TorrentFreak’s at it again (my new, favorite EduBlog) and this time an article by Enigmax, Textbook Torrents has closed shop just three months after it found itself in the spotlight thanks in part to Jeffrey Young’s Chronicle article “Textbook Piracy Grows Online, Prompting a Counterattack From Publishers.” In fact, the site immediately was taken offline by its web host (Dreamhost) on July 5th (four days after the article was written), but re-emerged a month later. This time it seems this particular site is done for good.
But, it’s closing begs the question of whether or not the hydra effect will come into play. This site has been shut down, but will three more re-emerge in its stead? The demand for a “service” like Torrent Textbooks is undeniable:
January 2007 saw the birth of TextBook Torrents, a relatively small site initially, offering a BitTorrent tracker dedicated to the indexing of textbooks. In 6 months the site had accumulated 10,000 members. Just 3 months later, the number of users had doubled to 20,000 and by January 2008 the membership doubled again to an impressive 40,000. By the end of June 2008, almost 70,000 members were registered at TextBook Torrents and more and more people were becoming aware of its existence.
And all of this based on a technology that for many is still considered “technically difficult” (which it is ever increasingly simple), and these numbers represent the amount of users a month before the site was picked up by The Chronicle, SlashDot, and several other mainstream media outlets. So, in little over a year and a half a relatively unknown site sees exponential growth with 70,000 members. What might this forecast for the future of textbooks? All too often we have focused the P2P conversations around the music and movie industries, but I think this recent development frames a huge question to the textbook publishing industry: Do you follow the lead of the MPAA and RIAA (read Dodo Bird) and persecute your consumer? Or do you start to re-think your product on some fundamental levels? Moreover, do you finally start to take the Open Content movement seriously? For there can be no question that its audience is growing exponentially given that people are finally getting fed up with being robbed by the exorbitant prices of textbooks (and the economic climate will only expedite this process). And, finally, what would it mean for the publishers to consider the implications of open content?