E-books: A question of pricing or property?

Kate Galloway: James Cook University

In a recent post on the Volokh Conspiracy, it was reported that law professors in the US were rebelling against a text book publisher’s new pricing policy.

Under the new approach, dubbed CasebookConnect, students must return the casebook after the class ends. Students receive access to a digital copy of the casebook available from AspenLaw’s website, but they must return the physical book. Meanwhile, students pay full cost, as the price of CasebookConnect is the same as the traditional price of a new physical book.

Doubtless the publisher has sufficient property rights over the casebook to license its use in whatever way it sees fit. On this basis, the protest would surely be one of the pricing of the text. For ‘full price’ of a physical book, the buyer normally expects a greater range of rights, including perhaps, lending and selling second hand.

Is it possible though that the protest reveals a deeper problem that lies in the very nature of the property in the casebook (copyright)? The relevant parties in this equation would be the author, the publisher and the (student) purchaser. Perhaps in a broader sense (of academic publishing) this may also be a question of dissemination of knowledge ie a public interest argument.

Whose interests does copyright – a form of property – support? Does is facilitate or stand in the way of justice?



2 thoughts on “E-books: A question of pricing or property?

    1. katgall Post author

      Sure, that’s a fair comment. Justice for the author in rewarding their efforts; for consumers in pricing according to what they are ‘getting’ in the purchase – or… for the publisher? Indications are that even making e-books available for free will improve sales. This puts a new slant on ‘piracy’.


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