Author Topic: Libraries are unethical  (Read 7583 times)

diapasoun

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #50 on: April 17, 2018, 03:06:50 PM »
If people are up in arms about libraries being unethical, how about rental centers, car rental places, etc.?  How is it fair that somebody gets to buy post-hole digger or a Ford pick-up truck and rent it out over and over again?  Not only are they depriving manufacturers of repeated sales of these items, but unlike libraries, they are making a profit off them?

I'm using this from now on if anyone ever talks smack about libraries in front of me. (And if this doesn't work, well, I know who to avoid thenceforth.)

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #51 on: April 17, 2018, 06:44:55 PM »
But I don't want to lose you, diapasoun!

I would consider things like profit margin per product, repeat sales, and the massive free advertising in having that Camry driven all over hither and yon year after year.

Prairie Stash

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #52 on: April 19, 2018, 09:38:35 AM »
When it comes to reading, there's more than one way to consume. I'm delving into this a bit as I put my niece and niece-in-law through part of their college degrees. You don't always have to pay top dollar for brand-new textbooks because although new editions come out every few years, buying used books and paying to rent textbooks are also viable options. The latter two options are still pricy, but how often is there really a need to buy and hold especially with eBooks available?

I understand wanting to own a book I'll read regularly or use as a reference and mark up with highlighted sections. Highlighting a book is going to destroy or consume some of its resale value. So will reading in the bathtub or carting the book around in a backpack. But if a person consumes less of the textbook-- suppose they only read it without highlighting it or cracking the spine-- shouldn't it make sense to be able to resell it? We buy and sell used houses and used cars all the time.

Unfortunately, textbook publishers have invented ways to get around the used book market.  In the sciences and social sciences, students increasingly are being told they must use textbooks that come with access codes that get them online access.  It's almost the same price to buy the text plus the code and the code alone.  All the homework sets, quizzes and other supplemental materials are done online.  The codes are single user and expire in a year or a term, depending on the course. 

Faculty like them because they are easy for the faculty.  The quizzes and homework basically grade themselves.  If you are teaching a large lecture course, that's a huge time savings.  Of course, it's a huge disservice to the students to require them to shell out for these things.

They might be easy, but the multiple choice answers aren't always correct and you get zero feedback when you notify the publisher. I'm not talking about questions where there's more than one plausible answer, I'm talking about something basic like omitting part of a ruler's name (specifically the II or III) so that the "correct" answer refers not to the person who actually won a key battle or instated a significant policy change but to his father or grandfather.

I'm not a fan of mandatory online components of courses that aren't marketed as such. If I want to sign up for an online or hybrid course, then that's what I do. Marketing a course as being in-person and then requiring extensive online activity as part of the grade is dishonest. But to my thinking that's just an example of the large scale laziness I see in post-secondary education overall.

Forcing students to purchase computers and bandwidth and consume overpriced and inaccurate rehashings of the text in online format is only possible when the instructors are complicit. It's possible to conduct an entire course *without* a textbook at all. I've seen it done.
At my alma mater (canada), no one is "forced" to buy a textbook. They are strong armed but no one is ever forced. The library, acording to policy is required to keep copies of every book on reserve. To accomodate the digital age, they also have to provide access to the online portion or provide the equivalent. As most professors are too lazy to replicate online quizzes, they'll provide an access code pretty quick. At least, that's how I got free access to paid subscription services. Most of the professors were surprised when confronted, no one reads univeristy policy in detail.

I post this reply every time this comes up. My hope is someone out there also gets free access. Its part of the solution, I think its wrong to charge students after they already pay tuition for a course. All fees should be provided prior to my sign up, after I start a class there shouldn't be anything else to pay for.

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #53 on: April 19, 2018, 09:51:25 AM »
Mine (Canada) required me to pay up to $190 per course for the text books. However, the teachers told students we would have to spend up to $400. They said if you didn’t, you could be docked marks. The teachers and the admin staff didn’t know that the uni’s own website presented options to reduce the costs or to get some required things (e.g., Office365) free. I read the options, sought those out, was still told these weren’t options, pointed to the uni website, was still told it “couldn’t be the case”. My goodness!

I don’t know how many students are paying full price, course after course, term after term, but I don’t. (Technically I pay nothing and actually make money, but I also reduce those “text costs” by up to $210 per course.)

