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College students, get your tar and feathers ready.
Did I say college students? I meant evil little criminals. Because that’s what Joseph Henry Vogel thinks you are if you happen to borrow your textbooks, buy them used, or share them with a friend.
Shame on you.
Vogel, an economics professor, feels that students should only be able to participate in courses after they’ve purchased an online access code. Once they do this, they have access to the textbook. If you don’t buy the code, you get a lower grade.
His reasoning? Sharing books (or apparently buying them used) is infringing on copyright.
Wait. We’re using too broad a brush, right? What about libraries?
TorrentFreak has more information, but they’ve also got an interesting quote from Vogel: “Professors are increasingly turning a blind eye when students appear in class with photocopied pages. Others facilitate piracy by placing texts in the library reserve where they can be photocopied.”
Now, it’s been a few years since I was in college, but some teachers tended to turn a blind eye to the photocopied pages because textbooks are obscenely expensive and college students tend to be, you know, broke young adults.
Vogel, have you seen the price of textbooks today? Not only are students paying hundreds or thousands more in tuition than they did even ten years ago, they’re also shelling out huge sums of money for the books they need for their classes. Once they’re done with these books, they can sometimes sell them back—for a pittance.
Example: I spent $113 on a math book freshman year. It was brand-new. When I was done with it, I sold it back…for $12.57 or some ridiculous amount like that.
I know, I know, it’s my own fault. I should have done the sensible thing and just set the book on fire. Sometimes I wish I had. Algebra, I never used you for anything in real life, and I still don’t miss you.
Most of my professors—with the exception of a couple of jerks—were very apologetic about the cost of textbooks, going so far as to encourage us to find used copies and shop on Amazon. Bear in mind, torrents hadn’t really gotten a foothold yet, so actually pirating books wasn’t really an option for my graduating class. If they had been, well…I might have had more money for food my junior and senior years.
Oh, should I not admit to sympathizing with these kids? I do sympathize with them. I had a couple grants, a couple loans, and I worked, and I still couldn’t always make ends meet. College was an extremely tough time for me financially, and there were and are many, many others who are far worse off. I have no problem with these kids sharing or borrowing books if it saves them some money.
I like giving people the benefit of the doubt, so I’d like to see more details about Vogel’s idea. If he’s going to introduce a flat rate and let students pay, say, ten bucks for access to this online copyright nirvana he wants to create, then fine, I can see where it would work. Ten bucks is still too expensive for some, but it’s a lot less than the hundred-plus I keep seeing quoted for textbooks. The publishers wouldn’t make that much money off the purchasers, but they’d get more than they would with all the students practicing deviant behavior like checking a book out of a library.
I don’t think that’s going to be the case, though. I can see him charging 100+ for access to his little online course, just because he can and because students will have no choice. This just seems like another move I saw a little too often in school—the professor with his nose in the air telling us if we couldn’t afford the textbooks, then we shouldn’t be in school.
I have a name for people like Vogel, but I won’t use it here on Stylequirk.
Is it just me, or does this reek of pay-to-succeed? I guess money really can buy you everything. If you get an F in the course but were decent enough to purchase the book, does your grade get bumped up to a D? Inquiring minds want to know!