Guest Post by Jennifer Holman, Electronic Resources Librarian at Hope College, firstname.lastname@example.org
Academic libraries have largely stayed out of the textbook business because purchasing textbooks in a print environment does not make economic sense. Libraries cannot afford to purchase enough printed copies for all students.
In an electronic environment, however, those rules no longer apply. If the library owns an ebook available to unlimited users, why couldn’t it be used as an alternative to a print textbook? At Hope College, Van Wylen Library owns or has access to over 500,000 unique ebooks. Many of those come from scholarly publishers like Oxford, Wiley, Sage, and Taylor & Francis and are available on an unlimited access model.
Using these ebooks as textbooks is an access model labeled by some as “faux-pen”. Not full open educational resources (OER) like those found at openstax and OER Commons, but they are open to the Hope community.
The quickest way to see if your college library owns an ebook version of a text you already plan to use in your class is to do a title search in the catalog. At Hope, you could do a title search in HopeCat, or I would be happy to search for your list of required course readings and report back to you on availability.
A recent example from Hope of a library-acquired ebook being used as a textbook is the New Oxford Annotated Bible, required in both REL100 and REL221. When the bookstore ran out of copies, the library was able to purchase an ebook version, which has already been downloaded 8 times since we received it on September 11th.
Another required reading (perhaps not available through the bookstore), linked through a Moodle course page, had 1808 downloads in September.
I am not advocating for a wholesale switch to ebooks, but textbooks are expensive and I would like to make students aware of any library ebook availability before they purchased the print.
As you are pulling together your list of textbooks for Spring 2018, please consider ebook availability for your students. If you are at Hope, feel free to share your list with me and I can let you know if there are options for electronic access that are free for your students.