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Don't Take Notes In the Bookstore

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the and-no-umpcs-either dept.

Books 499

mikesd81 writes "The Harvard Crimson reports that the Harvard Coop asked Jarret A. Zafran to leave the store after writing down the prices of six books required for a junior Social Studies tutorial. The apparent new policy could be a response to Crimsonreading.org, an online database that allows students to find the books they need for each course at discounted prices from several online booksellers. The Coop claims the ISBN identification numbers in books are their intellectual property. Crimson Reading disagrees. 'We don't think the Coop owns copyright on this information that should be available to students,' said Tom D. Hadfield, co-creator of the site. The student paper reports that an unnamed intellectual property lawyer agreed with Crimson Reading's position."

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499 comments

at least... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679695)

well, at least he wasn't tasered.

Re:at least... (-1, Flamebait)

bwalling (195998) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679935)

well, at least he wasn't tasered.
He probably just left rather than screaming and flailing like a complete boob. Of course, tasering Andrew Meyer just made the boob even louder.

Re:at least... (-1, Offtopic)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680115)

When they tasered him, he cried just like my cute little daughter did when she was teething.

Re:at least... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20680011)

well, at least he wasn't tasered.

BAHAHAHAHHA! but man i've written down the books, pricing, and ISBN number every sem lol. Then i go online to buy.
Hell i've even called them up and asked for their price and ISBN LOL

Devil went down to Georgia (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679717)

And brewed up some frosty-ness-ness!

Strange... (3)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679721)

Strange... we have our instructors post the ISBN numbers of course materials on "information pages" for our online courses, and most (90%+) put it on the syllabus, etc. for on-campus courses. Don't see what the big deal is...

Re:Strange... (-1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679793)

>>Don't see what the big deal is...

The story only matters to a handful of Harvard students anyway, but it makes the front page at Slashdot because it is another "our rights are being trampled" story...

Re:Strange... (2, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679949)

University co-op stores are frequented by more than just students. While you can get everything you want now from Amazon, such university co-ops let you browse the type of obscure specialist literature that B & N or Borders don't stock.

Re:Strange... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679973)

It's kinda like Fark. Maybe a merger of the two..."It's not news, it's tabloids for nerds"

Re:Strange... (5, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679977)

I suppose you're one of those "It doesn't matter until it happens to me" folks.

You know all those problems in the world? They're your fault. After all, maleficent people are a small minority; the only reason malignant evils persist are because of the indifference of the rest.

Too harsh? Maybe, but people like you really tick me off.

Re:Strange... (0, Offtopic)

pedramnavid (1069694) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680041)

Are you one of those people that blame all the problems of the world on one person? I hate those people. All the problems in the world are their fault. Too harsh? Maybe, but people like you really tick me off.

Re:Strange... (5, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680141)

Rhetorical subtlety must be lost on you. The sentence immediately following the "your fault" sentence adequately establishes the context for those who bother to read; i.e. the large class of people (of whom the GP is assumed to be a member, due to his comment) who sit by and do nothing while bad things happen to others are to blame for the endemic perpetuity of human-generated evil. Without their obsequious and/or cynical lack of action, people bent on doing harm would be comparatively powerless and/or ineffectual.

But I suppose some folks need the dots connected for them.

Re:Strange... (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680079)

The big deal is that what the web gaveth, the web tooketh away; you can't find a site anymore that produces prices, for fear that the competition or some pricegrabber site will write a little script that steals it all. Some stores really don't have anything more to offer than low prices and location. The web took away the relevance of location, and now it is taking away the relevance of their other asset - price. For you can always find it cheaper somewhere else. And instead of thinking to start offering service, or maybe package deals, they just start acting up against their (potential) customers.

Re:Strange... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680117)

No. These kinds of policies are in effect in retail stores far and wide.

It's not just limited to the Harvard student bookstore.

ISBNDB (5, Informative)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680067)

I strongly suggest that you check out ISBNDB [isbndb.com] , which is an online database of ISBN numbers. You wouldn't have to go look up numbers in-person, thereby removing any possible blame from yourselves.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Coop attempted to challenge the ISBNDB, however....

Effort? (5, Interesting)

Burb (620144) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679723)

Surely you have to demonstrate that some intellectual effort went into the production of the ISBN for it to come under IP law in the first place (regardless of "ownership"). Presumably the publisher was just allocated a bunch of ISBNs and they just happened to allocat one of them this one book? Shoot me down if you like. I'm not an expert.

"Intellectual Property" is a meaningless FUD word (3, Insightful)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679837)

I agree with RMS on the topic of the term "Intellectual Property".

