Textbooks, or, the Battle of Students vs Publishers – Part II

Apologies in advance for belaboring the point in regards to my previous post on the broken textbook industry, but another interesting article on custom textbook publishing appeared this morning in the Wall Street Journal.

The article is mostly self-explanatory, so I won’t go into a lengthy discussion, but I would like to ask the reader to pay close attention to a couple of points in the article. First, consider, Dr. Koch’s quote regarding universities taking a share of the profits (yes, this is the same Dr. Koch quoted in my previous post):

“It treads right on the edge of what I would call unethical behavior,” he says. “I’m not sure it passes the smell test.”

Secondly, and perhaps even more offensive is the following:

This version also has the University of Alabama’s name printed across the top of the front cover, and a notice on the back that reads: “This book may not be bought or sold used.”

To my mind – and I am willing to be taken to task on this view – a university has absolutely no business blatantly lying to or misleading its students regarding their rights. The right to buy and sell used material is protected under the First Sale Doctrine, and neither the publisher nor the university has any legal right to deny students the ability to buy or sell used textbooks. So, where the publishers have been unable to overturn the First Sale Doctrine and make it illegal to buy and sell used books (much as they drool over the prospect), it appears they may have settled for manipulating our institutions of higher education to disseminate the false impression of illegality to our nation’s students.

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