looking at an almost 20 year old copy of my Gwartney and Stroup Econ book as I prepare to teach econ this semester in high school. It's not that I forgot (my BA is econ), just looking for the much better explanations and examples than the text we use.

this is also horrible for another reason. how can students refer back to previous classes? all these people that think technology can cure all. sad really. nothing beats books. and by the way, my masters is in Ed. Tech.

Good and Bad (1)

trogdor8667 (817114) | about 9 years ago | (#13285381)

I can understand why some people would want to do this, but I think they would need to provide more than a 33% discount. If it was less than half the original price, I'd go for it. Why? I get less than half back at the end of the year anyway. Plus, the ability to use a search function like you can in text documents would be a plus.

And if you also think about it, if it is accessed online, the professor could make updates to it throughout the semester if mistakes were found.

I think this COULD have good use, but not the way they're trying to push it now.

They are making a huge mistake (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | about 9 years ago | (#13285388)

A 33% discount isn't really enough. At first I'd offer a 50% discount, maybe even more. As more and more people stopped using real books I'd stop selling real books, forcing the remaining people with brains to buy my DRM crap. Then I'd jack the price up to 120%.

Maybe (1)

simpsone (830935) | about 9 years ago | (#13285389)

I dunno. Make it half off and I might bite. Most of my textbooks I have little or no intention of ever using again. I don't sell them back to the bookstore out of pure obstinacy.

Let me be the first to say.... (0, Redundant)

fallen1 (230220) | about 9 years ago | (#13285391)

this is bullshit. I didn't read TFA and really do not need to. Anytime I see time-limited access to knowledge I am paying a ton of money for (like my textbooks - which I can use as references later) then I call bullshit. Knowledge should always be for the good of all, not for the good of a few. Trying to lock it away under the guise of a DISCOUNT for the student is utter nonsense and a sham. I was hoping our Universities and academia would stand up for the freedoms that most of us hold dear - they want you to pay for the knowledge they impart to you, but they also want it to be free (as in free thinkers). My humble $.02 US.

Open Source Textbooks (2, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | about 9 years ago | (#13285394)

It's too bad OSS textbooks would not catch on here in the states. Profs and schools get major payola from the textbook publishers. That's why the prices go up and up and you never schools publish their own texts, which would save students a fortune. For some topics you'd still need outside texts but basic biology, chemistry and physics there's no reason those couldn't be standardized. PV=NRT hasn't changed in years.

Hey, Spitzer, when you're done reaming the music industry for payola, why not take a crack at textbook publishers? (Yes, the pun was intentional)

Re:Open Source Textbooks (1)

DogDude (805747) | about 9 years ago | (#13285423)

For some topics you'd still need outside texts but basic biology, chemistry and physics there's no reason those couldn't be standardized. PV=NRT hasn't changed in years.

You're right. Then why don't you start the trend? Get it kick started, so to speak? Go ahead and get a Bachelor's degree, Master's Degree, and a PHD. Then, write a book. Then, pay somebody to print and distribute it. Good luck!

Maybe a good idea (1)

Mr_Silver (213637) | about 9 years ago | (#13285396)

I've got a tonne of text books that I bought for University which, after finishing the 10 week course, I've never looked at again.

In those cases, a cheaper DRM'ed book would be a good thing since it will reduce my outlay on something which I won't use when the course finishes.

Having said that, 33% isn't much of a discount when you consider that a second hand book can be picked up for 50% the original cost from someone who is in the year above you and will have no usage restrictions. Contrary to popular Slashdot think, DRM isn't generally evil, it's just the the applications of it aren't particulary exciting, fair or appealing.

For example, if this service was available with a 75% discount instead and the option of buying the hard-copy version at a reasonable discount, then it would be an excellent example of DRM done well.

Re:Maybe a good idea (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | about 9 years ago | (#13285489)

Guns and DRM ,

Some people say Guns are evil , though objects can't really be evil only their use
The same is said for DRM

Some people say Guns remove peoples rights (The right to live)
People say DRM removes peoples rights (rights to use things as they wish)

On the flip side

Some folks say guns are there to protect your rights
And people also say DRM is there to protect your rights

DRM and Guns go well together i think

on the book issue ,
You pay 33% less for only renting something which by its very nature has no resale value.
Take good care of your text books and you could probably sell them for 40-75% of the initial value

So a short term saving is essentially shooting yourself in the foot long term.