It's a FUD term that opportunistic lawyers and unscrupulous corporations (the embarrassingly pathetic SCO) use to justify empty threats and pump-and-dump litigation.

Patents, copyrights, and trademarks mean something. "Intellectual Property" is the high-ranking corporate imbecile's buzz word of the year.

The book store has as little "ownership" of the ISBN as they do of the title of the book itself.

Re:"Intellectual Property" is a meaningless FUD wo (1)

immcintosh (1089551) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680185)

To me it's even worse than that. The damn phrase is becoming such an integral part of our vernacular it makes me want to vomit. Some creative outfit doesn't ever show you their new design, or product, or what have you anymore. They show their "new IP." Bullshit. Gah, I have to move to a different thread now, I'm getting livid just thinking about it.

Re:Effort? (5, Insightful)

ngworekara (1027704) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679897)

The intellectual property argument was just an idiotic thing for them to go public with. But, the way I understand it, a store has the right to toss you out for any reason they see fit (presumably barring race or gender.) Thats why they have those "We reserve the right to toss you out on your ass" signs. When I was an annoying little adolescent, some shopkeepers told my friends and I to get out as soon as we came into their store. It was evident that we were just bored and fucking around, not intending to purchase anything. It was evident in this case that the guy was wandering around the store taking notes not only intending not to buy anything but enhancing his ability to shop competitively. If he shared his information he would be broadening that result. The store had no good reason not to toss him out.

Doesn't make it any less annoying though. used to piss me off then, pisses me off now. Especially since he was just trying to get around the unabashed robbery perpetrated by college bookstores and textbook companies.

Re:Effort? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20680097)

But, the way I understand it, a store has the right to toss you out for any reason they see fit (presumably barring race or gender.)

OT I know but why is Hollywood allowed to use race & gender to determine who they hire but nobody else is?

Re:Effort? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20680159)

Are you really that stupid, or has it honestly not occurred to you that acting roles are one of the very few instances where race and gender really do affect one's ability to do the job?

Re:Effort? (1)

pedramnavid (1069694) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680103)

The store (as a symbolic representation of one employee) had plenty of good reasons not to toss him out. They just chose not to use any of them.

Re:Effort? (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680125)

Here's the rub, though. They TOLD him why they tossed him out. Meaning that, regardless of the fact that they don't have to give him a reason, he has one. And if they toss you out for an unethical or irresponsible reason (Or, in the edge case, an actionable one), then they have the problems.

Re:Effort? (1)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680083)

It was also my understanding that the original ISBN system was thought up decades ago by the British newsagent chain W.H Smiths. And it is now managed by ISO. Do either ISO or W.H Smith have anything to say about this?

Re:Effort? (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680143)

No shooting necessary. You're right. ISBNs are not only not sensitive information, they're not even information that belongs to the bookstore. They are, by nature, de-privileged indexes. ISBN is an ISO standard, and an international standards body holds, administers, and allocates ISBNs. They are, in summary, the most public possible information about a book. They are a means to find it. As far as their prices being privileged information... ALSO CRAP. The prices are, in fact, owned by them... but are publicly posted, specifically for the consumption of those who have not yet bought them.

Out of sight, out of mind (4, Insightful)

biocute (936687) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679727)

an online database that allows students to find the books they need for each course at discounted prices from several online booksellers

So Harvard Coop is excluded from the list, and I doubt students will be rushing there in a hurry.

ISBN's owned by no one (4, Informative)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679731)

Having worked as a publisher and having helped build the buying department for Amazon.com from 1995-1997, I can tell you that ISBN's are purchased by the publisher for association with their book. That number is never truly OWNED as it is recirculated once the book goes out of print; many books have the same ISBN but only one in print book at a time can use it. If a book wants to come back into print, it must be reissued another ISBN.

So in effect, ISBN's are owned by no one except for the distributing and maintaining body.

Re:ISBN's owned by no one (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679847)

I always wondered about that, having worked in a bookstore for the last few years. I know there's an extended ISBN now, and that certain digits in certain positions mark things like language of publication, but there's still a finite number of combinations. Recycling numbers though? Huh, live and learn.

On the original topic, my cynical guess is that the campus bookstore is going to go to the University president and lobby to have the cost of a year's new textbooks automatically added to tuition, so that the students have no choice but to buy straight from them no matter the cost.

Re:ISBN's owned by no one (1)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680065)

...my cynical guess is that the campus bookstore is going to go to the University president and lobby to have the cost of a year's new textbooks automatically added to tuition, so that the students have no choice but to buy straight from them no matter the cost.

Wouldn't that run afoul of some Restraint of Trade or Bundling regulations?

Re:ISBN's owned by no one (1)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679873)

"So in effect, ISBN's are owned by no one except for the distributing and maintaining body."

