By Central Florida Future Editorial Board
Central Florida Future, U. Central Florida
(UWire)—As we all get our fall semester started, there's one website looking to prey on students that are having a hard time affording their textbooks.
A new website, LibraryPirate, has sent letters to several news outlets calling on students to make digital scans of their printed textbooks and post them for free online, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. This site is a copycat version of another site, Textbook Torrents, which was shut down nearly three years ago by publishers for illegally selling e-textbooks, according to the Chronicle.
The online trading that LibraryPirate is asking students to engage in violates copyright law, but that has not stopped people from contributing pirated versions of e-textbooks to the site's directory. The site now has 1,700 textbooks are organized and searchable, according to the Chronicle.
The founder of the website has chosen to remain anonymous for fear of legal action against him, but he hopes that his efforts have an impact on the cost of e-textbooks, which he finds to be unfairly high, according to the Chronicle.
"I want to bring about permanent changes to the textbook industry," he said. "The exorbitant price of a textbook shouldn't hinder students' ability to do well in a class," he added. "I believe there is a moral objective at play here."
The Public Interest Research Group has found textbook costs to be comparable to 72% of tuition at community colleges. Sites such as these get attention and notoriety specifically because textbook costs are spiraling out of control. According to one survey released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, seven in 10 college students said they had not purchased a textbook at least once because they found the price to be too high. Not buying the textbook often leaves the student with the less desirable option of borrowing a book or sharing one with another student.
According to the survey, 78% of those students who reported not buying a textbook said they expected to perform worse in that class, even though some borrowed or shared the textbook.
Students should not find themselves having to borrow textbooks for a class or having to share them with another student. Sharing a textbook creates an inconvenience for the students sharing it, because now they have to coordinate their schedules and work around each others' time to complete homework and study for assignments.
Another practice, known as "bundling," or packaging a textbook with CDs and passcodes that get lost or expire, also makes textbooks more expensive to obtain. This leaves students often having to pay for a CD that they may not need to use for their class. This increases textbook expenses for students.
The Public Interest Research Group has found textbook costs to typically be comparable to 26% of tuition at state universities and 72% of tuition at community colleges, according to the Chronicle.
These types of expenditures create a situation that is unsustainable for the average student. The end result is that many students find themselves having to share a book with a classmate and split the cost, or not get the book at all. Some professors will allow students to continue to use older editions of textbooks, but that is not always the case.
Students should not have to go without a textbook due to lack of affordability. Our public universities, in concert with the government entities that provide funding for them, must look for ways to make textbooks more affordable for students.