That's all starting to change now that more and more online sites are making the books available to students at discounted prices in direct competition with university bookstores. Naturally, the university bookstores are not happy about loosing what was a near monopoly position for so many years, but the new competition is definitely a good thing for college students and their parents.
University bookstores are going to have to adapt and find ways to compete with the online booksellers. No doubt about it. But at Harvard, the Coop seems to have slipped into panic mode instead of looking for legitimate ways to compete for the business of Harvard students.
Jarret A. Zafran ’09 said he was asked to leave the Coop after writing down the prices of six books required for a junior Social Studies tutorial he hopes to take.Claiming that ISBN identification numbers are "intellectual property" seems to be a bit of a stretch, something that will probably have to be decided by lawyers if the Coop decision is challenged. But even if the Coop's contention about the numbers is shown to be incorrect, I would have to believe that they still can make the business decision not to allow customers to copy the numbers. If Coop management wants to risk the bad publicity and alienation of its customers, that's something they have the right to do.
“I’m a junior and every semester I do the same thing. I go and look up the author and the cost and order the ones that are cheaper online and then go back to the Coop to get the rest,” Zafran said.
“I’m not a rival bookstore, I’m a student with an I.D.,” he added.
Coop President Jerry P. Murphy ’73 said that while there is no Coop policy against individual students copying down book information, “we discourage people who are taking down a lot of notes.”
The apparent new policy could be a response to efforts by Crimsonreading.org—an online database that allows students to find the books they need for each course at discounted prices from several online booksellers—from writing down the ISBN identification numbers for books at the Coop and then using that information for their Web site.
Murphy said the Coop considers that information the Coop’s intellectual property.
Students, on the other hand, have the right to find the best deal on books available to them. Something like this incident is likely to make sure that more Harvard students do that than ever before.