The Campus Library addresses commercial textbook-access challenges

The traditionally high cost of textbooks and other course materials represents a major financial hurdle for many students. As part of Durham College’s commitment to encouraging an engaging and barrier-free student learning experience, the Campus Library offers a Course Reserve service.

 The Library is developing new approaches to ensure students have equitable access to materials. One alternative is to offer e-textbooks through the Course Reserves service. However, approximately 85 percent of existing course textbooks (including those published by the companies listed below) are only available to libraries in print format:

  • Pearson
  • Cengage
  • Houghton
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press Canada (Textbook Division)
  • Elsevier imprints (especially in veterinary and health science) such as:
  • Elsevier Health Science
  • Mosby
  • Saunders
  • Thieme

 For courses that have adopted textbooks from these publishers, students do not have alternative access to textbook content unless they purchase the textbook.

 Even if an electronic version of a textbook is available for library acquisition, it is often prohibitively expensive ($1,000 or more for a single-user license). Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students.

 To address these challenges, the Library is working with instructors to identify and explore viable textbook alternatives, including:

  • Adopting open educational resources (OERs), which are free online educational materials and available to everyone. OERs are licensed under Creative Commons, allowing instructors to re-use and modify them.
  • Creating an online reading list using the Library’s electronic reserves system:
  • Including individual book chapters or excerpts and scanned copies of the content (subject to copyright limitations).
  • Linking to the Library’s existing collection of electronic resources (ebooks, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials) or acquiring new content whenever possible.
  • Purchasing ebooks (many academic ebooks are not considered textbooks thus available for the library to purchase) or using an existing ebook from the Library’s ebook collection.

 To ensure unrestricted student access, the Library will work to secure online materials that are not subject to digital rights-management (DRM) restrictions (such as limits on the number of users that can access a resource at any one time, or limits on copying, printing and downloading). The Library’s ability to obtain DRM-free material is subject to availability and cost.




This content was adapted, with permission, from a statement issued by the University of Guelph Library.