That is what I thought when I read this, so I went searching the net. I found the ISBN U.S. Agency [isbn.org] which is stewarded by Bowker [bowker.com] . I do not see how any book store can own the copyright to the ISBN number when they have no control over it.

Only thing the bookstore owns is itself (1)

orthancstone (665890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679961)

You don't see how because they don't have any claim other than their meaningless words. They're being under priced, they know their being under priced, and they simply have no desire to cater to demand that sales be cheaper. Taking it out on the customer is just the cherry on top.

Re:ISBN's owned by no one (5, Funny)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679915)

That number is never truly OWNED as it is recirculated once the book goes out of print; many books have the same ISBN but only one in print book at a time can use it.

This is why we need ISBNv6.

Re:ISBN's owned by no one (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20680017)

It's called ISBN-13.

Re:ISBN's owned by no one (4, Informative)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680071)

aka, ISBN-13. Transition to ISBN13 (which is compatible with UPC+EAN) is well under way, though I've noticed that you still primarily see the ISBN 10. In America, ISBN13's have a "978" prefix added for now, and a recalculated checksum (the last digit of the ISBN).

Re:ISBN's owned by no one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679937)

If your information is true, would you please start an edit war on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISBN [wikipedia.org] :
The International Standard Book Number, ISBN, is a unique[1] commercial book identifier barcode.
If they get issued twice, it's an error.

Re:ISBN's owned by no one (2, Informative)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679941)

Nahhhh, an ISBN is meant to be a UNIQUE number.
However mistakes have been made and a few books have duplicates [wikipedia.org] .

There might be multiple ISBN for different print runs etc, but I cannot find anything that the same code being reused on purpose for different books.

Please give some more details because it seems curious.

One Minor Correction (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679967)

...it is recirculated once the book goes out of print; many books have the same ISBN but only one in print book at a time can use it.
One minor correction, from ISBN.org [isbn.org] , I found:

ISBN CAN NEVER BE REUSED: Once an ISBN is assigned to a title, it CANNOT BE REASSIGNED even if the title goes out of print. In addition to being an order fulfillment tool, the ISBN is a bibliographic element in cataloging. It is printed on catalog cards, in catalogs and entered in national and international databases.
So it always has to be the same book, it's never 'recycled.'

Re:One Minor Correction (1)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680051)

That's what I thought myself but wasn't sure as the GP seemed to know what they were talking about. Thanks for the clarification!

US ISBN Agency (1)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680009)

You're forgetting the issuing agent, the US ISBN Agency [isbn.org] . From their website:

As the U.S. ISBN Agency, R R Bowker is the exclusive US source of publisher prefixes and accompanying ranges of ISBN numbers for eligible publishers.
Once the ISBN number is sold to the publisher, they "own" it and can do with it what they please. One could argue, however, that the display of the ISBN on the outside of the book or on publisher or publisher-approved websites constitutes public disclosure, resulting in forfeiture of that knowledge to the public domain.

Slashdot news... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679741)

The is exactly the kind of story Slashdot does not need. My first thought was "who the fuck cares except for a few Harvard Students". Of course, it is a kdawson story...

in mother russia (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679789)

ISBN numbers write down you!

Re:Slashdot news... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679803)

You read, you replied, because you didn't care. These all make sense now.

ISOwned (4, Informative)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679757)

ISBNs are nobody's intellectual property apart from the ISO. [wikipedia.org] It's an international standard described by ISO TC 46/SC 9.

Coop? (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679769)


I thought the Harvard and MIT coops were co-ops (cooperatives).

In the People's Republic of Cambridge, they should be working with the proletariat to fight the evils of capitalism!

REI is a great co-op, they send members profit sharing each year. Spend more and they make a profit, you get a big fat return at the end of the year (which you spend on more stuff, a never-ending cycle).

Maybe the Coop got bought out by B&N or Amazon?

Re:Coop? (3, Informative)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679851)

Coop members also get a profit share at the end of the year. And the bookstore part of the Coop is already associated with Barnes & Noble, as are 80% of college bookstores. (I don't think "owned" is the right phrase, I don't know how the relationship works.) But yeah, there are students on the Coop board who should probably be alerted to this so they can fight it.

Re:Coop? (0, Redundant)

sholden (12227) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680023)

REI is a great co-op, they send members profit sharing each year. Spend more and they make a profit, you get a big fat return at the end of the year (which you spend on more stuff, a never-ending cycle).

What you really mean, is

1. Join co-op
2. Assign most expensive books you can find as required materials for courses you teach
3. ??????^W students buy books from co-op
4. Profit!

