During August, just before the start of the new school term, we reported on LibraryPirate, a site with a mission of providing college students with an alternative to continuously rising textbook prices. Bemoaning what he sees as greedy profiteering, LibraryPirate’s admin says the year-old site’s aim is clear.
“Our mission is simple and specific,” he told TorrentFreak. “To revolutionize the digital e-textbook industry and change it permanently.”
Now the site is stepping up its assault against “textbook monopolists” by offering a brand new service to not only reduce the costs of digital textbook rentals, but to turn that temporary access to an educational necessity into permanent ownership.
The initiative the site is running is called “Hire-a-Pirate” and the publishers aren’t going to like it one bit. Many students, on the other hand, won’t share their view. This is how it works.
First, the student lets LibraryPirate know the title of the book they’re looking for. Then, site staff locate the product on eTextbook rental services and advise the student of the current rental price. An example shown to us was a book costing $200, but with a time-limited digital rental copy also available at $118.50.
Participating students are then asked to purchase a gift certificate from the official seller for the full amount ($118.50 in our example) and send the gift code to LibraryPirate. Site staff then rent the book on the student’s behalf.
“After a little bit of this and a little of that, we strip the DRM from the PDF and contact the user letting them know the book is ready via torrent,” says LP’s admin. “The student can now carry the textbook with them anywhere for as long as they want, allowing the PDF to be easily read on any device.”
The idea is that not only does a rental copy get turned into the unrestricted real thing, but students can choose to split the cost of obtaining a book between friends – 10 friends contributing means just $11.85 each. For future students, however, the cost of obtaining the same book reduces to zero.
“Every textbook purchased through the Hire-a-Pirate program will be added to the LibraryPirate torrent database. If you do not have time to scan books, this is an excellent way to help the cause and save money at the same time,” adds LP.
However, for those who have hard copies already, the time to take a few photographs and a desire to share, LibraryPirate have just released a new tool to make eBook creation a lot more simple.
LPBR is a piece of software created by LP member RiddleRiot which turns any digital camera into “a lean mean textbook scanning machine.”
After placing the book on a black background and photographing its pages, a couple of clicks later and an eBook comes out the other end.
“LPBR will crop, sharpen and re-size the entire folder of camera scan images into one easily readable PDF book,” says TP’s admin. “It’s so easy to scan a textbook now, even a college student can do it. During our testing, we were able to scan and convert one 500 page book in under 2 hours.”
Of course, with both the Rent-a-Pirate service and the LPBR software, what we’re looking at here is copyright infringement, but LP’s admin insists that since students are being abused by a broken education system that leaves them no other option than to spend ridiculous sums of money on textbooks, there is only “one path to moral high ground.”
The “private theft of education” must be combated, he concludes, and that can only come about by striking the monopolies where it counts – in their pocketbooks.
So, is ripping DRM from textbooks and sharing them for the purposes of gaining an education more morally acceptable than doing the same with movies, music and games? Or is it just an elaborate excuse to frame copyright infringement in a righteous manner?
What comes first, the rights of the publishers or the need for a fairer system towards educational enlightenment?
It’s an interesting point for debate, and one we encourage in the comment section below.