Guyana Resorts To Buying Pirated Textbooks Because Legal Copies Are Too Expensive [Updated]

from the cost of education dept

The fact that textbooks are too expensive is something that has been documented pretty well here. For example we have the stories of students paying over $180 for an art history book that contains no images, and a student being sued for copyright infringement for selling legally purchased imported textbooks for cheaper than the publishers want. The high cost of textbooks is such a problem that even some governments are taking steps to mitigate that cost.

vmanda sends news that the government of Guyana has begun buying pirated copies of textbooks for its public schools because the publishers charge way too much.

The government of Guyana is making no apologies about the fact that it is buying pirated textbooks for public schools as a cost-saving measure.

Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon says officials are buying pirated books from printing firms and companies that photocopy books because of their high quality and lower prices. Luncheon said the government's move is justified.

Of course the publishers of those books are not too happy. In a statement from Emma House of the Publishers Association, she states that the government is breaking many laws.

The Cabinet’s decision in Guyana to procure pirated textbooks for public schools is an indisputably illegal act. This decision is in contravention of Guyanese law, Caribbean law (CARICOM’s revised Treaty of Chaguaramas) and the international Berne Convention.

Of course, what the PA seems to be overlooking is just why Guyana has chosen to ignore international copyright. It feels that the books are just way too expensive. By insisting on high prices, the publishers who make up that organization have put themselves out of reach of this country. Further, the fact that the government is willing to pay for books from pirate book printers is proof that the publishers could do much more to get Guyana to buy legally. Instead, the publishers have chosen to bully the country into paying out more for books than it can.

This is once again the result of copyright holders refusing to adapt to the marketplace, even a marketplace they have built their business around. These publishers have gotten so used to price gouging their customers that they do not know how to properly respond to someone choosing a cheaper alternative. Because the publishers have blinded themselves from reality, they are failing here. If they were actually willing to learn, they would take a step back and work with the government of Guyana to come up with a pricing plan that would actually work. Of course, that might be too much to ask from some companies.

Update: vmanda has provided an update stating that, at the behest of the Publishers Association, a Guyanese court has granted an injunction against local companies that illegally copy textbooks. This means the the government will no longer be able to buy pirated textbooks for the time being. There is no word yet on the government's response to the injunction.

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Comments on “Guyana Resorts To Buying Pirated Textbooks Because Legal Copies Are Too Expensive [Updated]”

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72 Comments
Ninjasays:

Cue the trolls calling Guyana a bunch of freetards and so for while completely missing the point of the article.

I never bought a book when I was in College. I barely had money to pay for my tuition how could I spend over $1.000 in books? I’m thinking about buying a few books I found relevant for my studies now but heck, $200 for one book that’s around for decades now? Sure you need to update it and stuff but $200?

I sympathize with Guyana Govt. I hope many more start doing that. As I hope many more start breaking medicine patents like Brazil.

Gothenemsays:

Re: Re:

I purchased two textbooks throughout college. I had a friend in the same course ahead of me. I ended up using his books for my classes (minus the two I purchased, because they were new to the course). I simply copied the changes from another student’s books and did that. It worked well for me. When I was done, my friend sold his books and all was well.

The price of textbooks are far too high for the value you are getting. I would recommend a business of renting textbooks. You buy X number of textbooks and then rent them out (with a leaflet of changes) for a low price, that saves students money, and over the course of several semesters, gives you money.

Just a thought. Go Guyana!!!!

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You buy X number of textbooks and then rent them out (with a leaflet of changes) for a low price, that saves students money, and over the course of several semesters, gives you money.

They’re heading this off by making a mandatory online component.

One of the things I learned when I worked at a major university was that textbooks are one of the biggest scams around. RIAA & the MPAA rightfully get a lot of condemnation, but in many ways they’re amateurs compared to textbook publishers.

Ninjasays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

This is not that bad here in Brazil. Yet. You can usually live without buying the books and there’s no mandatory online content like it’s becoming the rule in the US and other developed countries.

I wonder, what made them get so far was the free and wide availability of culture. What are they planning to achieve by locking everything up behind copyright and absurd prices?

Jessesays:

Re: Re:

Just going to point out that the publishers are upset when people import cheap textbooks is because they are cheap from such pricing plans as noted above. So they lower the price for one country and that lowers them for all, thanks to our global economy. And if you keep the prices high, then some countries can’t afford it.

All in all I have no respect for the textbook publishing industry; however, I still think it’s worthwhile to note the catch-22 our author has glossed over.

