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Statement on Commercial Textbook Course Reserves in Response to COVID-19: Home


Thank you to our colleagues at University of Guelph Libraries for sharing their language documenting these challenges. We have adapted it with permission.

Statement on Commercial Textbook Course Reserves in Response to COVID-19

As we begin the fall 2020 semester, your library staff are working hard to provide alternative access to the print course reserves collection. Significant portions of the books in our print reserve collection have been print copies of required textbooks. To comply with safety concerns for our staff and students, the WSU library system has had to make the decision to suspend print reserves for the fall 2020 semester.

Textbook publishers, who do not provide electronic purchasing options for libraries, hamper the work of identifying solutions to providing online access to course textbooks. Approximately 85% of existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to libraries in any other format than print. The Digital Rights Management (DRM) built into online textbooks limits the number of users and devices that can be associated with a text; DRM even limits the amount of printing or copying.

We understand the cost of textbooks and other course materials represent a major financial hurdle for students at Wayne State University. The inability to provide any access to commercially published textbooks is not just a library problem. Textbook costs are an industry problem that can ultimately affect a student’s success and time to graduation.

The following publishers represent the major commercial textbook publishers in higher education that do not allow libraries to purchase or license and make available an e-textbook version of their publications:

  • Cengage
  • Houghton
  • McGraw Hill
  • Macmillan
  • Oxford University Press
  • Pearson
  • W. W. Norton
  • Most publishers of ‘common reads,’ popular fiction, and popular nonfiction

This means that in courses that have adopted textbooks by these publishers, students who do not purchase the textbook will not have any alternative access to the textbook content.

Our Subject Specialist Librarians continue to work with our 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 a quality open educational resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors.
  • Creating an online course pack from licensed online library resources and resources from our print collections, including posting individual book chapters or excerpts and scanned copies of the content, subject to copyright limitations.

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.

Have questions or need assistance locating resources for your course? Please contact your Subject Specialist Librarian