Commercial eTextbooks Generally Cannot Be Added to Library Collections
As we approach the fall 2020 semester, Library staff are working hard to provide alternative access to the print course materials collection, which remains closed to circulation. A significant portion of the course materials are print copies of required textbooks, on which many students have come to rely for their readings. To support instructors and students over the coming months, we are developing new approaches to how we acquire course textbooks to ensure that students have access, even in a primarily online environment.
Unfortunately, student access is hampered by textbook publishers who do not provide electronic purchasing options for libraries. Approximately 85% of existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to libraries in any other format than print. Textbook publishers have built their business models around selling e-textbooks directly to students. Despite this, we also know that the cost of textbooks and other course materials are a major financial concern for students and staff at the University of Alberta.
Despite the Library’s commitment to make copies of required textbooks and course materials available to assist those students who are unable to purchase their own, the following publishers will not allow us to purchase e-textbook versions of their publications:
- McGraw Hill
- Nelson (no longer publishing in post-secondary market as of June 2020)
- Oxford University Press Canada (Textbook Division)
- Elsevier imprints (especially in veterinary and health science) such as:
- Elsevier Health Science
This means that in courses that have adopted textbooks by these publishers, students who are not able to purchase the textbook will not have any alternatives. There are additional challenges with ebooks from other publishers, which are summarized in this recent Library blog post.
We are working with instructors to explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, including:
- Using an existing ebook in the relevant subject area from the library’s ebook collection or requesting that the library purchase one. There are many academic ebooks that aren’t considered textbooks, and are therefore available for the library to purchase.
- Using, revising, or creating an open educational resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors. Library staff can help instructors find and adapt relevant resources, or provide them with the tools to create their own open textbooks.
- Creating an online reading list through the library or directly within your Learning Management System by:
- Linking to content from the library’s existing collection of electronic resources (ebooks, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials) or acquiring new content whenever possible.
- Posting individual book chapters or excerpts and scanned copies of the content, subject to copyright limitations as described in the UA Fair Dealing Guidelines. Copyright permission can be sought where feasible in cases where the excerpt falls outside of fair dealing guidelines. The Copyright Office can mediate requests.
- Creating a digital course pack via the Bookstore. Included readings will first need to undergo a copyright review and clearance process.
Efforts will be made to secure online materials that are free from digital rights management restrictions (DRM) in order to ensure unlimited student access. DRM includes limits on the number of users that can access a resource at any one time, as well as limits on copying, printing and downloading.
Any instructors teaching a fall course are welcome to contact the library at any time for support with sourcing their course materials.
Email the University of Alberta Library
To request an e-textbook for purchase: UAlberta Library Request a Purchase Form.
Thanks to the University of Guelph Library for their news item that we used as the basis for this web page!