Silly Coop (1, Insightful)

smackenzie (912024) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679773)

Trying to win an argument with a Harvard (sucks) student is like licking your elbow.

Back at Princeton, I spent my entire Freshman allowance (yes, sorry, my folks did give me a Freshman bonus or something...) on just books, so it makes me happy to see this sort of thing going on. I wish I had had the internet like these Harvard (sucks) kids.

Re:Silly Coop (1)

mikkelm (1000451) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680081)

Is it customary procedure to suffix "(sucks)" whenever referring to things you disagree with at Princeton?

Re:Silly Coop (1)

smackenzie (912024) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680223)

Actually, it's tradition to follow "Harvard" (sucks) with the word "sucks" at functions, etc. Yale (blows) is followed with a rather blue-color term that I don't feel comfortable saying in a comment section...

Re:Silly Coop (1)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680113)

Lol, so true ;)

What I don't get is how it can be called a Coop...any takers on that one?

ISBN Copyright? (1)

_14k4 (5085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679779)

Is that like saying the UPC number is a copyright held by the company? Or the MAC address, at least the first few parts, are copyright protected?

This frightens me because (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679791)

I am the owner of a local college book website for Colleges in Michigan. I take no commission and it's free to post. But my http://jpauls.net/ [jpauls.net] Jpauls Anti-bookstore lists ISBN numbers on it. If this is intellectual property, am I in violation? Is amazon.com and half.com in violation?

Wrong IP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679797)


> The Coop claims the ISBN identification numbers in books are their intellectual property.

Wouldn't it make more sense for them to claim that the books' prices are their intellectual property?

The Coop created the price information, but they did not create the ISBN.

I'm guessing that they might have a stronger legal argument if they correctly identified what intellectual property they actually created.

Re:Wrong IP (5, Funny)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679971)

Store Clerk: Shall I price this up at $1.99?
Store Manager: $1.99 good idea, but all the .99's are owned by Wallmart
Store Clerk: what about $1.98?
Store Manager: Owned by Texaco...
Store Clerk: $2.01? that's an unusual price, no one will have..
Store Manager: BestBuy
Store Clerk: 2.02?
Store Manager: Circuit City
Store Clerk: Fine, what price should I put on it?
Store Manager: One and one sixth of a dollar and fourteen halves of a cent.
Store Clerk: ..... We need a new price label gun.

Don't mess with the 80% profit margin or else! (3, Interesting)

shbazjinkens (776313) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679799)

God forbid you mess with the media mafiosi. What I found funny was that some Chinese students were smuggling international editions in and selling them for $10-20 after they were done with them. These were books that were supposed to cost me $150. I also used to wait in front of the buyback tables and offer $5 or $10 more than the bookstores low low buyback price for the books (required for my classes) that they would later sell for five times as much. That really pissed them off, even though the employees were just students getting paid a flat hourly rate.

I used to have a really hard time believing they were worth that much until I got some bad assigned textbooks. Problem was that the bad textbooks had the same damn price.

Re:Don't mess with the 80% profit margin or else! (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679989)

Here's another tip, don't buy textbooks until 2 or 3 weeks in when you're sure you're actually going to need it for the class. Many professors test from their lecture notes which they often give out in class. Just because they say it's required doesn't mean you actually need it. I found that if I just paid attention in class, I did well. The only books I bought are actually useful books which I still refer to from time to time.

Also, you might not need that exact book. Calculus hasn't changed recently, so any calculus book ought to suffice to teach you Calculus. Absolutely no reason to buy a new edition.

Re:Don't mess with the 80% profit margin or else! (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680149)

I used to do the exact same thing, especially with professors who assigned an unusually high number of books. Some of them they never got to at all. Sometimes the book turned out to be optional. And oftentimes you could find the same book at the library or borrow it from a friend or another student.

Change is needed (-1, Troll)

saterdaies (842986) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679811)

Incidents like this show that change is needed in the way that we handle intellectual property.

On the one hand, we're giving monopoly profits to the entertainment industry against the public good. On the other hand, a retailer who has spent a fair amount of time and money can just have that work copied.

In some ways I feel bad for the Coop. They had to pay someone (or multiple people) money to assemble all of this data in an easy to use format. Should others simply be allowed to copy their work? If so, how is this different from me cutting and pasting Linux code into a new kernel under my own license? One can make the argument that the Linux kernel is an original, creative work and that what the bookstore has is merely an assembled set of data - in fact, I'm sure that's what that intellectual property lawyer would correctly argue in a court.

But isn't it a moral faux-pas to just steal someone's assembled set of data? It cost them money to assemble the data. Maybe you should have to do just as much work?