RetiredAt63

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #54 on: April 19, 2018, 01:02:39 PM »
Mine (Canada) required me to pay up to $190 per course for the text books. However, the teachers told students we would have to spend up to $400. They said if you didn’t, you could be docked marks. The teachers and the admin staff didn’t know that the uni’s own website presented options to reduce the costs or to get some required things (e.g., Office365) free. I read the options, sought those out, was still told these weren’t options, pointed to the uni website, was still told it “couldn’t be the case”. My goodness!

I don’t know how many students are paying full price, course after course, term after term, but I don’t. (Technically I pay nothing and actually make money, but I also reduce those “text costs” by up to $210 per course.)

Wow!  These online things were just starting when I left CEGEP teaching.  In my department we used to sit with a bunch of textbooks for a course and figure out which gave best value for money.  We knew our students didn't have deep pockets.  And I never had an issue with a student using the previous edition.  I would tell them, first day of class, if there were disadvantages (all the diagrams are renumbered, so the one in your book is not going to match the number I say, some really good new stuff is in the newest edition, etc.)  Once we had a textbook we liked, we only changed it if a different one was definitely superior, so that older editions could be used.

Really, in introductory courses there are lots of potential good texts.  In my area of science the costs went up astronomically once the specialty courses started, just because there were so few texts for them.  And usually they are expensive to print, lots of visuals, plus lower sales so fixed costs were being paid out of a smaller sales number.

All these years into retirement, there are some texts that are still in my home library, they will be let go when I am dead and gone.  They are just that good.

GuitarStv

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #55 on: April 19, 2018, 01:28:38 PM »
Mine (Canada) required me to pay up to $190 per course for the text books. However, the teachers told students we would have to spend up to $400. They said if you didn’t, you could be docked marks. The teachers and the admin staff didn’t know that the uni’s own website presented options to reduce the costs or to get some required things (e.g., Office365) free. I read the options, sought those out, was still told these weren’t options, pointed to the uni website, was still told it “couldn’t be the case”. My goodness!

I don’t know how many students are paying full price, course after course, term after term, but I don’t. (Technically I pay nothing and actually make money, but I also reduce those “text costs” by up to $210 per course.)

Wow!  These online things were just starting when I left CEGEP teaching.  In my department we used to sit with a bunch of textbooks for a course and figure out which gave best value for money.  We knew our students didn't have deep pockets.  And I never had an issue with a student using the previous edition.  I would tell them, first day of class, if there were disadvantages (all the diagrams are renumbered, so the one in your book is not going to match the number I say, some really good new stuff is in the newest edition, etc.)  Once we had a textbook we liked, we only changed it if a different one was definitely superior, so that older editions could be used.

Really, in introductory courses there are lots of potential good texts.  In my area of science the costs went up astronomically once the specialty courses started, just because there were so few texts for them.  And usually they are expensive to print, lots of visuals, plus lower sales so fixed costs were being paid out of a smaller sales number.

All these years into retirement, there are some texts that are still in my home library, they will be let go when I am dead and gone.  They are just that good.

I had a professor who wrote his own textbook every year, then required that all engineering students buy a copy.  Each year he changed the numbers around in all the examples to make it harder to use a book from the previous year.  It seemed like a pretty dickish way to pad out your income.

I'm currently using some old university engineering textbooks to prop up the front wheel on my bike when it sits in the bike trainer.  They're just that good.  :P

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #56 on: April 19, 2018, 02:20:38 PM »
Mine (Canada) required me to pay up to $190 per course for the text books. However, the teachers told students we would have to spend up to $400. They said if you didn’t, you could be docked marks. The teachers and the admin staff didn’t know that the uni’s own website presented options to reduce the costs or to get some required things (e.g., Office365) free. I read the options, sought those out, was still told these weren’t options, pointed to the uni website, was still told it “couldn’t be the case”. My goodness!

I don’t know how many students are paying full price, course after course, term after term, but I don’t. (Technically I pay nothing and actually make money, but I also reduce those “text costs” by up to $210 per course.)

