Textbook Publishers Now Fight Piracy With Seals of Approval
Publishers have been raising textbook prices for so many decades and have driven the price of textbooks so high that they have created a profitable opportunity for counterfeiters.
There’s serious money in pirating textbooks and then underselling the legitimate copies, but rather than lower prices and eliminate the opportunity, publishers are instead suing alleged sellers of pirated textbooks and pushing to replace textbook sales with digital licenses. Now textbook publishers are experimenting with seals of authenticity that integrate QR-codes
Textbooks from Cengage Learning and McGraw-Hill Education will this fall begin to feature a certification seal that, when scanned with a smartphone app, will help readers verify that the books came from the publishers and not from a counterfeiter.
The certification seal is the latest effort by textbook publishers to stanch losses in the print market. The textbook industry in general is contracting — Cengage estimates it declined by 14 percent in 2016 — and piracy is one of several reasons why. According to Cengage’s numbers, piracy costs the company between $70 million and $100 million a year.
Michael E. Hansen, chief executive officer of Cengage, said in an interview that counterfeit books have become a much more widespread issue in the last two years.
“What changed is just the amount of counterfeits in the market has spiked over the last 18 to 24 months,” Hansen said. “The more we started to dig in and do test purchases, the more we came across, in some cases, a staggering number of counterfeits in certain marketplaces.”
Hansen declined to name specific marketplaces but described them as “not very heavily policed or regulated marketplaces” where anyone can buy or sell products. He compared the issue to the problems with counterfeit goods seen in the athletic and luxury apparel markets.
Cengage’s certification seal will appear on the cover of all of Cengage’s print books. Scanning the seal’s QR code sends readers to an authentication website where, by matching the design of the book in their hands to Cengage’s catalog, they can confirm that the book is legitimate. If the design doesn’t match, readers can report the counterfeit.
McGraw-Hill Education is planning to introduce similar seals, called Prooftags, to all its future print titles as well, Tyler Reed, the company’s director of communications, said in an email. He declined to say how much the company loses from piracy.
You can see two of the seals of authenticity below:
So apparently the publishers are expecting students to check the textbook they bought online to see if the book is legit rather than a pirated copy?
And these are the same students who have taken a financial hit because textbook publishers release new editions every other year?
Yeah, that’s going to go over well.
First and foremost, this effort is going to fail as soon as the pirates figure out that one, they can tell the buyer that their copy lacks the seal because it is either an old copy or an international edition, or two, how to copy the seal.
Perhaps they will copy the seal so well that no one will be able to tell the difference, but the smarter move would be to direct students to a fake website that pretends to authenticate the book, passing it with flying colors.
But even if the counterfeiters don’t figure out out how to outsmart the publishers, this effort will still crash and burn.
It operates under the assumption that students will care enough about whether a textbook was counterfeit to bother checking online.
Students have more important things to do, so that just isn’t going to happen.
So this effort is bound to fail, but really, what other choice did they have?
Textbook publishers have priced themselves out of the market. Students are figuring out how to do without textbooks, using free online sources, or open source textbooks, and as a result the textbook industry is dying.
Oh, they’ll use the word "contracting", but Cengage estimated the industry declined by 14% in 2016.
And that is a problem for the textbooks publishers because they are all invested in the exiting system, and don’t dare kick over the traces. they would rather fight the inevitable and continue to hold on to what little they have lft rather than face the new reality.
that sounds awfully familiar; where have we seen that before, do you know?