Sheeyeah (1)

LordPhantom (763327) | about 9 years ago | (#13285408)

33% off?!?!?

I could understand that maybe for the first edition of a textbook. But when you've got Johnny Freshman buying his Calc I textbook that is in it's 800 millionth printing, at 125$ each, they're a bit overpriced. But at least you get to keep it as reference...... and the bookstore will GRACIOUSLY buyback the book at all of 30$ at 33% off for 82$ why would anyone buy the "e-pad"? Either you want the reference material, or ...? Save 10$, I suppose it will buy a pizza (for the annoyance of needing batteries for your textbook).

Sounds like a rip-off to me.

paper is better (1)

Barbarian (9467) | about 9 years ago | (#13285410)

You can flip through paper in the John, paper doesn't get erased by viruses, and also, you can resell paper to the next person to take the course. I imagine these DRM textbooks probably cost just as much, however. If they're in pdf format, it is a waste.

It's not that bad (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | about 9 years ago | (#13285411)

As long as they still offer you the paper version, it's really not that bad. If the buyer doesn't care about the text after 5 months and have no qualms about DRM, then should he be given the choice to buy it at a discount? As long as the buyer are given choices, then it's not so bad. More choices for buyer is a good thing. It's when they start pulling the paper version and sell only the DRM version that we should be up in arms about, especially at universities where you have to buy the text.

Books (1)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | about 9 years ago | (#13285412)

Nothing beats a paper back or hard back book. It's tangable and has more depth to it then electronic ones. Plus in a total power outage what are you going to be able to read if you have no batteries and only a candle?

This is all wrong (3, Informative)

Bipedismaximus (713734) | about 9 years ago | (#13285415)

As Ed Felton explains in his blog
As far as I can tell, Princeton University has no part in this experiment. The Princeton University Store, a bookstore that is located on the edge of the campus but is not affiliated with the University, will be the entity offering DRMed textbooks. The DRM company's press release tries to leave the impression that Princeton University itself is involved, but this appears to be incorrect. []

It's NOT a new idea - saw it in the 1980s (1)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | about 9 years ago | (#13285417)

A long time ago, Grasshoppers, I reviewed a potential textbook for a publisher ... the author went to GREAT lengths to explain how his copy-protected course workbook diskettes were going to produce lots of profit for the bookstores and the publisher. It took me about 30 seconds to unlock his copy protected diskette with a hole puncher from my desk drawer.

Re:It's NOT a new idea - saw it in the 1980s (2, Insightful)

Barbarian (9467) | about 9 years ago | (#13285472)

Want to explain how being able to Write to the 5 1/4" floppy was going to unprotect it?

Keep your hands off my reference library (2, Insightful)

Bob3141592 (225638) | about 9 years ago | (#13285418)

I refer back to more than a few of my old textbooks regularly. (Do others?) Even if the same information is available online, I know exactly where to look in my familiar textbooks, and my old notes are often helpful too. I'd hate for all that to be lost.

Even though textbooks are frightfully expensive, the loss of personal history isn't worth 33% off. Even though some information becomes obsolete, basic principles have lasting value. To me, these EULAs are only an admission that the product being purchased doesn't have lasting value. I think that's more true about the publishing executives and lawyers who come up with these ideas than it is about the books themselves.

No Notes in E-Books! (1)

strongmace (890237) | about 9 years ago | (#13285424)

I like to make notes all over my books as I go through them. I find it very helpful both for referencing sectoins, making hints, etc. Also, I use sticky tabs like crazy, which as far as I know, cannot be done in E-Books. I wouldnt want to have to make a notepad file to hold all my notes and sticky page numbers.

In addition, I always buy the used textbooks that come with somebody else's notes in the margin, which hopefully will prove to be useful. This, also, cannot happen when purchasing an e-book.

