While the dollar continues to be stretched by consumers hoping to cover the increasing cost of necessary goods, illegally posted textbooks are being found online as an alternative to purchasing four-month lifespan books.
Supplementary textbook sales for courses at Temple this semester have dropped compared to last year’s figures, according to the Temple University Press.
Supplementary textbooks are those often recommended, but not required by professors for a better understanding of the subject.
TUP, which publishes textbooks used around the world, has seen a 15 percent decrease in sales this fall.
This decline is only evident in textbooks’ sales, and not in publications such as monographs, general interest and regional books.
Alex Holzman, director of TUP, said the sustained decrease in sales could have long-term negative effects on its publishing program.
“Lower revenues could create serious financial issues for the Press and eventually force us to publish fewer books,” said Holzman, who is also the president of the Association of American University Presses.
Students can access textbooks from Web sites such as Half.com. The site legally offers many textbooks in a range of conditions needed by students with discounts up to and more than 90 percent.
“If we see our material offered on Web sites without our permission we can send a cease-and-desist requesting that it be taken down,” Holzman said. We would do this in consultation with the university attorney’s office.”
Vinny Santoro, an undeclared sophomore, estimates he has already spent nearly $300 by ordering his books early on the Internet, before he knew some of his required textbooks were available illegally online.
“My professor told us about it, he encouraged it then said to supplement the missing pages by going to the library and photocopying the missing one or two pages from the full text,” Santoro said.
Santorno was able to find four books that were nearly full versions through a Google search. The search requests titles, authors and publication year.
“Just make sure [you know] what the actual cover looks like. Click on it, and you can scroll through just about every page,” Santorno said.
Jim Hanley, general manager for Main Campus bookstores, said his locations have not seen any significant decline in sales.
“We’re flat to last year if you compare this semester to Fall 2007. Our textbook sales have held up fine,” Hanley said.
Hanley said he hasn’t heard anything about textbooks being scanned and uploaded online, but understands the reasoning.
“It’s the same reason music or movies get posted online. An author who puts his blood, sweat and tears into his work won’t stand for it being stolen though,” Hanley said.
While Holzman said online piracy will force the publishing industry to offer legal online versions of textbooks, Hanley expects a swifter ruling from publishers.
“They are going to go after these people eventually. It is copyright infringement. Publishers will band together to take these sites down,” Hanley said.
Freshman education major Molly Levine said she spent approximately $300 on 11 books among the Main Campus Bookstore, Half.com and Zavelle Bookstore.
“I figured this could happen but I didn’t know people were actually doing it. I would use it though because it’s just cheaper and easier,” Levine said.
Holzman said the decrease in sales for TUP is not directly linked to the illegal Internet postings.
He said today’s current economy is a main culprit to the problem, as it has caused professors to encourage the use of online materials because students are forced to pay more with less.
“I believe university presses are being particularly hard-hit because it’s easier to do without a supplementary book,” Holzman said. “[A supplementary book] is one of several in any given course [rather] than a core textbook that forms the basis of the entire syllabus.”
Greg Adomaitis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.