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peaches0171667 karma

Good questions.

Follett had a few angles, none of which have much merit:

They could try the Copyright angle, arguing that our plugin constitutes copyright infringement by creating an unauthorized adaptation of their page. That said, we're opt-in, so while we are modifying the web page, we're only doing so with the end-users permission. Additionally, we’re not manipulating information or blocking the ability to use any/all aspects of the site if the end user so desires.

They could also try the Terms of Service angle, saying that we're knowingly equipping their users to breach the TOS by using scrapers, data-extractors, etc. That said, we never directly interact with any bookstore website, we merely supplement information provided by the end-users local browser. As such, we think that they could theoretically go after the individual student, but they probably would never bother.

In searching for precedent, we looked at AdBlock heavily, and also at price-comparison plugins like Honey.

peaches0171465 karma

Thanks so much for telling your friends!

The e-mails that Follett weren't unprofessional or personally threatening, but they were clearly intended to intimidate us into quickly complying and removing the plugin without doing our research.

They effectively asked us to remove the plugin, stating that they'd "need to involve their legal team" if we didn't comply. A few days later, they told us that "we will have to take legal action" [if we don't remove it by the deadline]. We never responded to their e-mails, largely because we needed more time to do our research and confirm that we are allowed to do this.

Edit: Removed e-mail screenshots.

EDIT2: Hijacking my own top-reply to mention that we just got an email from someone at the EFF. This is super exciting and is exactly the type of support we might soon need.

peaches017752 karma

The sentiment makes complete sense, plain and simple. And you're part of a growing trend of students that are pirating their textbooks.

That said, publishers and bookstores are going to continue re-doubling their efforts to make that increasingly difficult. Whether it's custom editions or one-time access codes for required supplementary materials, there probably won't be complete coverage using that method.

Our goal is to provide the maximum amount of information, giving you all legitimate outlets to find the books that were assigned. Whether it's from another student, using an older/international version, or an open-source / digital alternative, our goal is to give you the complete view to make an informed choice.

That said, I understand your position and I think it's clearly a consequence of the insanely spiraling prices. Just recognize that you're (partially) contributing to a positive feedback loop: fewer students buying? raise the prices!

peaches017721 karma

1) Confirm that you actually need the book. You can talk with professors, upperclassmen, TAs, etc., and figure out whether you'll actually be using the book.

2) Try to find a free version of that book. Whether it's from your campus library, a local college, or any other source, you'll obviously save money by being creative. OpenStax College and some other open-source initiatives also provide a growing number of free alternatives.

3) Determine whether an older version and/or an international version will suffice. If it's approved by a TA or professor, you can usually get a great deal by going with one of these alternatives.

4) If you decide that you must purchase the book, try to buy the book from a fellow student. Buyback services offer notoriously shameful prices, so they'll be super eager to sell their book at a fair price (and give you a deal). Facebook Groups are probably the most commonly-used manner of accomplishing this at this point.

5) Finally, if you must buy the assigned book, compare prices from services like Amazon, Chegg, ValoreBooks, BookByte, Biblio, etc. Use a price-aggregator (such as Texts.com), or one of the many-other awesome services, IE Book.ly, CampusBooks, BigWords, SlugBooks, etc. Doing so should highlight the best possible deals.

Definitely DO NOT default to simply going to the campus bookstore. Though they will very-occasionally have the best price on a book (IE a commonly-used paperback frequently assigned), you'll very rarely get the best deal for an expensive hardcover textbook.

Hope that helps!

peaches017694 karma

George, just seeing this!

Thanks so much for chiming in. I had previously connected with Ryan, and am a Pasadena native - so I feel connected to you guys in a few ways.

I look forward to connecting with you guys - will shoot off an e-mail now.