Wow!  These online things were just starting when I left CEGEP teaching.  In my department we used to sit with a bunch of textbooks for a course and figure out which gave best value for money.  We knew our students didn't have deep pockets.  And I never had an issue with a student using the previous edition.  I would tell them, first day of class, if there were disadvantages (all the diagrams are renumbered, so the one in your book is not going to match the number I say, some really good new stuff is in the newest edition, etc.)  Once we had a textbook we liked, we only changed it if a different one was definitely superior, so that older editions could be used.

Really, in introductory courses there are lots of potential good texts.  In my area of science the costs went up astronomically once the specialty courses started, just because there were so few texts for them.  And usually they are expensive to print, lots of visuals, plus lower sales so fixed costs were being paid out of a smaller sales number.

All these years into retirement, there are some texts that are still in my home library, they will be let go when I am dead and gone.  They are just that good.

I had a professor who wrote his own textbook every year, then required that all engineering students buy a copy.  Each year he changed the numbers around in all the examples to make it harder to use a book from the previous year.  It seemed like a pretty dickish way to pad out your income.

I'm currently using some old university engineering textbooks to prop up the front wheel on my bike when it sits in the bike trainer.  They're just that good.  :P

I kept an old signal processing textbook that contained only one paragraph on CDMA, asserting that it was unlikely to ever be financially viable or implemented on a large scale due to the bandwidth and processing power required. I kept the book just because of that paragraph, and showed it around to friends for grins and giggles. It was just that good. ;D

robartsd

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #57 on: April 19, 2018, 02:37:30 PM »
At University I worked for the school bookstore during finals week and between terms processing used books bought back from students. School bookstores are very conservative in deciding how many used texts to offer because they have to eat the surplus, but they can stock plenty of new texts because publishers will take back unsold copies. In the case of some paperbacks the unsold copies were destroyed and only the covers needed to be returned for a refund.

Instructors can have a impact on the overall cost of textbooks. Sometimes instructors were late re-adopting a book for the next term. Books that were not adopted for a course at the time the bookstore bought it back from students were purchased based on wholesale used book prices rather than the higher price the bookstore paid for books it could sell at retail. On the other hand, one instructor saved students a lot of money by specifically requesting an old edition of a text because he deemed it better than the newer editions. This only stopped because the bookstore stopped letting the instructor specify the book when they could no longer reliably source it from used book wholesalers.

Courses that were only offered once a year also caused inefficiencies: students would sell back at wholesale, the bookstore would sell to wholesalers, then the bookstore had few (if any) used copies available the next time the course came around.

diapasoun

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #58 on: April 19, 2018, 03:10:58 PM »
But I don't want to lose you, diapasoun!

I would consider things like profit margin per product, repeat sales, and the massive free advertising in having that Camry driven all over hither and yon year after year.

Yeah, that's probably the actual place to go if the car rental comparison falls through. ;)

Tbh I'm so used to being surrounded by readers, academics, and general supporters-of-libraries that running across someone who thinks libraries are unethical is like finding horseradish ice cream made from the milk of space whales in my local Safeway.

Rural

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #59 on: April 19, 2018, 06:19:10 PM »
Mine (Canada) required me to pay up to $190 per course for the text books. However, the teachers told students we would have to spend up to $400. They said if you didn’t, you could be docked marks. The teachers and the admin staff didn’t know that the uni’s own website presented options to reduce the costs or to get some required things (e.g., Office365) free. I read the options, sought those out, was still told these weren’t options, pointed to the uni website, was still told it “couldn’t be the case”. My goodness!

I don’t know how many students are paying full price, course after course, term after term, but I don’t. (Technically I pay nothing and actually make money, but I also reduce those “text costs” by up to $210 per course.)

Wow!  These online things were just starting when I left CEGEP teaching.  In my department we used to sit with a bunch of textbooks for a course and figure out which gave best value for money.  We knew our students didn't have deep pockets.  And I never had an issue with a student using the previous edition.  I would tell them, first day of class, if there were disadvantages (all the diagrams are renumbered, so the one in your book is not going to match the number I say, some really good new stuff is in the newest edition, etc.)  Once we had a textbook we liked, we only changed it if a different one was definitely superior, so that older editions could be used.

Really, in introductory courses there are lots of potential good texts.  In my area of science the costs went up astronomically once the specialty courses started, just because there were so few texts for them.  And usually they are expensive to print, lots of visuals, plus lower sales so fixed costs were being paid out of a smaller sales number.

