Cheap Reading Has High Price in Long Run

To the editors:

Perhaps Noam B. Katz ’04 shouldn’t be waiting until the night before the lecture to request his course materials from library reserves. If he had made his fair use copies earlier, I am sure he could find a time when he wouldn’t have to duke it out with his fellow students. He expects someone to go through the trouble and expense of creating a custom text and then set up a copier for him to use to copy it for free—and make 50 originals available so that there would be no lines, no waiting. Who does he think would pay for this convenience, which he considers his “right”?

Ironically, Katz’s illicit copying raises the price for the honest buyers of coursepacks, since the more people who buy them the cheaper they get—there are fixed costs that get spread over more copies. How expensive does Katz think his honest-to-God textbooks would cost if they were produced for a print run of 100? Why does he think textbooks cost more than bestsellers?

His right to read cheaply is alive and well—it’s called the library. I suspect, however, that if they started a courier service that delivered library materials to his room, Katz would probably complain that he had to tip.

Anne E. Risgin

Winchester, Mass.

Feb. 19, 2002

The writer is a former copyright researcher for BookTech.