The cycle goes something like this: textbook companies make a lot of money selling books to college students, used bookstores cut in on profits by buying and selling these books to students, textbook companies raise prices to recoup profits and publish new editions every year attempting to muscle out the used book market. But, then enter the internet . . . where alas information yearns to be free (yet is often frequently held in chains). Earlier this year The Chronicle reported on Textboook Torrents a site which sought to liberate information from the textbook industry and supply it free (illegally) to students, to which the publishers responded by issuing legal notices to get the site taken down.
Never fear poor students . . .the internet has responded and now you can Rent-a-Textbook. This seems to me to be a better option than torrenting, not only because it is legal but because you get the physical copy. (I’ll admit the user interface on a book is pretty good, preferable in many cases. When was the last time your book ran out of batteries?) I am sure the cat and mouse game of textbook publishers and exploits will continue for quite some time, but ultimately this information is going to follow the music model and get really cheap (think iTunes). Let’s just hope the textbook industry learns faster than the RIAA. (Okay, probably won’t happen but here’s hoping.)
(thanks to @dancohen for tweeting about this)