Canadian Students Fed Up With High Cost Of Access To Information (2011)

It’s no secret that copyright materials are expensive.  Although you are most likely aware of the ever-raging problems created by music and video copyright, there is a lesser known battle being waged on our very own University campuses.

Access To Information

With the omnipresence of the Internet, and digital access to information becoming more and more important, dinosaur copyright systems are starting to lose friends in a big way.  The Access Copyright License, used by universities to to allow photocopy of copyrighted materials for class use, will be dropped this coming September by Acadia, New Brunswick, Mount St. Vincent, UPEI, and Windsor. Following this lead, other universities, such as Saskatchewan, Calgary, Queen’s, Waterloo, and Athabasca, will also be dropping their licenses.

“The Internet and new technologies are responsible for much of the change, fueling the emergence of alternative sources for millions of articles and other course materials. For example, more than 70 universities participate in the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, which provides access to thousands of journals for over 900,000 researchers and students.”, wrote Micheal Geist, the Canadian Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, in an article for the Toronto Star, “The network spends tens of millions of dollars annually on site licences, which in turn enables universities to provide full access to the database content without the need for further compensation.”

Textbook Rentals

Adding to this change are new textbook rental programs.  Although consignment and used book stores have been selling used textbooks to students for years, continually updating versions make it difficult for students to procure the most up-to-date copy required by many universities.  Online textbook rental sites, including the new Kindle Textbook Rental program Amazon announced last week may change the way this game is played.  While currently available to the U.S. only, the program could come to Canada quickly if the demand is there and publishers are willing to play ball.

The savings when renting a textbook can be substantial, sometimes up to 80%, which in many cases is more that you can recoup when selling your used edition.  The Kindle Textbook Rental program allows you to rent for anywhere from 30 to 360 days, and you only pay for the time you needed it.  Other online sites are offering different rental programs, but the message here is that students are getting fed up with the outlandish cost they’re required to pay for information.

Peggy Cunningham, Dean of Management at Dalhousie University and author of two of Canada’s top selling textbooks, thinks textbook rental can be a really good idea.  “Hopefully, it doesn’t affect authors’ revenues and we will sell, hopefully, more books, not fewer books, because we’ve had electronic agreements in our contracts for a long time. So if there’s an electronic edition of your book, then your authorship is protected.”  Her books are available to rent at CourseSmart for 60% off their retail value.

What’s your opinion?  Will you rent or buy?