UNB Libraries have traditionally tried to accommodate faculty members’ requests to obtain course textbooks, hoping to provide students with equitable and short-term access to resources while on campus.
Unfortunately, this practice is becoming increasingly impossible. The commercial textbook industry is transforming the way learning materials are provided to students. Many textbooks are now released in e-format only and include assessment tools and other add-ons. In fact, most publishers refuse to sell e-textbooks to academic libraries, and print versions of textbooks are increasingly unavailable.
The following points are offered to help Instructors navigate the challenges in this evolving landscape:
- Some publishers (e.g., Pearson) have now stopped the sale of some print textbooks to libraries.
- Amazon and other third-party vendors may advertise print textbooks, but these tend to be superseded editions (listed as the current one), or titles become unavailable as soon as we try to order them. This is becoming a common occurrence for our Acquisitions staff.
- Some publishers suggest using a leasing access model like VitalSource for their content, but these place limits on use after which surcharges are levied, and the library cannot predict the total cost of any title.
- Publishers’ “access programs”, in which students are charged mandatory fees for textbooks and assessment activities, have resulted in students organizing anti-trust lawsuits in the US, and raise privacy concerns regarding students’ work.
UNB Libraries would like to be able to ease students’ financial burden by providing temporary access to textbooks, but we are facing prohibitive practices from publishers this year. We just cannot expect to get print copies anymore.
In many disciplines the academic teaching community has responded to this increasing pressure through the expansion and professionalization of Open Educational Resources (OERs). OERs can be a very appealing alternative or supplement to textbooks and other materials produced by commercial academic publishers. OERs are becoming increasingly popular at Canadian universities and colleges and offer the significant advantage of reducing the costs to students.
UNB Libraries are working with colleagues across the country and beyond to foster the development and use of OERs. Please contact your liaison librarian or Joanne Smyth for help in creating or identifying potential OERs for your teaching.
Remember too, that Course Reserves continue to offer copyright-compliant reading lists for course materials. Detailed information on how to manage Course Reserves is available online: https://lib.unb.ca/faculty/manage-course-reserves.