All these years into retirement, there are some texts that are still in my home library, they will be let go when I am dead and gone.  They are just that good.

I had a professor who wrote his own textbook every year, then required that all engineering students buy a copy.  Each year he changed the numbers around in all the examples to make it harder to use a book from the previous year.  It seemed like a pretty dickish way to pad out your income.



These days most universities have policies against requiring your own textbook (or in some cases require jumping through hoops to demonstrate its industry standard or similar). Unless the faculty member has written an open-access textbook or otherwise offers it for free. I have written Creative Commons licensed texts for the two highest-enrollment classes I teach now, and I write my own online practices or use free options.


The publishers are a real problem and a lot of the bookstores collude. More and more I’m finding it’s best to go around them completely.

teen persuasion

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #60 on: April 20, 2018, 08:09:01 AM »
Mine (Canada) required me to pay up to $190 per course for the text books. However, the teachers told students we would have to spend up to $400. They said if you didn’t, you could be docked marks. The teachers and the admin staff didn’t know that the uni’s own website presented options to reduce the costs or to get some required things (e.g., Office365) free. I read the options, sought those out, was still told these weren’t options, pointed to the uni website, was still told it “couldn’t be the case”. My goodness!

I don’t know how many students are paying full price, course after course, term after term, but I don’t. (Technically I pay nothing and actually make money, but I also reduce those “text costs” by up to $210 per course.)

Wow!  These online things were just starting when I left CEGEP teaching.  In my department we used to sit with a bunch of textbooks for a course and figure out which gave best value for money.  We knew our students didn't have deep pockets.  And I never had an issue with a student using the previous edition.  I would tell them, first day of class, if there were disadvantages (all the diagrams are renumbered, so the one in your book is not going to match the number I say, some really good new stuff is in the newest edition, etc.)  Once we had a textbook we liked, we only changed it if a different one was definitely superior, so that older editions could be used.

Really, in introductory courses there are lots of potential good texts.  In my area of science the costs went up astronomically once the specialty courses started, just because there were so few texts for them.  And usually they are expensive to print, lots of visuals, plus lower sales so fixed costs were being paid out of a smaller sales number.

All these years into retirement, there are some texts that are still in my home library, they will be let go when I am dead and gone.  They are just that good.

I had a professor who wrote his own textbook every year, then required that all engineering students buy a copy.  Each year he changed the numbers around in all the examples to make it harder to use a book from the previous year.  It seemed like a pretty dickish way to pad out your income.



These days most universities have policies against requiring your own textbook (or in some cases require jumping through hoops to demonstrate its industry standard or similar). Unless the faculty member has written an open-access textbook or otherwise offers it for free. I have written Creative Commons licensed texts for the two highest-enrollment classes I teach now, and I write my own online practices or use free options.


The publishers are a real problem and a lot of the bookstores collude. More and more I’m finding it’s best to go around them completely.
It's funny, I remember one gen ed professor whose book was the text for his class.  It was a cheap little paperback, so no one really minded paying for that one (vs the major course texts that cost 50x as much).  Since everyone took this course, it should have been easy to get used copies basically for free, but the professor did an end run around the bookstore.  First day of class he walked in with a box of books and collected $3.95 from each of us.

Dicey

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #61 on: April 22, 2018, 12:21:49 AM »
Well, I said I'd be back, and here I am, finally. I've been busy all week getting ready for our library's quarterly book sale. Setup starts the Sunday before, and we continue sorting all week. The Friends' pre-sale is on Friday night, the public sale on Saturday, take-down on Sunday morning. Leftovers picked up by another charity on Monday or Tuesday. It's a ton of work to make just under $3k per quarter, but that's what we do. The money pays for programs and extra hours. Everything we sell is donated. The books get a second life, the library gets money for programs and materials. How is this not a win-win all the way around?

Edited for wonky spacing.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2018, 09:26:48 PM by Dicey »

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #62 on: April 22, 2018, 09:13:55 AM »
A used book sale is a win all around. A single purchase of thousands of hours of someone’s work, usually at steep discount,, with perpetual unroyaltied loans, not so much. That this can easily be repaired and still isn’t, is of equal concern.