I feel that reasonable pricing reflective of the marginal cost makes the most sense. Stop inflating the prices and stop with the locking students in to products they don’t want or need.

Chris Brandsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Of course that simply corresponds to the fact that the publishers get to pick and choose from a global market for paper, ink, writers, etc.

They want to be able to buy their supplies from whoever sells for less, globally, but they don’t want to break the market down into small pieces so they can charge “what the market will bear” per country, rather than globally.

I say “pick one” – buy and sell entirely within one country or buy and sell globally, you don’t get to buy globally and prevent arbitrage of your product.

Anonymoussays:

Further, the fact that the government is willing to pay for books from pirate book printers is proof that the publishers could do much more to get Guyana to buy legally. Instead, the publishers have chosen to bully the country into paying out more for books than it can.

Clearly the government of Guyana has the money to pay for the textbooks. Like most freeloaders, they have decided that the price has too high and has chosen to violate the law rather than substitute or do without.

E. Zachary Knightsays:

Re: Re:

Clearly the government of Guyana has the money to pay for the textbooks.

No. They have the money to buy some textbooks, but not at the price the major publishers want the country to pay.

Like most freeloaders, they have decided that the price has too high

No. They have realized that the price being asked far exceeds its ability to pay.

and has chosen to violate the law rather than substitute or do without.

They have decided that educating their children is far more important than giving into the pressure of the monopolies of the textbook industry. They have decided that since they can educate their children at the quality level they want at a far lower cost to the people and the country, they will do so, despite the protests of angry monopolists.

If you had to choose between educating your child or not, which would you choose?

MrWilsonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“If you had to choose between educating your child or not, which would you choose?”

Educating some poor country’s children isn’t an issue for the wealthy publishing companies. The executives and stockholders can educate their children just fine at the Ivy League colleges they send them to, paid for by the price gouging that killed off their market in Guyana.

“No. They have realized that the price being asked far exceeds its ability to pay.”

This is the thing that IP-focused companies don’t understand. As parasites, you can bleed your host dry, but if you do, they’re not going to be a good host anymore. If you price your infinitely reproducible products out of the hands of otherwise legitimate customers, you can’t make any money off of them rather than the amount they’re willing and able to pay. So once again, would they like some money or no money?

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased)says:

Re: Re:

The government of Guyana is held to the laws of U.S. Copyright? If they break some treaty that other government officials were strongarmed into 20 years ago then they must be willing to live with the consequences. I am sure they are on the naughty list now. I have been there. If you buy a soda at the corner store (in bottles) they dump it into a plastic bag and give you a straw. You say they have money they just don’t want to pay it. Well, the publishers could have taken the money they were willing to pay. Now the publisher gets nothing. Somebody else filled in the gap. You realize it would be cheaper to buy every kid a tablet and an internet connection then buy books for the school system. That is why you hate the internet…you don’t have a stranglehold on information nor it’s method of delivery.

Hugues Lamysays:

Why negotiate when you can sue

If they were actually willing to learn, they would take a step back and work with the government of Guyana to come up with a pricing plan that would actually work. Of course, that might be too much to ask from some companies.

These companies don’t negociate. It is much easier to listen at the lawers telling them that they have a case of easy money. They are not working for you, but for their pocket. They get paid win or lose, so for them they want to have conflict between as many people as possible. There’s plently of examples on Techdirt to support this.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Also, the real reason we go into places like Iraq and other places with resources isn’t to use their resources, it’s to stop them from selling their resources and competing with our international cartels. It’s the same thing with the diamond cartels, whenever Russia (or some place) finds another diamond mine the existing cartels buy the land for much less than it’s worth and they only mine it once a month. We complain that about the oil cartels and the need to break them up but the fact is that the only reason we want to control the oil supply is because we would like to sell oil for a much higher price and what we really want to do is to concentrate the oil supply into the hands of a smaller group. The ‘Oil cartels’ that the media blast (ie: Saudi Arabia and others) are seen as competition to U.S. and other international oil companies who want to be the only cartel in town.

So when we go into wars with countries with resources don’t always assume it’s to use their resources, it could very well be to stop the distribution of their resources and to put resourced land into the hands of fewer entities to inflate prices.

(and I know this viewpoint isn’t entirely true, and in fact Iraq is allegedly expected to increase oil production within the next few years, but it’s an alternative viewpoint nonetheless).

