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Challenges Arise with Printing Textbooks

On Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, the entire student body, faculty, and administration received the admonitory and slightly comical email entitled, “Printing Textbooks” that has since sparked debate and raised many questions across campus. 

Sent by Library Director Pam McQuesten, the email described that over the course of the last few weeks, some students have chosen to print their entire textbooks on the communal printers in Morse Library instead of purchasing them. “Making a copy of a textbook in this way creates several problems,” McQuestern wrote. “[Printing the textbook] violates copyright law…it takes hours…and the parts of the printer often break.” She also attached an image depicting the numerous stacks of paper one such print job created when a student decided to print over 1400 pages of their textbook, Fundamentals of Physics

As for student library staff like Nick Mezin’20, the printing fiasco has created more unnecessary annoyance than anything else. “I think people are taking advantage of our unlimited printing,” commented Mezin. “These textbooks tend to be hundreds of pages long and back up the printer for hours. I have had to unjam the same printing job three or four times…You can’t cancel a print job while it’s in progress.” Not only does it seem that these students are abusing the college’s new policy to no longer charge for printing, but they are also seemingly ignoring the impact their decisions have upon fellow students and faculty. “I’ve never actually seen anybody who is printing [textbooks] out because every time it happens, the person who did it just leaves–vanishes,” added Mezin. “I think the vast majority of people are being respectful about it and the new policy has helped out many people on campus. For people who print posters and advertise events, [the unlimited printing] is hugely beneficial.”

For others, McQuestern’s email appeared very unexpectedly and raised many questions. “At first I thought it was a joke,” commented freshman, Hanna Wolf ’23. “[The warning email] was really passive-aggressive and I liked it!” As a freshman, she explained that she had never heard of someone taking advantage of a printing policy like this before. “Whoever [the student] was that printed an entire physics textbook, you are bold,” Wolf added. 

Although it can be assumed that the students who have been printing textbooks are seeking alternative solutions to avoid out-right purchasing their assigned books, the college and Turtle Creek Bookstore offer many financial aid opportunities that would alleviate the cost for students while allowing others to enjoy the privilege of free printing. According to McQuestern’s email, if individuals continue printing their textbooks, administrative actions such as reinstating a dollar limit on printing for all students, setting a total page limit for each print job for all students, or billing students for the cost of printing a textbook and then destroying it in accordance with copyright law will be instituted. “We would rather not take any of these actions,” she added. 

“The actions of some have been really unfair to others,” commented Wolf. “This luxury shouldn’t be ruined because of one or two people printing out an entire textbook.”

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