Letters to the Editor

Professor's Patent Sees Business Model With Access Codes

September 23, 2012

To the Editor:

Publishers are seeking a business model that allows survival in a world of rampant piracy, a nimble used-book market, and now, rentals through Amazon.com ("With 'Access Codes,' Textbook Pricing Gets More Complicated Than Ever," The Chronicle, September 3).

Access codes for e-textbooks are a solution, but students still prefer paper. So publishers are developing digital supplements. However, professors can adopt the textbook as a required reading without adopting any supplementary material. Financial collapse still looms.

An alternative exists. The publisher can convert textbook titles into a trademarked series and require a license whenever the professor cites the title in a syllabus. The license, free of charge, would stipulate that participation in a discussion board be a graded component of the course. The access code then becomes an unavoidable component of any course that uses a textbook.

The above business model is explicit in U.S. Patent No. 8,195,571, granted on June 5, 2012: "Web-based system and method to capture and distribute royalties for access to copyrighted academic texts by preventing unauthorized access to discussion boards associated with copyrighted academic texts." The patent foresees a "50-50 split of the net royalty income between the owner of the invention and the other beneficiaries whose activities enhance academic freedom through the defense of the institution of tenure and job stability."

Such fairness should resonate with assiduous readers of The Chronicle. A dozen pages back in the same issue, one finds "Faculty-Review Proposal at Saint Louis U. Would 'Eviscerate Tenure,' AAUP Says."

Joseph Henry Vogel

Professor of Economics

University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras

San Juan, P.R.

The writer is the inventor of the system described in the patent.