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Jessie Ball duPont Library

Open Educational Resources and Affordable Textbook Alternatives

Course Books on Reserve-- Ebooks

Since 2016, the Library has acquired a print copy of every book required for a course and placed it on Reserve to ensure that students have access to them. Since the Spring of 2020, we have also attempted to acquire course books electronically.

This work is complicated by textbook publishers who do not provide electronic purchasing options for libraries. Many existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to any library, regardless of budget, in formats other than print. Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students. We also know that the cost of textbooks and other course materials are a barrier for students at every university and essentially sends taxpayer funded student financial aid back to content providers, who further exploit faculty labor and research to monopolize and dominate knowledge production.

This is not a library problem. This is an industry problem that impacts everyone in higher education: students, advocates in support and success roles, faculty and institutional research output, grant funding, and confuses prestige and paywalls with quality in scholarship evaluation.

Despite the library’s commitment to make copies of all 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 an e-textbook version of their publications:

Pearson
Cengage
McGraw Hill
Oxford University Press
Many health sciences texts

This means that in courses that have adopted textbooks by these publishers, students who do not purchase the textbook will not have any alternative access to the textbook content. These publishers have the resources to support a global reliance on flexible distribution, and choose not to.

In addition, most publishers of popular fiction and popular nonfiction only allow libraries to purchase on a single-user access model, which means that only one person at a time can use the ebook. This is not a viable solution for multiple students in the same class.

Textbook Alternatives

Some viable textbook alternatives include:

  • Using an existing e-book in the relevant subject area from the library’s e-book collection or requesting that the library purchase one. Many academic e-books aren’t considered textbooks, and are therefore available for the library to purchase.
  • Adopting an open educational resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors.
  • Posting individual book chapters or excerpts on BrightSpace.  (We offer scanning of print books, which you can request here. Please consider copyright limitations on what the library can legally scan for a class.)
  • Linking to content from the library’s existing collection of electronic resources (e-books, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials).

Whenever possible, we try to purchase online materials that are free from digital rights management restrictions (DRM) in order to ensure unfettered 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.

Instructors are also welcome to contact the library at any time for support with sourcing their course materials. You can email us at acquisitions@sewanee.edu.