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #63 on: April 22, 2018, 09:29:02 AM »

Even accounting for the fact that my library system has something like 15 branches, it seems like an awful lot of books to purchase. What happens to them once the hype dies down? Is there some sort of bulk pricing going on?

Yes we get a discount (differs by publisher). The new Comey book is $29.99 and I paid $16.73 for it, plus a few bucks for shelf-ready processing and cataloging. You can lease bestsellers. We don't. We aim for no more than 10:1 ratio for holds:copies. We start withdrawing when there are more than two on the shelf. Then we sell them in the bookstore for .50 or $1.

If you are reading this and you are a librarian/demand forecaster/supply chain analyst/statistician/software developer/other mathematically-inclined person looking to maybe do good in the world there are open source software projects looking to help with this. That is, help libraries be as efficient as possible with their dollars.
A fun (dated) example: sometimes people will put a hold on the DVD, the HD-DVD, the Blue-Ray, and the VHS copy of a new movie all at once. They don't actually care which one they get (that much) and as soon as they get one, they'll ignore all the others (and maybe drop the other holds or maybe not). Can we use knowledge of this phenomenon + math to do better than the "10:1" rule for this item, saving library $$?

robartsd

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #64 on: April 23, 2018, 08:39:19 AM »
The purpose of copyright (at least in the United States) is "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." The first US copyright law gave authors the right to 14 years of exclusive use (extendable for a second 14 year term). Authors had to register in order to receive copyright protection. Over the past two centuries the author's rights have been expanded in spite of the lack of evidence that the previous exclusive rights of authors were inadequate to provide incentive to create new works. Now authors are automatically granted copyright for life + 50 years and someone circumventing copy protection for purposes deemed "fair use" under copyright law can still be pressed with criminal charges under the DCMA. Libraries have been providing free access to their collections of copyrighted works the entire time. I don't see how anyone could seriously view libraries as unethical in the context of history.

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #65 on: April 23, 2018, 08:56:39 AM »
The purpose of copyright (at least in the United States) is "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." The first US copyright law gave authors the right to 14 years of exclusive use (extendable for a second 14 year term). Authors had to register in order to receive copyright protection. Over the past two centuries the author's rights have been expanded in spite of the lack of evidence that the previous exclusive rights of authors were inadequate to provide incentive to create new works. Now authors are automatically granted copyright for life + 50 years and someone circumventing copy protection for purposes deemed "fair use" under copyright law can still be pressed with criminal charges under the DCMA. Libraries have been providing free access to their collections of copyrighted works the entire time. I don't see how anyone could seriously view libraries as unethical in the context of history.

Next you'll be telling me that more than 50 years after his death, the creativity of Walt Disney wouldn't be hindered by allowing unlicensed drawings of Mickey Mouse.  Crazy ideas.

robartsd

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #66 on: April 23, 2018, 09:28:33 AM »
Next you'll be telling me that more than 50 years after his death, the creativity of Walt Disney wouldn't be hindered by allowing unlicensed drawings of Mickey Mouse.  Crazy ideas.
Mickey is protected by trademark. Trademark is perpetual so long as it is in use and defended. While particular Mickey Mouse films might fall into public domain and be free to distribute, creating a new work involving Mickey would still be prohibited as long as the Walt Disney company continues to use Mickey Mouse as a trademark.

partgypsy

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #67 on: April 23, 2018, 10:33:48 AM »
The libraries-are-unethical viewpoint is so tone-deaf classist, I'm disgusted. There is no way my parents or I could have afforded the vast number of books I consumed as a child - should I have been cut off from knowledge because I was poor?

they are probably the same people using free radio on their computer, and borrowing friends's dvds or downloading/streaming stuff of the internet.

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: Libraries are unethical
« Reply #68 on: April 23, 2018, 11:55:06 AM »
they are probably the same people using free radio on their computer, and borrowing friends's dvds or downloading/streaming stuff of the internet.

Or they’re the same people who’ve woken to the issue and have become keen supporters of Patreon and GoFundMe, started sending money directly to nonbestseller authors whose work they’ve benefited from, developed a system to actively promote those works, are making donations to developers of free software, are cheerfully paying for their own Spotify and Netflix accounts versus adding themselves to a neighbour’s...