Thursday, June 13, 2024

Illegal textbook downloads increase as prices on the rise

Between 2002 and 2012, the price of college textbooks increased 82 percent, according to a 2013 report by the United States General Accountability Office.

In response to the rising costs, college students have turned to the Internet to ease their financial burdens, downloading their required texts electronically for free or at dramatically lower prices.

Plattsburgh State students are no different.

Though the College Store, located in Saranac Hall, offers most of the texts required by each professor, many students have resorted to either ordering their books online through outlets like or Amazon, or finding the files online.

According to a Washington Post article, the process is simple enough: a student enters the name of the text into whatever site they choose to download from — TextbookRevolution, for example, is more popular for math and science texts, while sites like Freebookspot are better for the humanities.

From there, students can select which .pdf file they would like to download, and then the process is virtually complete.

However, students can run into problems including incomplete file downloads or running the risk of getting a computer virus, depending on the website they choose.

PSUC student Lynden Davies, an English major, said he could understand why people would take to the Internet to find the books they needed for class.

“I haven’t bought a physical book for school in years,” Davies said. “A lot of the books I need for my classes are novels, so I either borrow them or just get them on my Kindle because the wireless books are so much cheaper.”

The difficulty students run into, Davies said, is dishing out large sums of money for class texts that are not even part of their major requirements.

“I can’t remember exactly how much it was, but I spent almost $200 on a book for my statistics class,” he said.

Val Sullivan,  a criminal justice major at PSUC, said she agreed.

“I’ve had to pay over $100 for books that I’ve wound up not even using or needing to buy because sometimes the professors change their syllabus when the semester begins,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said her most expensive textbook was a book for a psychology class that cost her $176 just to rent for the semester.

“It’s getting harder to justify spending that kind of money every single semester,” she said.

While the piracy of any copyrighted work is illegal, many colleges and universities, including PSUC, do not have any clear regulations to prevent students from continuing to download.

Many larger textbook companies, including Pearson and Macmillan, have created a forum on their website to allow the public to report hosting sites for the illegal files.

As long as textbook prices remain high, Sullivan said she doesn’t think students will stop downloading books anytime soon.

“Times are tight, and we have to prioritize,” she said.

Email Maggie McVey at


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