Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Students given incentive to buy from on-campus bookstore

Students at the American University of Sharjah are not happy with a new university policy that "forces them to pay a Dh1,250 [$340 (but N.B. students at AUS get "international editions" that sell at lower prices than U.S. students pay for the same product)] fee towards textbooks they may only buy at the institution's bookstore." The bookstore is not owned by the university, but it is the only bookstore on campus, and pays a franchise fee to the university.

More, from Gulf News:
[T]he university says the new rule was implemented to discourage infringements on international copyright laws.

"It's a money-stealing scheme," said AUS student Amnah Haddad. "We are forced to pay this money to buy books only from our bookstore, therefore we students cannot buy second- hand books as we used to."

A letter recently sent from the university's Student Accounts Department stated that the rule is an attempt to "abide by international copyright laws which the university must abide by to maintain accreditation".
...
One AUS student commented: "What if I don't want to get books at all? Am I violating copyright laws? What if I want to buy my books online ... [or] exchange books?"
...
AUS chancellor Dr Peter Heath said, "Faculty and, less frequently, students have complained for a number of years about the breaches in academic integrity and international copyright rules that result from significant copying of course materials by students. If we as a university do not seek to enforce these rules, then who will?"
...
Commenting on the shortage of cheaper second-hand books, he said currently there wasn't a large stock of used books because few students in the past have bought new ones. "As a stock of used books grow, we can work with the book store and the student council to develop a plan for how best to make use of them to the advantage of all."
In the UAE it is quite easy to get someone to make a copy of a copyrighted material. This a way for the university to make a good faith effort to enforce international copyright, and the university is right to conclude that accreditors will hold the university responsible for a good faith effort. It will be interesting to see if other UAE universities follow suit.

10 Comments:

Blogger EmiratesMac said...

Sorry, I don't understand this part:
"In the UAE it is quite easy to get someone to make a copy of a copyrighted material. This a way for the university to make a good faith effort to enforce international copyright"

Isn't it easy anywhere in the world for someone to copy most copyrighted material? A student in the US, for example, can just as easily as a student in UAE copy a textbook in a copy machine. No difference...

And how is it a "good faith effort" for the university in terms of enforcing international copyright law?

Seems to me there is plenty of room for questioning the university's reasons for this.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous TDAllonsy said...

Money money money money... that's the only reason. It's not enough they keep raising fees, they have to milk students and effectively parents faster.

I'm not surprised if they do something like that in other universities, under the umbrella of "we're fighting copyright law this way" or because no one's buying the books at the university bookstore. (we would if the prices weren't a daylight robbery) Our uni might do that because no one wants to buy the AED700 book that they'll only use for 2.5 months so the library is stuck with a ton of copies of a book that's not going to get sold.

If this is really about copyright....if they suspect someone of breaching copyright by photocopying an entire book, shouldn't they report it to the authorities here in UAE so they can deal with it? Fail the student in courses, expel, you know the stuff that'll make students weary of doing it. Or even ensure uni staff doesn't close their eyes on photocopied books in class. Yeah, the policies on photocopying copyrighted material is there in most places, but let's get real - who actually enforces them? One of our professors at my old university constantly took away photocopied materials from students and let them off with a warning the first time around, second time around was far more serious. (an F in her class to start with)

Of course they dont want to let people get books elsewhere or buy second hand books from someone else, as that's a business opportunity they're missing themselves. it's all about money. that's the sole reason for why this uni's doing what it is.

11:47 PM  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

EmiratesMac and TDAllonsy,

It's easy relative to the US. You don't have to copy it yourself. It is easy to find of copying company that will make the copy for you at a low cost, and in color with a decent binding -- no questions asked. Indeed, these companies will go to the extent of making several copies of high priced textbooks and selling them like any other sort of merchandise.

Whether it would be easy to police this on campus in some other way is a question that can be debated. I happen not to agree it would be easy for faculty to police. And I don't think the civil authorities do the job as vigorously as international (read U.S.) accreditors expect.

That said, the university authorities could have mixed motives that do involve money. Unlike in the U.S., any unsold books at the AUS on campus bookstore must be purchased by the school which ordered them -- that comes out of the dean's budget. The reason for this policy may be the high cost of shipping books back to the publisher or because publishers will accept returns (even though that's the standard policy in the U.S.). Hence there is a premium on making a close estimate of the number of books to order.

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Mohammed said...

Why sould students not be allowed to sell/buy 2nd hand books?

By forcing them to pay for new books, they are effectively stopping people from buying/selling books once they are done with them.

Also, their bookstore (to my knowledge) doesnt have a 2nd hand books scheme, something which most US universities have.

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Dubai Entrepreneur said...

I'm sorry John, but I strongly disagree with your take on this. While I understand that it is a challenge to come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone involved, taking it out on students feels wrong.

Perhaps if the same on-campus bookstore (or something else setup by the university) would sell 2nd hand books, that would soften the blow a bit?

I also agree with EmiratesMac on the 'easy for UAE students vs. US students'. I went to school in the States.. if I wanted a copy, it was just as easy.. and I would rarely pay anyone anything.

Sorry, I'm not buying your rationale.

9:53 AM  
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3:18 PM  
Blogger A Blessing in Tragedy said...

Isn't it easy anywhere in the world for someone to copy most copyrighted material? A student in the US, for example, can just as easily as a student in UAE copy a textbook in a copy machine. No difference...

We sued to do this all the time in the US, especially if it were a general subject that we were forced to take as a University requirement. Why pay 80, 90, 100 dollars for a text book in biology that I wont use more than once?

Also, we used to buy notes, written by using a recorder, for 30 dollars a class per semester. Seriously.

9:57 PM  
Blogger A Blessing in Tragedy said...

You don't have to copy it yourself. It is easy to find of copying company that will make the copy for you at a low cost, and in color with a decent binding -- no questions asked. Indeed, these companies will go to the extent of making several copies of high priced textbooks and selling them like any other sort of merchandise.

Again, We used to buy COLOR BINDED copies for 19, 29, or 39 dollars depending on the book from a copyer not 2 miles from campus. Whats yoru point?

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Dubai Entrepreneur said...

I think what John is saying is probably that the university and professors, etc. would not find it normal to have illegal copies of books and other studying material in the US.

I think ABIT and I are saying the same thing, seeing that we both studied in the US.. you are grossly underestimating how common practice this is.. in the US or elsewhere.

Maybe it's been a long time since you were a student yourself. When you're tight on budget and you had just spent your book money on keg parties.. you will find other ways to get the material :)

10:21 AM  
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12:38 PM  

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