Student A, who is from the provinces, recently has had a lot of financial worries. He feels sorry for his parents for burdening them with tuition fees, house rental costs, and living expenses. Moreover, textbook costs for this semester are also very expensive. He wandered around the copying stores near the school to look for cheaper copied versions, even though he knew that this is illegal. As he predicted, it is difficult because it is an infringement of the copyrights of textbooks. There are a number of web sites that deal with used books and school community web site where people sell their old books. However, as the supply cannot catch up the explosive demands from other students, he had no choice but to buy new textbooks at the campus bookstore.
The above story is not just limited to student A. Most university students may have experienced this situation at least once. In reality, students are struggling with expensive textbooks every semester.
The Post conducted a survey of Donggukians asking about the textbooks that they have obtained for their lectures in this semester. The survey asked students how much money they spent to buy textbooks. About 16 percent of students answered that they spent less than 50,000 won, 63 percent answered more than 50,000 won and less than 100,000 won. There were about 21 percent of students who answered more than 100,000 won and less than 200,000 won. Another question on the survey asked students how they got their textbooks without buying new ones. About 37 percent of students answered that they got them from their acquaintances, 29 percent of students said that they bought from school community web site or web sites which sell used books. 34 percent even answered that they copied the books and bound them, which is actually illegal.
What is the Big Book?
To lighten the burden of expensive textbooks, a professor of College of Business at Pusan National University, Cho Young-bok, founded the Big Book Movement in 2013. About 30 professors around universities in Korea donated their copyright of their books and made e-books with them. Anyone can download Big Book files from the web site (www.bigbook.or.kr) and use them for free. There are a number of Big Books on the web site. Not only university textbooks like “Introduction to Business Administration,” “Understanding of Statistics,” or “Linear Algebra,” but also a variety of books that are related to liberal arts, social sciences, humanities have been made into Big Books. The total number of Big Books that the web site provides is now more than 200. While running the Big Book Movement, there has been a lot of support from various companies. In November 2013, when the Big Book Movement was about to start in earnest, SK supported the Big Book Movement to make eight Big Books. The project is still ongoing. In 2014, Kyobo made an agreement to make e-books into real books for the best price. Recently, in February of this year, Hyundai Motors Group and the Korea Press Foundation (KPF) also donated their contents to support the making of Big Books.
The goal of Big Book is, first, of course, to reduce the burden of expensive textbooks. As all students can download Portable Document Format (PDF) files through the internet for free, they will not have to spend their money to buy books. Even if a student wants to make online files into real books by printing and binding them, it would only cost a quarter of “original” books. Kwag Seon-hwa, a professor at Pusan National University said, “I am now using my Big Book for my lecture. My students are satisfied with the use of Big Book because it does not cost at all.”
The ultimate goal of the Big Book Movement is to spread recognition of “sharing knowledge” throughout the world. Professor Cho Young-bok said, “The biggest purpose of Big Book is to recreate knowledge by making eternally-recyclable books, not to monopolize one’s experiences.” He added, “Especially, knowledge for basic studies should be considered as the property for all humanity. Textbooks should be open, alive, and sustainable, so that our descendants can easily revise and supplement their new knowledge even far in the future.”
The future of the Big Book Movement
What factors are needed for Big Book Movement to be invigorated around the world? First, more and more professors’ participation are required. Now, 46 professors in Korea are participating in the Big Book Movement. They have donated their copyrights of their books and used them in their lectures. However, as most of professors who are participating in the project specialize in the fields of business administration or economics, the area of Big Book is limited to few specific majors. Professors from various majors should participate in the project to spread it. In addition, the number of professors who use Big Book in their lectures is still limited. In terms of support and initiatives outside the universities, many companies’ financial support is required. Professor Cho said, “To make one Big Book, we need budgets for copyrights and royalties to give them to authors. However, once the Big Book is made, we do not need much money for it because it is easy to copy PDF files unlike paper books. Therefore, the ripple effect of making one Big Book would be much bigger than making paper books.” He emphasized the sustainability of Big Book Movement. “With the care and concern of society, companies, professors, and university students, the Big Book Movement and the knowledge that our generation possesses will be handed down to next generation.”
The key point of the Big Book Movement lies in passing on knowledge. Knowledge is still the most valuable property that we should pass down to our next generation even if its commercial viability is lost. We have a duty to hand our knowledge down to our future generations. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of intellectual properties locked in copyrights. If intellectual property can be separated from the boundaries of copyrights, it will be a great cornerstone to function as a new knowledge, which is a core of Big Book Movement. When scholars from various fields and society’s participation are combined, the Big Book Movement will flourish throughout Korea, and be spread to the world.
Details about Big Book
Q: Why did professors, who are the authors of their books, happen to participate in this project?
A: In case of each edition for university textbooks, publishing companies usually print 2,000 books at once. It takes about two years for the 2,000 copies to be sold out. It means that professors have to wait two years at least even if they want to add new knowledge or information in the book. Therefore, book-shaped textbooks are unavoidable to be turned over in a fast changing society. We have no choice but to introduce a new concept of textbooks, and e-books bring to a conclusion. Usually, textbooks in universities die out with professors’ retirement. It is because active professors do not tend to choose retired professors’ textbooks. However, in case of Big Book, professors who donated their copyright remain as authors even in the next generation. Also, the Big Book Movement gives royalties to professors with the money that individuals and companies donated. Professors not only are able to have economic benefit but also get a chance to influence to many people by leaving their books as alive things.
Q: Why did publishing companies agree on this project?
A: University textbooks have been made into a book type until now and it is a very recent change that e-books were on the rise. Book type textbooks are hard to update new knowledge immediately. Interactive communication between the authors and the readers is almost impossible. Therefore, the market between book type textbooks and Big Book is totally different even if the contents inside the two types of books are the same. Big Books are just complementary goods of book-shaped textbooks, rather competitive goods. While publishing companies are aiming at students who have purchasing power, Big Books are for students without it. In this case, the purchasing power does not only mean economic power. For those who had no choice but to give up on going to universities for various reasons, Big Books need to be provided as a basic information infrastructure.
Q: What are the side effects of the Big Book Movement?
A: First, if this project is run by companies’ donation, there is a possibility that selection standard of Big Books can be invaded by the companies. Second, this project can be neglected by publishing companies, arguing that it hinders scholars’ writing motivation. Third, dichotomy between professors who participate in the project and who do not may occur. Last, students might get used to taking professors’ efforts as granted. The mood of free textbooks can be spread. However, considering that only introductory textbooks are made into Big Books, the loss of publishing companies would be not that big. Also, there still are a lot of students who need to be supported. Lastly, international trends of making free textbooks are unneglectable and it is also one of the reasons that we have to take care of this project. Many states and universities in the U.S. are also making free university textbooks, reducing their price by 80 percent.
Kim You-jeong firstname.lastname@example.org
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