We really need a better system of compensating people for the work that they do when it isn't a tangible object. With a greater and greater percentage of our economic output becoming these intangible items, we desperately need a structure that would fairly compensate both parties for the work they've put in rather than the current system of unfairly helping one side or the other based on lobbyist-written laws.

Re:Change is needed (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679919)

In some ways I feel bad for the Coop. They had to pay someone (or multiple people) money to assemble all of this data in an easy to use format.

No they didn't. The ISBN numbers are printed on the books.

Re:Change is needed (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679947)

I understand your compassion and desire to see people compensated for their work, but have you really thought through what you are saying? I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me under such a plan as you are advocating, copying a phone number from a telephone book would become copyright infringement. Do you really want to go there?

Re:Change is needed (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679957)

We really need a better system of compensating people for the work that they do when it isn't a tangible object.
Ahh, but the vast majority of that intangible stuff is total crap. Ted Sturgeon said 90%, but he was talking about only the stuff that actually got published.

ip? (1)

deadstatue (1004528) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679825)

still trying to understand if i read this right...its like telling me i cant use a upc code to search products on the internet,nor would a search of movies for sale by title be permitted. i never seen somebody so blatently put and end to capitolism.

Textbook Scam (5, Insightful)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679835)

So, now book sellers don't want you to do price comparisons? College textbooks are so ridiculously overpriced, its a tragedy. I've been lecturing at a community college for over three years now. One class I do is a non-credit pre-Chemistry class. Because its a prereq for General Chem. 1 and 2, we use the first three chapters of the textbook for that course. The $180 textbook. Many of my students aren't even planning on taking General Chem at my school or at all. But, if they want to be able to keep up with the homework, they have to get the book.

And its the same for all my classes. Books are $100 to $200 new, the bookstores almost never have used books, and if they do you know they bought them back from the previous owner for pennies on the dollar. I start each of my classes every semester by showing the students the "required text" and then explaining how they can get by with an older edition or with some internet research.

Lately students have been finding the wholesale-priced "international editions" online which saves them money without sacrificing quality. But, where do schools and publishers think students are getting all this money from?

Re:Textbook Scam (1)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679903)

But, where do schools and publishers think students are getting all this money from?

Student loans.

Re:Textbook Scam (1)

siwelwerd (869956) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680029)

So, now book sellers don't want you to do price comparisons?

No, college bookstores don't want you to do price comparisons. Mainly because their prices are always higher than you can find at Amazon and others. Amazon likes you to do price comparisons because they usually come out on top.

Re:Textbook Scam (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680073)

Any teacher who can teach a class should be able to write the textbook. I had several in High School and College that did. In fact, it's a good learning process for the students to help. I don't know if your CC allows such things, but you could have the class this year work on next year's textbook, (or take two years for the first one) while using the current book. From then, every class works to improve the book for next year's class. Publish in electronic form. You could even use a password protected wiki to allow for changes.

One of the best teachers I had, was Professor Dave Meyer, at Purdue University. His book, "Little Bits of Digitail Wisdom" was published through Purdue publishing for around $7.00 in loose leaf format. The pages were only 1/2 complete, and during class he would put a copy on the overhead projector and fill in the blanks. This was a very effective teaching technique.

Re:Textbook Scam (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680099)

"But, where do schools and publishers think students are getting all this money from?"

Credit cards. College students are inundated with offers, mostly because they have a reputation for not knowing better. Most college bookstores I've seen will include an offer for a credit card right in the bag.

Re:Textbook Scam (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680153)

I bought a 80.00 paperback of the Physics 1 textbook, and when I went in for Physics II I found a 120.00 hardcover that included both 80.00 paperbacks.

I bought it, and I made it my mission to give it to a new person every semester. They used that book the entire time I was at college. I still have it; it's almost a paperback itself after being used by 4 people over 7 semesters. Also gave the original paperback to someone else.

Don't go through the bookstores. Hell, where I was they offered a guaranteed buyback on certain textbooks for a whopping 30% of the cover price. Screw that. Sell them yourself! Put up a few fliers or put 'em on Craigslist. Don't go through the bookstores, especially not if there isn't any competition at your school! Why support the monopoly?

Even selling them back to the bookstore is a rip off because you could buy it for 120 and sell it to a student for 40 who'd have to pay 80 for the same book if he bought it from a bookstore, and that bookstore would have given YOU 25!

Re:Textbook Scam (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680201)

I worked for an independent college textbook store once upon a time. The place was a ramshackle old office space - bare girders and all. We never put any money into making the place look nice, because that would force our costs up. And although people bitch about what a ripoff textbooks are, our own profit margins were never very high. When professors gave us booklists, we would do tremendous amounts of sleuthing to track down used books first, then resort to new. The students appreciated our efforts to keep their costs low, such that we were able to elbow into a once undisputed market and drove the local Barnes and Nobel out of the textbook business. Professors rewarded us, too, for our good service to them and to their students, by giving us their booklists exclusively. On the other hand, we were in a bit of a unique situation, in that we were independent both from national franchises and from the College, who had no official bookstore.

