Ever since we closed the doors to our physical space in March, Brock University Library has been working diligently to provide alternative access to our print and physical collections. The latest developments on this front have been the launch of our book pickup service and the HathiTrust emergency digital collection. As we get closer to September, we are turning our attention to course reserves. Normally, a significant portion of course reserves would be print copies of textbooks, but the realities of the pandemic mean that we cannot offer any physical print reserves. To support instructors and the students in their courses, we have been exploring digital alternatives for print copies of textbooks.
The E-Textbook Challenge
When it comes to providing digital access to textbooks, however, the Library is hindered by the textbook publishers. Simply put, most textbooks are not available to libraries in any format other than print. Most of the major textbook publishers — Pearson, Cengage, Houghton, McGraw Hill, Oxford University Press Canada Textbooks, Elsevier Imprints, Thieme — simply do not sell e-textbooks to libraries. This means that for courses that have adopted textbooks from these publishers, students who do not purchase the textbook have no alternative access to the textbook contents.
How the Library is supporting Instructors
We work with instructors to explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, including:
- Using an existing e-book in the relevant subject area from the library’s e-book collection or requesting that the library purchase one. Many academic e-books are not considered textbooks and are therefore available for the library to purchase.
- Adopting an open educational resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials, including textbooks, that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors. Our Liaison Librarians can work with instructors to help find the right OER for your course.
- Creating an online course pack through ARES by:
- Posting individual book chapters or excerpts and scanned copies of the content, subject to copyright limitations. Copyright permission will be sought where feasible in cases where the excerpt falls outside of fair dealing guidelines.
- Linking to content from the library’s existing collection of electronic resources (e-books, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials) or acquiring new content whenever possible.
Efforts will be made to secure online materials that are free from digital rights management restrictions (DRM) in order to ensure unfettered student access. DRM includes limits on the number of users that can access a resource at any one time, as well as limits on copying, printing and downloading.
The easiest way to get started with your course reserves is to submit your reading list on the Library’s course reserves webpage. If you have questions about how the library can support your course, email the Reserves team at firstname.lastname@example.org. To ensure we can meet demand, we encourage submission of your reading list before August 4th, 2020.
If, as you prepare for your courses, you have questions about the finer points of copyright, please see our Copying for Teaching & Educational Purposes website for guidance and support.
With thanks to the University of Guelph for starting the conversation about the challenges of e-textbooks.