Feature

Business columns: Internet pirates challenge the textbook cartel

<span style="font-family: Verdana,Helvetica,Arial;"><span style="font-size: 12px;">As a writer, I should be upset &ldquo;that college kids are using the same Internet piracy tools they used to bring down the r

Alex Beam The Boston Globe

As a writer, I should be upset “that college kids are using the same Internet piracy tools they used to bring down the recording industry to download textbooks,” said Alex Beam. But I’m not. Sure, I’m all for copyright protection, but textbook “publishers have disgraced themselves, and they are paying the price.” For too long, they’ve gotten away with charging their “captive audience” $300 or more for college-level books. “Hundred-dollar add-ons, masquerading as digital workbooks or problem-solving sets, are not uncommon.” And the publishers discourage sales of used textbooks by issuing “bogus ‘new’ editions.” To counter this blatant rip-off, a group of enterprising college students is offering textbooks online, using the same file-sharing software that brought us Napster and the illegal-downloading revolution. “The textbook oligopolists are fighting back mightily,” hiring the powerhouse Washington law firm of Covington & Burling to chase down malefactors. But the publishers can no more hold back the digital tide than the record companies could. It’s rough justice, but it’s justice nonetheless.

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