Maybe It's Not All Bad (1)

SenFo (761716) | about 9 years ago | (#13285428)

Honestly, I don't see how this is going to hold out for very long. I can guarantee that there will be an uproar from students. Not only are the book prices outrageous enough, as it is; but, now we won't even be able to keep them to use a reference when the course is done. And this isn't even getting into the fact that I totally, 100% prefer printed material to reading material on a computer.

About the only two things that I can think of that benefit from this type of eBook is the environment (No trees were harmed in the printing of this material (TM)) and the pockets of those that own the rights to the material. And I guess there's a possibility that Universities benefit some, as well.

What about after you (1)

jbarr (2233) | about 9 years ago | (#13285436)

While technology books are often out of date by the time they are even published, the fact remains that these are learning tools that students need to rely on not only in the classed they are taking, but in other classes, and even after completion of the classes. While I can't speak for current college classes, I can say that when was in college from 1985-1988, many classes, especially Major classes, tended to interrelate such that having access to other texts was certainly useful and helpful. I often referred to textbooks from other classes I had taken.

If this trend continues, it'll lock out students and professionals from vital tools--tools they paid for.

Everything is under control (2, Informative)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | about 9 years ago | (#13285439)

No reason to panic, we know what to do. It's all detailed in The Right to Read [] .

all you need is time (1)

karcieri (906541) | about 9 years ago | (#13285443)

what is going to stop someone from just taking screenshots of every page... and then going to the library to print it out? Most college's offer free printing services for students.. so all in all... if someone had enough time so save 1000 images and then print them out at the library I think the college loses more money in the end.

And in the future... (1)

mpn14tech (716482) | about 9 years ago | (#13285446)

The knowledge EULA. You may only use the knowledge in this work for a limited amount of time. After said time all memories must be deleted. This is most easily accomplished by consuming large quantities of alcohol. Failure to comply will result in forcible removal by lobotomy.

BWAHAHAHAHA (2, Interesting)

Crashmarik (635988) | about 9 years ago | (#13285449)

Sorry but textbooks are a screwjob from start to finish. I mean think about it. They cost five times what normal books cost, They have a built in captive market of well defined size thats know before the first one is printed, and near zero advertising costs. (very limited need to strip unsold copies) With all that going for them a textbook should cost about what the average paperback does.

Now the other thing to ask yourself is why is the difference between successive editions usally just the questions ??

Welcome to getting screwed its not a surprise that the text book industry likes the idea of DRM

Students better watch out!! (2, Interesting)

jurt1235 (834677) | about 9 years ago | (#13285454)

BTW they start the article by mentioning a book which I believe is no longer covered under copyright law (copyright expired a long long time ago): Dante's Inferno.

Would it not even be illegal to put a work from which the copyright has expired under a EULA, with that pretending that there even is a copyright?

Also look at _rdr_next3_fm1/102-2757971-7030535?_encoding=UTF8& p=S002&ns=1#reader-page []
It says: Copyrighted material. I think that is totally incorrect, can somebody confirm this please?

Ebooks are cheap??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13285461)

Do these people seriously think ebooks will reduce cost? I usually buy books and then sell them for 85% of the price after the term. This means, the book costs me only 15% of the price and I get portability and ease of paper.

hold it (1)

tehwebguy (860335) | about 9 years ago | (#13285480)

this might seem pretty retarded, but as a student i would rather pay 33% less per textbook even if it expires after 5 months.

i can only sell back certain books after the semester is over, and 33% is probably more than i would make back on average per book

The timespan of utility. (2, Interesting)

malkavian (9512) | about 9 years ago | (#13285481)

Like a lot of other people have noted, 5 months is no way near enough to have a reference textbook available to you.
I could understand it if there was a minimal fee (a few pennies), and it was treated as a library withdrawal. I don't mind paying a little to borrow a book.
However, as most of my old coursebooks cost about £40 or so, I really draw the line at spending about £25+ to borrow a reference book.
Whoever thought out the timespan is a tad on the nuts side, even if it is for University use.
You tend to use a particular book for a couple of months, then it stays on the shelf until it's time to revise.
Perhaps it'll also be referenced in the next year from time to time. Also for a few weeks/couple of months, then sit on the shelf until revision.
That means there's a good likelihood of someone rushing out to buy their coursebook, using it for the course. Finding it expired at revision time, having to rebuy it again (now cost 133% of the original dead tree version). If it's needed in the future, the economies just get worse.

