LIS 855: Reading Journal Week 5

Reading list:

  1. Russell Complete Copyright: pg. 209-211: “CONFU (The Conference on Fair Use) Guidelines for E-Reserves” pg. 193-199: “The Model Policy Concerning College and University Photocopying for Classroom, Research and Library Reserve Use (1982)”
  2. Linda Neyer “Copyright and Fair Use: Electronic Reserves” Chapter 2 in Handbook of Electronic and Digital Acquisitions Editor Thomas W. Leonhardt. Binghamton NY: Hayworth Press, 2006.
  3. ARL Bimonthly Report 232, Electronic Reserves and Fair Use
  4. Publishers Weekly (Mar 15, 2010) Both Sides Angle For Victory in E-reserve Case.
  5. *American Association of University Publishers complaint against Georgia State University
  6. *Expert Report of Kenneth D. Crews June 1, 2009.
  7. Sanford G. Thatcher (2010) “From the University Presses – Georgia State and (Un)Fair Use: A Rebuttal to Kenneth CrewsAgainst the Grain, Vol.22, No 1.

Recommended readings:

  • Russell, Case summary: Basic Books, Inc. v Kinkos Graphics Corp 758 F. Supp 1522 (SDNY 1991) pg. 216
  • Chris Fleg Newswire Opinion: Libraries Clash with Harvard Business Publishing on Deep-Linking (8/31/2009) Library Journal.
  • Thomas Gould, Tomas A. Lipinski, and Elizabeth Buchanan, Copyright Policies and the Deciphering of Fair Use in the Creation of Reserves at Major University Libraries, 32 JOURNAL OF ACADEMIC LIBRARIANSHIP 182 (2005) (182-197).

Does anyone out here besides me miss the days of printed course packs?  Ahhh, those snappy comb bindings, ubiquitous-shades-of-day-glo covers, but best of all, the fact that they cost $5 to $15 each and about 15 minutes of my time total to retrieve from the student print center?!?!  Sorry to yell, but honestly folks, after reading all of this week’s articles and realizing the amount of time and energy that has gone into the whole e-reserves brouhaha, I really want to know: who thought that going completely eeeeee was what we needed?

Okay so I should probably reflect on the readings a bit before going on my rant.  Basically I liked Thatcher’s argument.  Granted that, yes, he was a director of a university press, so he comes from that perspective, but what he said made a lot of sense to me.  Academia is a university press’s main market, and why can’t we just license e-reserves the way we do course packs?  (Except with that “solution,” many of us students, on top of paying a fee for the e-reserves, would still have to spend the time and money printing out the electronic documents…grrrr….)

Currently, printing on the UW-Madison campus costs $0.07 per single-sided page for black and white printing.  E-reserves readings I have encountered for courses have ranged from 40 to 80 pages a week (in addition to readings from texts we purchase, which still constitute the majority of the syllabus), which is $2.80 to $5.60 per week.  Multiply that by 15 weeks (a regular semester is 16 but usually there’s no readings assigned for exam week), and that’s $42 to $84 per semester PER COURSE.  And how much time does it take me to print out the readings?  Depends on whether I print them all out at once or do it per week.  The times I’ve done it in one sitting, it’s taken me 1 to 2 hours, and then I have to staple/hole-punch them all.  If I do it each week, I have to go to the library, find a computer, find all my readings, open/download them, figure out how to orient them in the printer settings so they print correctly, add money to my print card, print them, staple them, hole-punch them.  Oh, I don’t know, easily a half hour to 45 minutes of my time.  Per week.  Of course, I would print out all my readings at the beginning of the semester whenever I could, except with the convenience of e-reserves, many professors I know don’t bother to have all the readings posted by the start of the semester.  They have the first few weeks up, but then there’s readings from later weeks that aren’t up yet because they figure we don’t need them yet.  So there goes the time-saving idea.

Contrary to this, course packs cost $5 to $15 per course and take me all of 15 minutes — okay, maybe half an hour if the student print center is far away — to go over and get them.  And you know what?  When professors use print course packs, they actually have to think about how many pages of reading they’re assigning, which may lead to felicitous considerations along the lines of: “am I assigning too much reading?”  It costs even more than printing on campus to maintain and print from a home printer, so printing from home is not an option either.

I’ve trained myself to read from a screen so that I can spend less money printing out articles, but that means that the amount of time I spend looking at a screen is currently at about 45 hours a week.  I have a few carefully chosen ergonomic toys (they cost a tidy sum, too) to make this experience less physically debilitating, but nonetheless, I notice incredible difference in my overall physique on Saturdays when I don’t use the computer at all.

Can I say this?  E-reserves is not a god-send for student, quite the opposite in fact.  At least for text-based documents.  I’m much more favourably inclined towards streaming audio.

Someone, for crying out loud, explain to me why we’re not continuing to use course packs.  When I’m a bona fide librarian, can I try to make course packs cool again?  Maybe if the bookstore starts selling cool hipster course pack “skins” (like iPod skins, y’know?) they’ll become a fashion statement.

It’s not even like e-reserves the way we do them make the readings more accessible for students with learning or physical disabilities.  The PDF scans are generally not OCR-enabled so they cannot be read by screen readers.  And even if that were the excuse to do e-reserves, I would lobby for having the kind of student hourly work that I did for a semester in undergrad.  I worked for the Office of Disability Services at Oberlin College, which hired me at about $7.50/hr to record myself reading a course text aloud for another student who had difficulty reading.  I was taking the same course, so the time I spent reading out loud was not wasted and actually helped me process the information better myself, and I actually happened to meet the student once for whom I was recording.  She told me she liked my light British accent (which I still had at the time), that it helped keep her awake!  The fact that I remember this encounter probably tells you something about what that compliment meant to me.

Anyway, end rant.  I have suffered e-reserves for years now, making do, but reading about all the energy that has gone into defending libraries/universities’ right to use/abuse e-reserves, I really am not convinced that it’s worth it.  Does anyone know why we made the transition from printed course packs?  Was it actually a considered shift, or did the digital technology just seem like the next cool thing?  Librarians and professors, have you asked your students if they prefer e-reserves to course packs?

I also liked what Thatcher quoted Georgia Harper saying in response to James Boyle about fair use.  The “if you don’t use it, you lose it” mantra can definitely be carried too far.  The non-profit, educational purpose of use as a fair use factor can be too liberally interpreted.  I expect education to be low-cost, but not necessarily free.  Somewhere, I know I am paying for things even when they are “free,” either through taxes or increased retail prices or something else.  Somewhere the balance is struck, and I think if we are not willing to negotiate where we have the power to be at the table, then we will pay without the power to negotiate terms somewhere else.

Does that sound too pragmatic?

I’m not sure.

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