After a month of downtime, TextBook Torrents makes its return, right on time, as the first semester starts in just a few weeks. The BitTorrent tracker, dedicated to sharing knowledge in the form of textbooks, was pulled offline by Dreamhost early July because the hosting company received a takedown request.
The Textbook Torrents tracker is considered to be the largest library of textbooks on BitTorrent. The site had been flying under the radar for quite some time but this changed a month ago. On July 1st, The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story on the site, which was picked up by Slashdot and later the LA Times blog.
All this attention led to thousands of new visitors to the tracker, but the publicity also had a downside. Geekman, the administrator of Textbook Torrents told TorrentFreak that their host, xlHost, and their domain registrar, Dreamhost, both received a takedown request a few days after all the press coverage. “We received a DMCA notice from Pearson Education a week or so prior, which we complied with, but it was a group of publishers that contacted our host,” he told us.
Although the tracker was pretty popular, with around 20,000 peers trading files at any given point in time, Geekman said he had never received takedown notices from big publishers before. “We had a couple of emails from individuals before, but nothing from organizations. One was an editor complaining about being cheated out of his 10Â¢ per copy commission.”
On July 5th Dreamhost suspended Geekman’s account, and despite his many efforts to contact them, they simply didn’t respond to his inquiries. It took more than a week before he was allowed to transfer the domain. Now, more than a month after the site went down, Textbook Torrents returns, and it’s not planning to go away anytime soon.
Geekman plans to focus on making the site’s resources redundant, to reduce vulnerability and to make sure the site remains online. In addition he will work on the legal issues and improve the privacy of the site’s users. One of the most drastic changes is the decision to stop the logging of IP-addresses, which means that the site will stop ratio tracking. Making the tracker public will ensure the privacy of the users, in case the server is compromised.
“I want to see the textbook industry change such that we are no longer needed,” Geekman says when we ask him about his main motivation to bring the site back, while mentioning cheap books and responsible business practices as examples of positive change.
He doesn’t think publishers should give away their books –even though some authors profit from doing so– but he does think most books are too expensive. “The companies may be corrupt, but they have a right to make money. They can’t be expected to give their material away for free. After all, there is a significant amount of work involved in the production of a textbook. We need a middle ground,” he says.
“I’m not naive enough to say that if something can be distributed in a digital form it should be free but there needs to be some adaptation here,” Geekman added. For now, however, all the publishers see is a threat to their revenue stream, as Allan Ryan of Harvard Business Publishing put it: “We have been fairly vigorous in monitoring these sites and in requesting that they take down our copyrighted content.”
They sure have something to monitor now, as Textbook Torrents has made its return…because you still can’t torrent beer. Currently, the site can only be accessed directly via the IP-address, however, the domain should be working again shortly.