My post “File Sharers Swap Scholarly Materials Too” has been the most read item on this blog. People seem to really like that theme so I’ll explore it a bit more. Often when we talk about Open Access, Institutional Repositories, the Publishing Crisis, or similar topics it tends to be very esoteric. There is a lot of rhetoric, debate, and models that honestly I think only accountants and lawyers can get excited about. I’m not so sure that the average faculty member really cares about the economics of the publishing industry or a court’s interpretation of fair use. We’ll save that for another day.
What I’m really interested in is how all this stuff applies to the world outside of libraries. I found it fascinating that The Pirate Bay had some (expensive) academic materials and not just Jay-Z tracks or episodes of LOST. So, what if there was a site designed to collect academic materials? Or, if students designed their own reserves system, what might it look like?
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of ads and facebook fan pages for CourseHero. This isn’t new site, in fact, The Kept-Up Academic Librarian alerted us to this emerging trend nearly a year ago. But what exactly might one find inside?
First off, you have to admire their confidence: “Over 93% of our users report they maintain or raise their GPA after subscribing to Course Hero.” And they don’t hide what they have to offer: Homework Solutions, Test Answers, Lecture Notes, and Exams. Hmmm, I wonder who owns the copyright to all that stuff?
In order to become a member you have two options: pay or participate. I have to admit, this is an intriguing and ingenious model. If you want access to the material then you have to upload content. Everyone helps everyone else! Plus they can charge people for other people's content.
Or, you can pay a fee. It works out to about $83 for a year… cheaper than most textbooks.
Let’s take a look at what’s inside:
Textbooks anyone? Actually, they didn't link to these titles, but instead to related materials:
This is false advertising because students are going to think they can pay $100 and get all these textbooks. The supplemental material might be useful, but I'm pretty sure access to the text is a key point of interest.
That said, there are some textbooks, but not many.
What about articles? Not many actually. They probably do a decent job of weeding those out. But some did turn up, like this one from the Harvard Business Review:
Lecture notes are the bread and butter. Tons of that stuff. Most of it comes right from what the prof gives out-- handouts, powerpoint slides, practice tests, etc.
And a few odd things:
And oh yeah... term papers, how could I forget!
That's it for now. Next week I’ll toss out some things to think about regarding this service and provide a little more context about what they offer and how it is arranged. Perhaps there is something that libraries could learn in terms of site design? I'll also test out their "homework help" experts and see how well they respond to a typical reference question or two. They have to be better than those jokers at KGB.