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

and, if you think about it, gas prices have gone up since we invaded Iraq. Why? because when fewer entities have a larger influence over the oil supply it’s easier to manipulate prices.

Joel Wing writes

“In fact, the U.S. invasion reduced Iraq’s exports for the next 8 years. It wasn’t until 2011 that export levels reached pre-war numbers.”

http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2011/04/was-iraq-war-about-oil.html

E. Zachary Knightsays:

Re: Re: Still doesn't make it right

they should just go out and buy a counterfeit one

Counterfeit? If they bought a counterfeit power plant, that would imply that it is worthless, meaning it would produce no power or at the very most, inadequate power.

On the book front, they are not buying counterfeit books. They are buying illegally copied books. These books have the exact same content as the more expensive, and consequently unaffordable, legal copies. So Guyana is getting all the benefits at a far cheaper cost.

because knows IS power

Glad to “knows” we don’t have to worry about you gaining too much power.

Chronno S. Triggersays:

Re: Re: Still doesn't make it right

“So if Guyana wanted a nuclear power plant, but couldn’t afford one, but certainly deserves power, they should just go out and buy a counterfeit one? “

Well, the text books are just as good as the legitimate ones. So, to make a proper comparison between these counterfeit books and your hypothetical power plant; it would be like GE charging $100 million for a plant but a counterfeit one that is just as safe and just as efficient is only $30 million. Yeah, I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking that option.

ltlw0lfsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Still doesn't make it right

it would be like GE charging $100 million for a plant but a counterfeit one that is just as safe and just as efficient is only $30 million. Yeah, I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking that option.

Ah, the gray market. I get my best computer hardware from there. And it isn’t illegal, though stupid companies would love to shut it down. The smart companies don’t, as they realize it is better to sell an expensive and a cheap model and take all of the money off the table. The folks with expendable cash flow will buy the expensive one for the name recognition, while the guys who need it cheap will buy the cheaper one. Eventually, they will have enough money to go out and buy the expensive one…Win-Win for the manufacturer.

Ninjasays:

Re: Re:

Actually I think copyright should be there to avoid commercial exploitation. What it should NOT allow is this type of abuse (overpriced books). While I do think the AUTHORS should be compensated (and maybe the publishers for doing the publishing hard work) Guyana did the right thing in the current climate. Hopefully the publishers will get the message and offer reasonable prices. I’m fairly sure the Govt can pay a bit more for legal copies but not a lot more.

TasMotsays:

Didn't anyone else see this great pun in the article?

If they were actually willing to learn, they would take a step back and work with the government of Guyana to come up with a pricing plan that would actually work. Of course, that might be too much to ask from some companies.

Oh come on, these are educational book publishers, are THEY going to learn? Nope, it costs too much………. :)-

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

kickbacks is why.

Possibly, but even though, as you have pointed out, 18th century literature hasn’t changed in the past several years, the academic thinking and interpretations of those works may indeed be an ever-changing thing. I’m not into 18th century literature so I can’t say, but a textbook is more than just a copy of the works. It is also filled with the prevalent academic points of view on those works.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

” shame on the teachers/ professors for always demanding the latest edition textbooks.”

Now you’re just making things up and proving that you have no clue what you’re talking about.

The teachers don’t demand the latest textbooks, I’ve had teachers that allowed students to use the last edition and the edition before. The fault does not lie with the teachers but entirely with the publishers. Most teachers complain about textbook prices and the rate that textbook editions change and about the fact that the changes are insignificant, if you think otherwise you are very very ignorant. Most teachers think it’s a scam.

When the publishers put out a new textbook they discontinue the old one and over time there aren’t enough old textbooks to provide for new students (not to mention textbook quality deteriorates with age as books get resold and resold). This forces schools to buy new textbooks. If we abolish IP then we can very well continue reprinting the old textbooks, especially lower level math books, instead of constantly needing to buy new ones.

Jaysays:

Re: Re:

The United States did the Exact. Same. Thing. In the early years of copyright.

Link

What were the effects of piracy? First, did the American industry suffer from cheaper foreign books being dumped on the domestic market? This does not seem to have been the case. After controlling for the type of work, the cost of the work, and other variables, the prices of American books were lower than prices of foreign books. American book prices may have been lower to reflect lower perceived quality or other factors that caused imperfect substitutability between foreign and local products. As might be expected, prices were not exogenously and arbitrarily fixed, but varied in accordance with a publisher?s estimation of market factors such as the degree of competition and the responsiveness of demand to determinants. The reading public appears to have gained from the lack of copyright, which increased access to the superior products of more developed markets in Europe, and in the long run this likely improved both the demand and supply of domestic science and literature.