It is difficult to explain to an angry and broke student's satisfaction (or, more obnoxiously, their parents satisfaction) that we, an independent bookstore, are just as much at the whim of the textbook industry as they are. Just like it is difficult to explain to an angry motorist that the gas station on the corner isn't reeping huge rewards from $3/gal gasoline (in the U.S.). The publishers do an impressive bit of work to ensure a high revenue stream. A 5-10% year-over-year increase in new textbook prices really helps, with absolutely no added value. The broader the market and more introductory the level, the higher the price: compare the cost of an intro calculus book to one on advanced linear algebra. What really gets me is issuing new editions of a textbook without making any substantive changes. It instantly kills the market for old editions - used textbook dealers will stop buying and selling them.

try writing down the prices at ANY store.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679841)

and see what happens

Most (larger/chain) stores will ask you to stop or leave

Right or wrong, I don't know - it is simply the way "retailing" has been done

of course the Internet has been/is/will continue changing the way "retailing" is done

(but brick and mortar stores aren't going to vanish like some "experts" predicted during the dot.com boom/bust...)

Information can't be copyrighted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679845)

For something to be copyrighted, it has to be creative. That means most information can not be copyrighted.

The example we all should be familiar with is many of the files in Unix; for instance, lists of things required to comply with POSIX. Even SCO wasn't crazy enough to claim that those files were copyrighted.

I don't get it (2, Insightful)

Aaron Isotton (958761) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679857)

I don't really understand what this is all about.

I mean, if you have to get the textbooks, they'll have to tell you which ones to get. This means that they are either going to tell you Author/Title/Edition or the ISBN. If you have either of these you can easily look up the other on the internet. And the *prices* can't possibly be protected by copyright.

Moreover, I find it completely normal and sensible to write down the prices of what you are going to get. Maybe you want to pay in cash and have to know how much you have to bring. I mean, what would you do if you walked into a shop, wrote down a price and someone told you that you're not allowed to do that?

I don't know what is going to happen if they are really going to enforce their totally ridiculous "no note taking in a book shop" policy, but I know what *I* would do in a similar situation:

1. Look up the ISBN on the internet
2. Find out where the book is cheapest, maybe both online and offline - they'd obviously out of that because 'note taking' is not allowed
3. Get the book there
4. Only get those books at the Coop which aren't sold anywhere else. Which I doubt are many.

Re:I don't get it (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680031)

Some places don't give that information.
You goto the school bookstore give them your schedule and they use a list only they have to get the books you need..
In that case the only recourse you would have is get the books, copy the info, and return the books to the place you got them or just dump them on any shelf and walk out. That or at some places they do have sites where people collect that information and post it so you can get it that way.

What the hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679861)

As a Harvard student, I've never EVER had this happen at the Coop. Hell, I take my phone in and snap pictures of books I want to read but not sure I want to buy, so I can get them from the library later. And nobody has ever even hinted at having a problem with it. Not so much as a "You should buy it if you want to read it, it's worth owning."

I'm frankly a bit incredulous. Of course, if they pulled this with me, I'd politely remind them that I'm at the law school and know a bit more than they do about IP.

Library of Congress allocates ISBNs (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679869)

Copyright would be the lamest excuse. Writing down one number from a whole friggen book s obviously fair use. Even worse, since the ISBN numbers are allocated by the national library. So this is a really, really 'duh' case.

The publishers will LOVE this (2, Insightful)

qwerty shrdlu (799408) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679877)

Does this mean they owe the coop royalties on if they let other bookstores use the same ISBN numbers?

I am sure... (1)

Jinjuku (762364) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679879)

that they run a brick and mortar store, stock thousands of titles just so you can come in for the convenience of getting a hands on, writing down the ISBN and purchasing from someone that doesn't have to maintain a storefront nor as many employees.

We changed our business model at least. Thats why when we put together a proposed solution for a client, we charge. You get your 'consultation' fee back if you use us for the work. If you go somewhere else at least we didn't provide a free solution. Thanks goes out to all the cheapo ass-hats out there.

Re:I am sure... (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680105)

What is wrong with comparison shopping? For example, do you think it's wrong to go to a car dealership and get information on different models, prices, features, and then buy from the dealer that has the best price? Or would you just buy a car from the first dealer you go to because he had to go to the trouble of putting a sticker on the car with its descriptive information?

