We think that if you're taking more than a few blocks of text from each book, you should ask for permission. Even if you make a fair use argument (as they tried to do in this case), you probably can't afford to battle your way through a federal appeal. Also, keep in mind that publishers have aggressively pursued coursepack makers, sometimes to set an example, and sometimes to recover a half-million dollars. If there's a chance that publishers will learn of your use, if you're affiliated with a business or educational institution, or if you're going to seek a publisher, you should definitely seek permission.
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