Etextbooks – providing key texts online.

This academic year has seen the library deliver an enhanced service in terms of provision of online versions of key textbooks.

These are the texts that can be found at the top of your reading list, or in the short loan collection. They are the core reading in your subject, often marked as a suggestion for student purchase. These textbooks are also the key earner for most academic publishers and consequently, there is legitimate fear that libraries offering online access to these works will be a business risk.

However, in an online teaching and learning environment, the library needed to be able to offer these works as ebooks and we have worked with publishers and new aggregators in this market to secure access to several titles for modules where there is no reasonable alternative. Almost 70 titles were made available in the autumn semester and similar number this semester. All are linked from reading lists, in some cases there are accompanying apps to support use of the work offline.

Purchasing models applied to regular ebook monographs offer access to all library users at relatively modest cost, though sometimes with a cap on use (e.g. limited number of simultaneous access). Etexbooks operate on a different pricing model.

Textbook publishers make the online files available based on the number of students on a course and the digital list price of the book. So, for example, a £40 textbook for 200 students will cost the library £8,000 to provide. There may be some discount applied for volume, so we might pay a bit less, but it is in that ballpark. This gives unlimited access to the work for all the students on that module – but only that module. Often, the access is for one year – if we want access for next year’s students, we pay again. In some cases, we have been able to apply a DDA model – demand driven acquisition, where we only pay if a student uses the book.

Etextbooks are expensive, no question, but we have been fortunate to have additional funding to support making this content available this year. We will be reviewing use made of the titles purchased as we plan for next year, so any feedback and comment, good and bad, is welcome.

In the meantime, do not hesitate to ask library staff if there is something we do not have, and we will look at how best to arrange access.

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