ISBNs are the IP of: (4, Informative)

Algorithmnast (1105517) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679885)

ISBNs on books are the IP of The US ISBN Agency [isbn.org] , and since they have the sole authority in the U.S. to issue ISBNs, it's a bit of a stretch (read: LIE) for any other legal entity to claim that the ISBN printed on the book are their IP.

If you prefer, you can ask The National Information Standards Organization [niso.org] , which will tell you the for country X it's organization Y. For instance, Canadians will use their own agency [collectionscanada.ca] .

The desire to destroy competition is alive and well. Let's hope this is one attempt which fails miserably.

this is wrong on so many levels... (4, Insightful)

time961 (618278) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679901)

ISBNs might be the publisher's IP (although they actually aren't), but they certainly aren't the STORE's.

In any case, the excerpt of the publisher's putative IP that is represented by an ISBN unquestionably comes under the "fair use" defense. First of all, it is a negligibly-sized component of the book, and more importantly, it is clearly being used for purposes of reviewing the book (i.e., expressing an opinion about the relationship of the book's content to its price).

It's also absurd for a store to eject people doing competitive research. To be sure, some businesses explicitly forbid picture-taking (on the argument that their "trade dress", as represented by the store's design overall, is protected intellectual property)--but preventing people recording prices and descriptions seems like it would fall afoul of various consumer protection laws, even if the restriction were explicitly posted and uniformly enforced (which it apparently is not).

Harvard "Co-Operative Society", we hardly knew ye. Next time, take a voice recorded and a concealed mic. That's faster than taking notes, anyway.

Re:this is wrong on so many levels... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20680055)

No, you're wrong. Fair use only applies to copyright. They're certainly not claiming that. Their most plausible argument (though still weak) is that the prices are a trade secret.

Facts cannot be copyrighted (4, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679909)

This has come up before [slashdot.org] and I believe a judge ruled that prices are facts, and facts cannot be copyrighted. That applies to the ISBN number as well.

Although that doesn't mean you cannot be asked to leave the store for doing it. It's their store and they can throw you out for anything they want. And the store is perfectly allowed to suffer for it.

wth? (1)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679917)

I used to work for a book store. ISBN numbers are about as much Coop's IP as Campbell's Soup's UPC code is your local grocers IP. Even if they were, the prices are not. I recall something similar to this happening in the 90s. Someone got kicked out of a large retailer (I think it was Best Buy or Circuit City, but Google fails me) for writing down prices in order to comparison shop. He sued and won. For a store to get away with this, they would need a written sign that essentially says "no comparison shopping" was the conclusion to that article.

Not only did I write down book information... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20679927)

I also put the book, which they did not have in stock, on order to be received by the bookstore just in case my order fell through. I cannot believe bookstores are wining because they do not hold 100% of the market with buyers. They are still getting 90 percent of students simply by listing the book requirements to late before classes start to actually order a book online. School bookstores are doing more anti-trust activities than microsoft.

The students working the service desk knew exactly what I was doing, and they weren't about to stop me because they pry did it themselves. (lol, gotta love cheap labor)

http://jpauls.net/ [jpauls.net] ~Jpauls

The claim is absurd. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679943)

ISBNs are public information, and if they belong to anyone, it's whoever registered the book to obtain the number.

-jcr

Can't copyright numbers... (1)

omnispace (792135) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679955)

Copyright doesn't cover data itself, only your specific expression of that data (i.e., the way you arrange it in a report).

They can ask anyone to leave for any reason (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679969)

They are also free to go out of business for being such retarded protectionist asshats. In a free market, it's really their choice.

What's the real value of IP, anyway? (1)

dhfx (988710) | more than 6 years ago | (#20679979)

I've always said that the best way to make money from IP is to give it away. Either (1) give away the razor and charge for the blades, (2) give away the razor and put advertising on the blades, (3) [fill in your suggestion here]. The New York Times just stopped charging for access to privileged parts of their Web site, because they realized they could get more ad views by making access free. IP is not "property" in the tangible sense. And I agree with the other comments here: how can an ISBN be the Coop's "property" in any way? This is the beginning of IP madness.

For years I've had this future scenario where the world is controlled by IP companies; they have their own armies, etc.; if you create something (even a grocery list) you have to register it; one company owns the Bible, another owns all of Shakespeare, another owns the units of measure and the value of Pi, so anytime you quote Scripture or measure something or heat water to make it boil you have to pay a royalty, etc. Is this where it's heading?

Move along now (1)

avirrey (972127) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680019)

the Harvard Coop asked Jarret A. Zafran to leave the store

Jarret kindly said, "No", and continued to write.

Let's be real, how is this news? It's like me asking /.ers to stop stealing my ideas. First response will be, "umm, no". If they had Tazed his butt, then it would be news worthy!