The first rule of economics. If you price a product too high, people WILL go elsewhere.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Jay:

“Update: vmanda has provided an update stating that, at the behest of the Publishers Association, a Guyanese court has granted an injunction against local companies that illegally copy textbooks. This means the the government will no longer be able to buy pirated textbooks for the time being. There is no word yet on the government’s response to the injunction.”

Remember: it’s not about the printing. Printing is like the shiny plastic discs that movies and music come on. It’s not about that, it’s about the content. Those that are just printing (and not actually writing) the work will always be cheaper, but it makes perfect sense, you remove the cost of actually producing the work and maintaining it.

Government cronies in Guyana today are sad, the courts have blocked their latest way to siphon money out of the government and into their corrupt hands. Why not look at the real story? It’s not about copyright, it’s about cronyism in that country.

Anonymoussays:

This is despicable. A poor country needs to educate its young people to be able to rise up economically, and this focus on ever richer profits for themselves is making these publishing companies punish the poor countries and disallow them from educating themselves for a reasonable price. Keep up the ridiculousness, as this will only push our societies to reject and denigrate copyright more and more as a greed-fueled farce.

*|EFU|* 50kBTUsays:

The students pay for their greed... Always!

I went to the university from 1989 to 1994. I bet some of the books I bought can be used today, with some exceptions, like auditing or accounting because some acts or laws exist now, like SOX, or advanced biology or chemistry courses.

But take math/algebra, pre-calculus, calculus, history of PR/USA, classical music, maybe thermodynamics, and so many more, I bet they haven’t changed a bit. X^2+2XY+Y^2 while X=3 and Y=2 or the time it takes certain metal component to heat is still the same…

A round of applause for Guyana!

Hak Foosays:

What happens if the legislature just says “Okay, F*** Berne. We’re withdrawing from the whole bloody treaty”?

If you’re Guyana, you’re not exactly a major IP exporter, so there’s little, if any, obvious downside.

It’s a cute game of brinkmanship too– the rich powers can gnash their teeth and storm, but can’t do anything… it would not exactly be marketable to say “We’re sanctioning/invading this poor country to force them to buy expensive books.”

Anonymoussays:

I got mine; F-U

The US was a flat out pirate nation for 101 years. But now that they’re boss, everyone else can DIAF. Postwar South Korea pirated the hell out of US textbooks — until they got all edumacated, and realized hardline copyright and a locked-down internet benefited the existing power structure.

Without getting too academic, the technical term for this paradigm (quite common in contemporary US policymaking) is “I got mine — fuck you.”

Fellowstudent004says:

Older editions

Older editions of textbooks are much cheaper, perfectly legal, and often very similar if not identical to newer editions of said textbooks. I am in college and I never purchase new textbooks because of the absurd cost. However, I can often buy an older edition of the same textbook for less than $10. Perhaps the Guyanese should look into that as an option for cutting costs legally.

Fellowstudent004says:

Older editions

Older editions of textbooks are much cheaper, perfectly legal, and often very similar if not identical to newer editions of said textbooks. I am in college and I never purchase new textbooks because of the absurd cost. However, I can often buy an older edition of the same textbook for less than $10. Perhaps the Guyanese should look into that as an option for cutting costs legally.

Fellowstudent004says:

Older editions

Older editions of textbooks are much cheaper, perfectly legal, and often very similar if not identical to newer editions of said textbooks. I am in college and I never purchase new textbooks because of the absurd cost. However, I can often buy an older edition of the same textbook for less than $10. Perhaps the Guyanese should look into that as an option for cutting costs legally.

Fellowstudent004says:

Older editions

Older editions of textbooks are much cheaper, perfectly legal, and often very similar if not identical to newer editions of said textbooks. I am in college and I never purchase new textbooks because of the absurd cost. However, I can often buy an older edition of the same textbook for less than $10. Perhaps the Guyanese should look into that as an option for cutting costs legally.

bevsays:

I am a Guyanese, i know what is happening here. This is my government that claims it does not have money to buy textbooks for students but it is building a Marriott Hotel, expanding its main airport at a time when the present airport is used only a few hours each day, there is never any back up of flights or overcrowding. The government just hopes that a larger airport will attract more flights. what is the priority for the Guyana government – education of super sized buildings?

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