The Incredible Vanishing Book

Many professors will spend countless hours putting together
elaborate and voluminous course packets of photocopies for classroom
use (I used to be one of them). And now, it is more frequent for
technologically minded teachers to file-share large numbers of PDFs
through password protected sites on campus. This is so wrong it hurts.
We are killing our own chances to have readers in the future or be
remunerated for the scholarship we do. It’s not only about the modest
royalties that faculty authors may or may not receive, it’s about the
principle of valuing each other’s scholarship and editorial work. I
order good, attractive and useful paper-and-binding books or textbooks
for my classes because I want there to be a system in place to support
my work as an author and editor in the future.

If the paper and binding book vanishes as a dominant commodity, as
it seems to be, maybe the new virtual system of book distribution,
reproduction and delivery will allay some of the problems I describe in
relation to photocopies and PDFs. It is becoming increasingly easier to
put together affordable ‘readers’ or anthologies culled from existing
print material without bypassing rights and fees and without
overloading students with unnecessary expense. If this wave of the
future takes hold and becomes the new standard in textbook publishing,
I think it will be good for all parties involved. But what about the
paper-and-binding book? — Christopher Conway, Inside Higher Ed