Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Notre Dame 5 Star University
University Library





Myths about Textbooks and eTextbooks

  • 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 textbooks)
  • We can use the eReserve service to create a digital copy of a print textbook (copyright limits us from digitising and uploading more than a single chapter of a textbook to eReserve in Blackboard)

Student Concerns about Textbooks

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 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 the access model or pricing, Course Co-ordinators are encouraged to advocate for changes to these conditions directly with the publisher. 

Solutions to Improve Access

Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Open Textbooks

There is an increasing trend in academics using open publishing models and platforms to publish textbooks directly online and without cost to the reader. To learn more about OERs please consult the Library's OER guide. Academics considering publishing an OER should contact the Library to discuss using the Research Repository as a publishing platform. Increasingly the Library is adding OERs to the fiNDit discovery service so that they can be found and used by a academics and students.

Reviewing Content Already Licensed by the Library

The existing library holdings might contain eBook content which can fulfil your Course reading needs. Library staff are available to consult with academics to 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).

Reviewing textbooks which might be more accessible

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.

Academics Negotiating Directly With the Publishers

A number of our academic staff have engaged with publishers and negotiated better access for their students. These are not conversations that publishers will have with libraries, but some are prepared to shift ground when approached by course coordinators. In some cases publishers have made eTextbooks available that were previously only available in print.

Dedicated (and new) eTextbook Platforms

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.

Textbook Subscriptions

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.