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Ebooks in HE

Campaign to investigate the academic ebook market

from the campaign to investigate the academic ebook market** website

Background reading (From the campaign to investigate the academic ebook market website (see above)
“This reading list provides some context to the ebook crisis in the UK and further afield”

Joint statement on access to e-book and e-textbook content6 October 2021

Extract from the statement: “Together with other representatives and sector bodies, Jisc has pledged to help students and teachers in UK higher and further education to gain equitable and sustainable access to e-books, e-textbooks and related teaching content.

Economic and technological changes in the current publishing market have led to libraries being increasingly excluded from, or priced out of, providing e-books and e-textbooks for students and library users. Many of the models and fees charged by publishers have either become prohibitively expensive, or libraries are no longer permitted to purchase these titles at all, creating an unsustainable situation”

Problems with the market for academic ebooks

There’s big problems with the market for academic ebooks. For Rachel Bickley, market pressure alone cannot solve the problems in the market for academic ebooks. Wonkhe. [blog] 28 March 2021.

“In the time since a small group of academic librarians launched the #ebooksos campaign with an Open Letter asking for an investigation into the academic ebook publishing industry, we have faced some questioning of our actions. In spite of the letter having attracted, at the time of writing, signatures from over 3800 librarians, lecturers, students, heads of services, university senior managers and two vice chancellors, indicating that the cost and availability of ebooks is a significant concern across the sector, there have still been suggestions that perhaps we could sit down and discuss the issues with the publishers instead.

However, these issues are not new. The pandemic has brought the lack of availability of ebooks for institutional access, and the astronomical prices and restrictive licences under which those which are available can be procured, into sharp focus, but librarians have been dealing with this situation for a long time. Dialogue with publishers has been attempted, but it went nowhere useful. The investigation route was not a knee-jerk reaction to being unable to obtain the resources that we need for our students; it was the only option that those of us who set up the campaign could see remaining.

Anderson, J., Ayris, P., White, B. (2021) E-Textbooks – scandal or market imperative? LSE Impact. 17.03.21
UCL Office for Open Science & Scholarship (2021) On Monday 15th March 2021, the UCL Office for Open Science & Scholarship hosted a webinar in conjunction with Copyright4Knowledge that aimed to examine the acute difficulties for higher education and public libraries caused by publishers’ pricing and licensing practices and discuss some possible solutions.

Ebooks: Scandal or Market Economics webinar – summary and links. Open@UCL. 15.03.21

Ebook aggregator platforms

Cross publisher E-textbook providers:

In addition major academic publishers such as Elsevier, Sage, Taylor & Francis make ebooks available on a variety of licensing models direct from their publisher platforms.

Cross-publisher ebook platforms:


The student consumer and the rise of e-textbook platforms. By Ken Chad.Higher Education Library Technology (HELibTech) briefing paper (No. 4). March 2018.

A 2017 report for the Society of College, National & University Libraries (Sconul) listed ‘students as customers’ as one of the five top ‘transformational’ trends that will impact libraries over the next ten years. These student consumers are not all happy and one reason is the rising cost of textbooks and the lack of availability from libraries. The briefing paper looks at the textbook market and the moves to digital and more interactive learning resources. It analyses new approaches to textbook publication including Open Textbooks and institutional initiatives and new ways libraries are delivering e-textbooks to students. It concludes with an analysis of the potential disruptive impact of new user focused e-textbook platforms

The new role of the library in teaching and learning outcomes. By Ken Chad & Helen Anderson. HELIbTech briefing paper No. 3. 20 June 2017

Students in many countries, especially the US and UK are concerned that the growing cost of higher education is not delivering good value. Excellence in teaching and a focus on measurement and assessment of learning outcomes have become entrenched in higher education policy and the strategies of academic institutions. In the UK this trend has crystallised in a new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) introduced by government in 2017.
As a result library leaders around the world will need to become more strategic in articulating value propositions based around a more holistic view of library/learning resources.The value of data analytics will be a key driving force. Data from reading list systems and digital textbook platforms combined with information from other institutional systems will allow powerful insights to emerge. Such analytics will be invaluable to institutions, publishers and intermediaries as they look at new ways to deliver content.

All this suggests a trend for library technology and educational technology to merge. There looks to be the beginning of shift away from a narrow conception of *library* systems, the *library* supply chain and *library data*. Conventional integrated library systems (ILS) and even the new generation of library services platforms (LSPs) remain wedded to an outdated view of library learning resources and will have to change significantly or be integrated or subsumed into a new generation of learning services platforms.

Institution as e-textbook publisher

Open textbooks – an untapped opportunity for universities colleges and schools. Insights. UKSG May 2018

From the artcile: “The pilot phase of the UK Open Textbook project reached completion in April 2018. This article discusses the project, what open textbooks are, and why they are an untapped opportunity for universities, colleges and schools. The North American models of open textbook creation and uptake (adoption) are designed to help reduce university student financial worries and enhance learning opportunities, and provide much-needed resources for schools (or the K12 system in the US and Canada). The ability to repurpose books leads to innovative and engaging pedagogies including students as co-authors. Yet in the UK, the level of discussion and awareness of the opportunities afforded by open textbooks, and the existence of a small number of UK initiatives, is poor.”

“Given that many parts of the UK education sector are experiencing a textbook crisis, and given the levels of student debt, it is surprising that open textbooks have gained little traction here, and that they are entirely absent from government policy. ‘The UK needs to make a strategic response to the 2017 Ljubljana OER Action Plan set out by UNESCO’ to make publicly funded educational resources available to improve the learning experience for all.”

Open Access Ebooks

The OAPEN Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation based in the Netherlands, with its registered office at the National Library in The Hague. OAPEN is dedicated to open access, peer-reviewed books.

OAPEN operates three platforms:

- a central repository for hosting and disseminating OA books

- a toolkit on OA book publishing for authors

- a discovery service indexing OA books, in partnership with OpenEdition

OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks) was developed as a 30-month targeted project co-funded by the EU in its eContentplus-program (2008-2010). The goal of the project was to achieve a sustainable publication model for academic books in humanities and social sciences and to improve the visibility and usability of high quality academic research in Europe. After the close of the project, OAPEN continued its activities as a foundation.

OAPEN Foundation was established by the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the University of Leiden (UL), the University library of Utrecht University (UU), the Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW), the National Library of the Netherlands (KB) and Amsterdam University Press (AUP).


OAPEN is involved in various initiatives for open access books:

Open Access Textbooks

UK Open Text-book project
“Open Textbooks have seen impressive growth and impact in the North American context, through providers and initiatives such as OpenStax, the Open Textbook Network, BC Campus, and Lumen Learning. With the exception of Siyavula in South Africa however, the open textbook model has largely been restricted to North America.. Whether this is a result of particular contextual dependencies (such as the relative cost of textbooks) or because this is where the funding and interest has been focused is as yet unknown. The aim of this project then is to test the transferability of this model to a new context, namely that of the UK. Our overarching research question is:

What is the viability of introducing open textbooks in UK higher education through the testing of two proposed models: OpenStax and OpenTextbook Network approaches?

Resources page

ebooks.txt · Last modified: 2024/03/06 04:33 by paul