WEEKEND | Who needs Tyco?

A young man came into the narrow print shop with a 300-page book in his hand.

“How much does it cost for you to copy it for me?” he said. “I’ll pick it up in the afternoon.”

After punching some numbers into a calculator, the shop owner asked for 30 RMB (around $4.57) and tossed the book onto a pile of volumes waiting to be xeroxed and bound.

Such a transaction would be illegal in the United States, where copyright laws are more strictly enforced, but it is a common sight at Chinese universities. Print shops, which copy everything from economic textbooks to English novels, dot Peking University’s campus.

Lax regulation translates into super cheap textbooks. Instead of ordering “Law and Economics” for over $100 on Amazon, you can get it copied for 60 RMB ($9.13). Throw in a little more and you can get your book bound with a card stock cover.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to Tyco again.


  • ll394

    Tyco’s ridiculously high prices aren’t only due to copyright regulations (after all, Tyco’s not paying the author of articles that were used in course packs for every copy that it produces). It’s, in my opinion, largely due to monopoly and the culture of course packs being so expensive.

    I studied abroad at a private university in France last semester, and the course packs — about the same thickness as the average CP from Tyco — cost between 1 – 6 euros. The university printed them and sold them to students at production cost. When asked (by a certain shocked American student) why the course packs were so cheap, the guy working at the counter said: “well, it’s just….photocopied paper.”