Despite their problematic interface, I like Stat!Ref as a company. Their pricing model has always been fair and their willingness and ability to work with consortiums and different institutional organizational structures has consistently been above par. They have also been in the business of providing access to electronic books for years. At any rate, I was very disappointed when McGraw-Hill decided to stop doing business with Stat!Ref and only provide access to its titles through its own interfaces (primarily at any rate). The news has been a bit confusing because we had “heard” that McGraw-Hill had plans to only offer access to its titles through its own interfaces primarily the Access Medicine interface. netLibrary does have “access” to the newest version of Williams Obstetrics so I’m not sure what the situation is between Stat!Ref and McGraw-Hill. Life used to be so much simpler.
As I was exploring options to get Williams Obstetrics I discovered something quite interesting. (and I apologize to any of the AHEC librarians reading this blog who already read this on our blog), when searching Google for Williams Obstetrics, you get the option of searching for, “williams obstetrics 23rd edition free download” you get taken to many many sites for downloading the full text of this title. Now unless McGraw-Hill posted this content to each of these sites (or authorized its posting) the people who loaded the content to the sites and then those who download it are in violation of copyright law. (and many thanks to Lisa K. for posting her analysis of this to our AHEC librarians blog). My question is, what if McGraw-Hill somehow authorized this book for free download to the http://medicalbooksfree.com/williams-obstetrics-23rd-edition-oct-29-2009 site, why would they on the one hand stop working with Stat!Ref because they were presumably wanting more piece of the library pie, when at the same time placing their content for free download for physicians and medical students. Following along my hypothetical thinking … again IF McGraw-Hill authorized the placement of Williams Obstetrics on this free site, then why would any library serving clinicians and medical students purchase this book, why couldn’t they just point users to this site to download their own copy? Libraries are dropping electronic journals that are available for free with embargo (in some instances) so why wouldn’t they do the same for electronic books? Since librarians take copyright very seriously its a safe bet that we aren’t dropping our book subscriptions because this just isn’t legal.
That argument just doesn’t make any sense at all, why would McGraw-Hill put this brand new edition up for free download by its primary audience while at the same time offering it for sale in electronic format (for the Amazon Kindle) there wouldn’t be any incentive for anyone to purchase electronic formats of this title. Therefore McGraw-Hill would only be making money by selling the print version. Therefore I’m guessing that there is much funny copyright business going on here. The question is when are the publishers going after the free book download sites with the same fervor as the music industry has gone after the college students using Napster and the like.
So what is McGraw-Hill thinking? They stop doing business with a perfectly good company like Stat!Ref, wanting to increase their profit margin, but somehow they’ve opened the gates for free downloading (whether legally or not is another matter entirely). If the downloading is somehow sanctioned…. indeed what are they thinking … if (and more probably likely) the downloading isn’t sanctioned … what is McGraw-Hill doing about it? If I could find access to these titles without even batting an eye it wouldn’t be too much work on their behalf to keep on top of these free download sites (from my simplistic standpoint at any rate).