I was looking for someone who already said it, (1)

AdamThor (995520) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680045)

I guess I'll have to be the first:

NEWSFLASH - COLLEGE BOOKSTORE RIPS OFF STUDENTS!!

Not that we shouldn't try to prevent it, or that this isn't a new manifestation, but this sort of thing happens pretty much on every college campus, doesn't it?

The pharmacy model (2, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680049)

As we all known, college textbooks have been corrupt for a long, long time. It actually makes me think that we ought to move to a "pharmacy" model, where the book stores must be independent from the colleges, just as the dispensing of drugs is separate from the prescribing doctor to prevent this kind of corruption.

Of course, you couldn't do anything about private universities, but the government could implement this for public universities, and hopefully shame the private ones into going along.

If Harvard is going to these extremes such as this to prevent people from copying down a few numbers in the bookstore, you know they're corrupt to the core. Clearly they've long abandonded their mission of being a place of higher learning. Of course, the whole Ivy League's been running on reputation for a long time.

Re:The pharmacy model (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680171)

Just like with doctors, schools get paid from various publishers to use their books.

The schools usually own the bookstore, too.

Anyone who doesn't see a problem with this is usually on the 'profitable' side of this loop.

Comparison shopping and the free market (3, Insightful)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680161)

Of course the Coop was just making up something off the top of their head when they used the "ISBN number" pretext.

I really would be curious to hear a serious legal analysis by someone who knows, though.

My completely naive notion would be that you're on the retailer's property, and it's not totally obvious what things you're doing by right and what things you're doing by custom and by permission. Certainly you can't steal a book. Certainly you can't damage a book e.g. by tearing a page out of it.

Certainly you can open a book and flip through it even though the cumulative effect of dozens of shoppers doing this eventually causes the book to become shopworn. But is this actually by right, or is this just by custom? Quite possibly it merely a courtesy extended to me by the store.

Price information and easy price comparison help the consumer. Denying this information helps the retailer. How far does the law go in requiring the retailer to make things easy for consumers? There are such things as hired comparison-shoppers who are working for the competition. They are not bona fide customers and are not going to buy the items they are looking at. Is a store required to be nice to them?

Gas stations have such big conspicuous outdoor price signs that it must be required by law, but is that state or federal law?

In Massachusetts, shelf labels in supermarkets and drugstores are required to show a computed unit price (which is oddly useless because of creative variation in the unit used, but never mind). Until very recently Massachusetts required individual price labels on every item (but caved to years of open defiance Wal*Mart and other national chains). So Massachusetts has a certain amount of law that sorta-kinda says the consumer has some legal rights to easy price-shopping.

The Coop and the college bookstores of the world have a pretty tight lock on textbook shopping. It's not absolute, but it's certainly not a frictionless free market and every college town I've ever been in has had one very clearly dominant bookstore, and, usually, one also-ran which has some of the books you need, just coincidentally at the exact same prices as the dominant store.

Completely tangential footnote: one of my proud moments as a dad occurred in the nineties, in the days when I was still using dialup and most people didn't know what "dot-com" meant, and my kid was in college, and called me, distraught because the college bookstore was out of a textbook she needed for a course, and was estimating six weeks for restocking. I logged into Amazon--quite possibly using lynx as my browser--saw they had it, smiled my big Daddy grin and (mentally) pulled out my big Daddy wallet and had them overnight it to her. In this case, of course, I was paying more than the bookstore price (but the overnight shipping was, of course, only a fraction of the book's cost).

No surprise... tough business (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 6 years ago | (#20680167)

No surprise college textbook stores want to do this--especially independent/coop stores which often have tighter margins (as opposed to B&N/Amazon/etc chain stores). Many of these stores that don't have millions / hundreds of thousands in the bank virtually go broke before classes start, and then make all their money within a several week period (ie, before semesters or quarters start). What they don't sell, they return to the publisher. Despite the margins they DO manage to get, because of the nature of the business, many bookstores have large periods of the year when they are in very tight financial situations.

Bookstores almost always receive a minimum of a 30-40% discount when they buy from the publisher--B&N/Amazon/Borders tend to be able to use their clout to get higher discounts than an independent store or coop. Wholesalers may get even higher discounts. In addition, many publishers will have an "adoption" price and a regular price--so if a college adopts a book, they can buy it for a cheaper price than an individual. Adoption price+40% discount.

Makes sense they would want to protect that margin, as online stores, used resellers, etc are taking a large chunk of the traditional college bookstore business.

Having said all that, I completely don't understand the coop's legal argument.. not like a publicly listed price is a trade secret, nor the ISBN owned by the resller!
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