The problem with selling PDFs on The Cannon.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Written by Chris Carr


We’ve had a recent string of our users try to sell PDF copies of their textbooks. The logic is understandably sound: if you buy the PDF, it should land under the same re-distribution laws as any physical textbook. However, it is The Cannon’s stance to not abide the selling or buying of electronic materials. So, how come?

The official stance comes from a lack of information concerning the initial purchase of the text in question. Simply, with a textbook, it must be bought, someplace, sometime, so the proceeds of that book has at sometime gone to the authors and the publishers. When you buy a physical textbook, you are also buying rights to privately own the material inside and if you choose to sell that copy, it’s fine because the author has already been paid for that copy.

The problem with PDF versions of textbooks is that it is nearly impossible to trace the transaction. It could have been downloaded illegally and therefore the privatization rights that any legal owner would hold, are close-to-impossible to properly investigate. 

Physical textbooks rarely come from the trunk of a car, they aren’t copied in physical form the same way a PDF easily can be. Imagine some plucky student pumping out copied PDFs dozens at a time, selling them on The Cannon. While lucrative for the student, The Cannon quickly becomes an accessory to piracy.

And that’s not good for anybody.

Since we do not have the ability to check to licensing agreements on all PDFs that come into our classifieds, we have to inhibit the distribution. If you do have any questions about what you can sell on the classifieds at The Cannon, we do have a better practices write-up to consider. But, a general rule is: no notes, tests, or digital copies.

Hope this helps, and thanks for using The Cannon.


--The Cannon Staff

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