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Pandemic Amplifies Trouble with Restrictive Licensing and E-Textbooks

SPARC – “…With the shift to remote learning, the demand for digital learning materials has intensified. Library staff are finding themselves having to educate their communities about the licensing restrictions and some are speaking out about the untenable position in which publishers have put them. In a shot across the bow, the University of Guelph Library in Canada posted a statement on its website explaining how publishers have limited their ability to serve students in need. “Approximately 85% of existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to libraries in any other format than print,” the Guelph statement noted. “Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students. Despite this, we also know that the cost of textbooks and other course materials represent a major financial hurdle for students.” Guelph staff decided to name names, listing the publishers unwilling to sell the library e-textbook versions of their publications: Pearson, Cengage, Houghton, McGraw Hill, Oxford University Press Canada (Textbook Division), Thieme, and Elsevier imprints (such as Elsevier Health Science, Mosby, and Saunders). Ali Versluis, open educational resources librarian at Guelph, says when she and her colleagues were figuring out a sustainable workflow to help faculty find alternative materials, they felt a need to be upfront about the challenges with the entire publishing ecosystem, while being explicit about which publishers were part of the problem…”

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