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February 21, 2009



Hello Brian,

I did some research on this subject too. Even more fascinating are the closed (invitation only) p2p-networks like http://www.bitme.org/signup.php or http://www.learnbits.info/signup.php And how about blogs like http://medheaven.blogspot.com/

It's all out there. One way or another...


brian mathews

Thanks for the lead Edwin. If you ever want to compare notes I'm sure I could learn a lot from you. This post is really just the tip of the iceberg, but publishers have to know this. I mean, if they can sue libraries, surely they know that their materials are exposed? I wonder if there are a lot of people disgruntled with the big bully publishers and so they upload content online for the world to see? Just a hunch.

Ken Liss

Hi Brian. I'll refrain from commenting on your legal status if you'll help me remember not to get pulled over for jaywalking in Seattle next month like I did the last time I was there. Have you come across sites like Course Hero (http://coursehero.com)? I looked at it awhile back. It seemed to be not so much textbooks, but lecture notes, study guides, copies of past tests, and other things. There were certainly some things there in violation of copyright and other questions of propriety. But IF students are really using sites like this, shouldn't we as librarians be present, contributing useful content as appropriate and just being where our customers are?


Ken, totally. I think we can learn a lot from studying these technologies and trying to develop systems like these that work-- or find ways to become part of them. Look at ILL, if we had a p2p for libraries that was legit, it could help us exchange materials a lot faster.

Katie Clark

Wow. That is VERY interesting.

Josh W.

Brian, this is really enlightening, thanks. I had heard there was something like this out there but I had no idea of the scope. Definitely something to keep an eye on (also following the Pirate Bay trial) and to think about when you try to gauge user behavior.

BTW, on caffeine: I decided to take myself of soda a few years ago to eliminate my caffeine dependence and cut down on sugar. I was a one-soda-or-coffee-a-day person, not sure if you were more or less. It was a easier than I thought! I indulge once in a while, but it's awesome to not NEED caffeine anymore.

Heeee heee... <- gonna remain confidential ha!

BitTorrent??? Seriousllllyyyy? Wow... no idea they had "legit" things in there like textbooks?1?! How weird is that. I wonder how many textbooks are in there. I wonder - would it be totally uncouth of me to go in and start downloading? I'm kind of a little freaked by the thought of possibly downloading a virus or worm or something but still intrigued enough to try it. I'd downloaded and installed software that hasn't always worked out but it's always amazed me how much seems to be available.

Randy Reichardt

.: I have to say that in no way whatsoever does this news surprise me. Bittorrent = "If you can digitize it or it's already digitized, and you upload it, they will come." Full stop. That scholarly e-books and journals are available via Mininova, Isohunt, Btjunkie, Pirate Bay, etc, is a no-brainer.

Illegal? Sure. Will that stop BT-savvy users from d/l such material if they are so moved? Probably not. But this type of bittorrent upload will never get the level of media coverage that d/l'ing music or movies will. None of us would ever suggest to a user to go this route, however...


Re: whether the publishers know about any of this, Ars had a few posts last year about P2P textbook sharing and it seems like publishers are content with just asking the sites to take down the material:

As a librarian who torrents (but only fictionally, in my head, of course) and is interested in undergrad searching behaviors, this was a great read! Let me know when you publish the paper on the underground market.


This is fascinating but not especially surprising. I'm sure there are those out there who have become so comfortable with p2p that anything new they get that might be worth money gets shared.

I'd say the best thing librarians can do about this phenomenon is just to put a prohibition on using p2p applications in the library but otherwise ignore the issue entirely. I probably wouldn't even put up 'no p2p' signs. After all, if we become too open in our opposition we'll just be giving it more exposure, which means more people will learn about it and go home and try it on their home computers.

Dave Pattern

Another "can of worms" are forums/message boards (many of which are private) where student IDs and institutional logins to e-resources are traded. The majority of the ones I've come across are based in Asia and the Middle East.


I'm surprised that most of you were unaware of this type of information trading. Being a college student I can't always afford the uber priced books that are required for classes. My chemistry class required a $320 USD book. Ouch.

All books, even though they are different, have the same theories and materials in them. Some classes don't require homework to be turned in. Some math classes are a good example. In that case it is easier to download a copy of a few different books and study all of them. You are still just as prepared for quizzes and tests.

For some of us it isn't about copyright but more about the insane cost of textbooks. The International Student edition books were a big hit a few years ago, because of price. It seems publishers have done their best to stop the sale of those inside the US as it is much harder to find them.

More importantly P2P users aren't all just mindless drones looking for the latest Harry Potter movie. There are tons of them out there who want to learn and educate themselves but can not afford school, time or monetary.

These scholarly copyrighted works will slowly be met with Open Knowledge books. There are loads of freely available books which explain many subjects, just not to the extreme detail found in current textbooks.

There are quite a few people who believe that copyright length is way too long. If you can't make enough money off of a work within a short amount of time, ie 20-25 years, then it isn't worth a copyright to begin with.

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