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‘Price gouging from Covid’: student ebooks costing up to 500% more than in print

The Guardian – “Librarians at UK universities say students’ reading lists for this term are being torn up because of publishers’ “eye-watering” increases to ebook prices, and some students are now reading what is available or affordable, rather than what their tutors think is best for their course. With thousands of students studying in their bedrooms at home because of the pandemic, providing access to textbooks and research books online has become crucial. However, librarians say academic publishers are failing to offer electronic versions of many books, seen as critical to degree courses during the pandemic. And, they say, universities frequently cannot afford to buy the ebooks available, for which they can be charged more than five times as much as the printed version, often running into hundreds of pounds a copy, sometimes for one user at a time. Nearly 3,000 librarians, academics and students have now signed an open letter calling for a public investigation into the “unaffordable, unsustainable and inaccessible” academic ebook market. Johanna Anderson, subject librarian at the University of Gloucestershire and one of the authors of the letter, says: “Publishers are manipulating the market and price gouging from Covid. We are trying to support students during an unprecedented public health crisis and they are making it so much harder. It is a scandal…”

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