August 13, 2007

Giving It Back to the Goblins

by PG

Two bits of Harry Potter geekery:
1) Instead of getting the bigbox discount like a normal American, I went to an independent children's bookstore that carried the British edition at twice the Amazon price, because I couldn't stand to miss any of Hagrid's accent (Scottish dialect gets toned down in the U.S. version).
2) The goblins' attitude toward stuff they make and sell to humans -- that the creation fundamentally belongs to the creator and is on loan to the buyer only for his lifetime -- reminded me of intellectual property and the licensing thereof. You don't own that software or song, you can't give it to someone else; you're merely paying to borrow it from the utlimate owner, the person (or corporation) who made it.

Speaking of licensing, Michael Granof has an idea about how to keep textbook prices down without putting textbook publishers out of business. As I look forward to another semester of $100 textbooks and $50 course packets, the idea of a $15 licensing fee sounds pretty good. However, Granof doesn't address whether students get to keep information for future use after paying that fee, or if they would have to pay it over and over in order to maintain access. If I want to hang onto my fed courts book for future reference, how much will that cost me?

August 13, 2007 12:58 AM | TrackBack

"Granof doesn't address whether students get to keep information for future use after paying that fee"

They don't. As Granoff says, you have the option of buying a hardcopy, at what would hopefully be a lower price than the current prices. If you just get the license, it goes away at the end of the term.

This sort of thing has been proposed several times over the past decade and a half, and been implemented in various forms at some schools. See for example

I recall one of the first dental schools to do this had the DVD for $3000; the textbook package for the four years was $3600. Theoretically, the student got a permanent license for the DVD, but since it was tied to a particular Mac laptop, I'm not sure how it worked in practice.

Posted by: panthan at August 14, 2007 10:32 AM
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