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Notre Dame 5 Star University
University Library





Guiding the conversation

Textbook Issues

  • All students will buy a copy of the textbook
  • All textbooks are available electronically (eTextbooks)
  • eTextbooks are available to multiple users concurrently
  • eTextbooks are cheaper than print textbooks (they often are for students but aren’t for libraries)
  • All eTextbooks are created equal (the copy that is accessible to the library is not necessarily the same as the copy available to students as a personal copy of the textbook)
  • All publishers are created equal (publishers have very different approaches to the pricing and licensing of textbooks)
  • We can create a digital copy of a print textbook (copyright limits us from digitising and uploading more than a single chapter of a textbook to Blackboard)

Students want to know that:

  • Textbook content will be useful, relevant and well used in their course
  • Textbook selection does not entail a conflict of interest (academics setting their own textbook for their course)
  • Selected textbooks remain useful over time (for future courses or even professionally)
  • There is access to the textbook in the Library’s Print Reserve collection and online
  • Reserve copies of textbooks will be available by O-week

Library textbook collecting principles

  • The Library will provide access for up to four copies of all required textbooks for the current teaching period (subject to commercial availability) at the campus at which the course is taught.
  • The Library will aim to provide online access to all textbooks (or eTextbooks) subject to their availability and per unit cost (we have cost limits in place to avoid purchase of items we consider excessively costly).
  • The Library doesn’t licence textbooks for whole-of-course access by students
  • The Library will encourage Course Coordinators to explore existing Library holdings when selecting textbooks and readings for their courses. 
  • Where textbooks are not available as eTextbooks, or where there are issues with access or the pricing models, the library will acquire copies in print.  Course Co-ordinators are encouraged to advocate for changes to these models directly with the publisher.

Solutions to improve access

Existing library holdings may contain eBook content which can fulfil your Course reading needs. Library staff are available to consult with academics regarding the use of these existing resources and to ensure we have accessible copies of set textbooks (noting that not all textbooks are available as eBooks).

As a staff member you have access to thousands of eBooks and electronic textbooks spanning multiple subject areas.. See the A-Z list for a complete list of book platforms.

There is an increasing trend for academics to use open publishing models and platforms, enabling them to publish textbooks directly online and without cost to the reader. To learn more about Open Educational Resource (OERs) please consult the Library's OER guide linked below. Academics considering publishing an OER should contact the Library to discuss using ResearchOnline (the institutional repository) as a publishing platform. Increasingly the Library is adding OERs to the FiNDit service so that they can be discovered and used by academics and students.

Not all publishers adopt the same approach to licensing or pricing. The Library can work with academic staff to explore alternative textbooks which offer increased availability to students.

Publishers often approach academics directly to negotiate "better access" for students. These are not conversations that publishers will have with libraries, as libraries have a cross-institutional, equitable requirement for access which is sometimes at odds with the publishers' commercial goals. Some publishers are however, prepared to shift ground when approached by Course Coordinators who align with libraries' perspectives, and in some cases publishers have made eTextbooks available that were previously only available in print.

Increasingly publishers are favouring subscription models for textbooks, both for students and for universities.  This is a more lucrative model for publishers and stops their loss of revenue through students sharing textbook content (by limiting copy/print and/or by preventing download of the eBook in part or whole). There are a range of models evolving, including licensing a specific textbook for a year at a time, licensing a publisher collection of textbooks and subscriptions to platforms of textbooks from a range of publishers. These models present problems for Libraries, largely because they become an ongoing and substantial drain on the budget. We believe that ‘locking content away’ on specific platforms and preventing Libraries from choosing just the content we need is a fundamentally unfair publishing practice.

There are ongoing shifts and changes in the approaches that publishers adopt to textbook publishing. Sometimes these initiatives are available only to individuals and Libraries are unable to purchase an institutional copy of the textbook, thereby preventing the Library from fulfilling our obligation to provide some access to all textbooks. When exploring new models please ask the publishers how they will work with libraries to ensure access for students who can’t afford a textbook. We think this approach is better than offering you ‘a few free copies’ to hand to students you know are in need. If in doubt, please contact the Library to discuss the platform opportunities and restrictions.