Faculty Selling Desk Copies—The Textbook Industry, the Law and the Ethics

Journal of Academic Ethics 9 (1):19-31 (2011)
It is a guilty secret that many college professors sell the complimentary desk copies that they receive from textbook publishers for cash. This article attempts to shed light on the undercover practice by looking at the resale of complimentary textbooks by faculty from four perspectives. Part One provides an overview of the college textbook industry, the business reasons that motivate publishers to provide complimentary desk copies to faculty, and the economic consequences of the entry of the textbooks into the used book market. Part Two examines the legal characteristics of complimentary desk copies in terms of their ownership and any contractual duties that may arise from their receipt. Part Three looks at legislative efforts to curb the practice, and Part Four reviews university policies addressing the issue. In Part Five, the ethical implications of faculty selling desk copies are examined, with a special focus on this practice in a business school. The Conclusion considers the future of the sale of complimentary copies in light of the move to e-books and other initiatives by authors and textbook publishers to circumvent the practice
Keywords Complimentary textbooks  Desk copies  Academic ethics  Faculty  e-books
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DOI 10.1007/s10805-011-9128-1
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