Look around the web and you can find plenty of pirated music. Movies, too. Textbooks?

It seems some students who are angry at the high cost of books are scanning the material in their texts and posting it online for others to download.

Compared with music publishers, textbook publishers have been relatively protected from piracy by the considerable trouble entailed in digitizing a printed textbook. Converting the roughly 1,300 pages of “Organic Chemistry” into a digital file requires much more time than ripping a CD.

Time flies, however, if you’re having a good time plotting righteous revenge, and students seem angrier than ever before about the price of textbooks. More students are choosing used books over new; sales of a new edition plunge as soon as used copies are available, in the semester following introduction; and publishers raise prices and shorten intervals between revisions to try to recoup the loss of revenue – and the demand for used books goes up all the more.

At more than $200 for a new copy of the organic chem book (starting at $110 for a used copy), I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the publishers.

Selling an electronic version wrapped in DRM for half price doesn’t seem much better.

I remember paying a similar high price for my college calculus book. Although to be fair, it could also double as a booster seat. :-)

But I wonder. Is the content of one text for a basic college course really that much different than another? I know there are very few differences between most high school books.

Sounds like a good application for open source.