Fighting Back Against Counterfeit Textbooks

September 11, 2017


fighting counterfeit textbooks



The production and sale of counterfeit textbooks represents a growing problem for all of higher education. While these counterfeits cause some very real and immediate challenges from a business standpoint, their long-term effects extend much further. The threat of counterfeit textbooks leaves colleges and universities more vulnerable, encroaches on the work of educators and lessens the quality of instruction for students. To address this threat and help protect campus partners, Barnes & Noble Education recently adopted the Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices, endorsed by publishers Cengage, Elsevier, McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson.


“At Barnes & Noble Education, our mission is to serve the students and faculty at our campuses nationwide,” said Patrick Maloney, President, Barnes & Noble College. “We recognize the importance of protecting the intellectual rights of publishers and authors, and remain steadfast in our ongoing commitment to enforce these rights as we have in the past, now guided by the publishers’ Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices. We look forward to working with our publishing partners to ensure the higher education community has access to authentic, high-quality course materials.”


“By closely collaborating with Barnes & Noble Education and other industry partners in our fight against counterfeit sales, we stand united in our commitment to reduce the negative impact of piracy in the market,” said Michael Hansen, CEO, Cengage. “We will continue to be aggressive in our efforts to protect our intellectual property rights and the rights of our authors so that we can continue to invest in innovation to improve teaching and learning.”


The Creeping Effects of Counterfeit Textbooks

At a foundational level, counterfeit textbooks make it harder for colleges and universities to deliver the highest quality education. A market flooded with counterfeit materials leaves publishers with less incentive to invest in new content and technology to improve learning. In a time of continuous discovery and knowledge creation, it may inhibit access to the newest information available. Encouraging scholarly endeavor and progress, including faculty-authored textbooks and materials, is vital. Counterfeit learning materials can also impact faculty authors, whose works may be pirated – causing them to lose hard-earned royalties. It’s a complaint shared by McGraw-Hill Education CEO, David Levin. “The trade in counterfeits is not a benign one — it is based on the theft of intellectual property, and reduces the incentive to create new and improved educational materials.”


Low-quality counterfeit materials also leave students at a disadvantage. Counterfeit copies are made without proper authorization and can be inferior to the authentic product. They may be missing content such as photos, case studies, end-of-chapter review materials and codes for supplemental online or e-learning materials, depriving students of important resources.


For colleges and universities that operate their own bookstores, counterfeit materials pose an additional threat: an increased risk of liability. In adopting the Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices, Barnes & Noble College, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble Education, offers an extra layer of protection for campus partners against this type of vulnerability — and the only campus bookstore operator to safeguard against it. As a standalone company and, now, a part of Barnes & Noble Education, MBS, the largest contract operator of virtual bookstores for the institutional client market and one of the largest used textbook wholesalers in the U.S., has had systems in place for years to ensure counterfeit textbooks are kept out of its distribution channels, ultimately protecting schools, the integrity of course materials and, faculty authored intellectual property and royalties — something virtual only operators cannot do.


Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices

There are three key actions associated with the Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices: avoid, identify and report. The first, “avoid,” involves learning some of the warning signs and ways to prevent the purchase of counterfeit textbooks. For “identify,” the best practices provide strategies for inspecting textbooks and distinguishing legitimate from counterfeit. Finally, “report” details what to do with suspected counterfeit textbooks and how to work with publishers. By agreeing to implement these best practices, Barnes & Noble College is committed to verifying the sources of textbooks, inspect inventory that has a high risk of being counterfeit and prevent counterfeit materials from contaminating the inventory. Barnes & Noble College also has agreed to share information about counterfeit materials, and their suppliers, with publishers to aid in their enforcement efforts. Taking these steps will help protect intellectual property and rights — and, most importantly, ensure delivery of authentic, high-quality course materials for the higher education community.


“By agreeing to these best practices, Barnes & Noble College is setting a strong example on the right way to combat counterfeit textbooks and piracy,” said Kevin Capitani, President, North America at Pearson. “We will continue to advocate for the integrity of high quality courseware and are pleased to be working with distributors that share that commitment.”


Visit to learn more about the Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices.



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