The idea of technical reference books is that they're kept around to reference. It's not like a story, where you pick it up, read it, and vaguely remember the story for ever more..
You need the detail.
If the books were priced at 0.1-0.5% of the cost of the actual dead tree, with a limit of, say one month, they'd have a great line going in the book lending area.
For sales under their current scheme..
I'd love to know what reality they live in, but it sure doesn't look like the one most of us live in (without pharmaceutical intervention).

Just to add to that, in every job I've had since leaving my degrees, a fair quantity of the books I used back then have sat on a shelf, and have been referenced quie extensively. That's after around ten years.
That 'deal' is one I wouldn't touch with somebody else's bargepole.

Personally, I'd love an eBook as a textbook. (1)

aetherspoon (72997) | about 9 years ago | (#13285482)

One that...
1) Cost less than buying the book new online. What is the point if it isn't less?
2) Has no DRM crap, or a method of changing ownership with NO OTHER RESTRICTIONS. Do you hear this textbook publishers? The reason why the eBook idea failed miserably is because they DRMed the stupid thing!
3) Will open on Linux, namely since that is what my laptop runs.

This isn't rocket science 101 people, this is simply what the market demands (well, probably not point 3 of mine, but point 1 and 2), and if you don't provide it for the market, you won't get our money.

33% off Dante's Inferno? (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 9 years ago | (#13285497)

It's one thing to try to gouge students on books that the teachers wrote themselves, but The Inferno's copyright has lapsed.... a damned long time ago.

Why not point them to one of the free [] versions [] out there?

Wouldn't fly here in the UK (1)

herwin (169154) | about 9 years ago | (#13285500)

Lots of modules (classes) run for nine months. Then if you fail any element of assessment (very common), you get to retry at least once (another three months). Besides, most students here don't buy textbooks, instead reading them at the library (if they even bother). Heh...

Backlash (2, Insightful)

Emperor Cezar (106515) | about 9 years ago | (#13285501)

I'm really surprised to see the large outcry against EULAs in general in all the comments. I'm pretty sure the GPL is a EULA and everyone cries when it is violated. So, what makes the GPL different and puts the right of the author to put that agreement on a piece of software in so high regard vs. someone elses right to put a different type of agreement on their works? Is there a fundamental difference, or is it a case of "I can do it, but you can't" type of thing? I really do want to know if I'm missing something here. Discuss.

What about margin notes and highlighting? (1)

fat-latvian (670482) | about 9 years ago | (#13285504)

I don't think e-books would be very good in a univeristy setting anyway as there aren't really enough (any) e-book readers that support jotting notes on virtual pages and highlighting text on virtual pages, which is essential for consuming the material and reviewing for an exam.

Funny....I was just talking abou thtis.. (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about 9 years ago | (#13285507)

But only a 33% cost reduction when they receive a immense overhead reduction.

Naw...I think our legislators should pass "the fair textbook reform law"

If I go back to school again, and buy a textbook. I am going to find how many errors there are. If there is an excessive amount (which there usually is) I am going to demand a full refund from the company because of the defective book.

EULAs for books (1)

pruss (246395) | about 9 years ago | (#13285508)

Couldn't one have an EULA for a hardcopy book, now? A wrapper that says that if you unwrap this, you are bound. Is there a law prohibiting it?

I assume one could even have a completely unambiguous EULA by making buyers sign something at the bookstore prior to purchase.

Might have been useful in rare situations (1)

Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) | about 9 years ago | (#13285509)

There were times in college where I might have found that useful. I paid my own way through school, so anything to keep expenses down. I was a PoliSci major (go ahead and laugh, I'll wait...) and probably 50% of my textbook costs were $20 paperbacks that were only used by one prof for one semester. There was zero market (buy or sell) for used versions of these books.

Some of my classes used 15 or 20 books over the course of the semester, so a 33% savings over retail would have made a big difference. If anything was so good I wanted a permanent copy, I could buy a paper copy (used if I could find it).
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