SPARC: “Pandemic Amplifies Trouble with Restrictive Licensing and E-Textbooks”
Students who can’t afford to buy textbooks have long relied on reserve copies at their campus libraries. As the global pandemic shuttered colleges and universities, it also cut off access to these print learning materials. Many students and faculty members asked the next logical question: Why can’t the library just provide a digital copy?
It’s not so simple. Many publishers will only sell e-books directly to students – not libraries – and licensing fees have been jacked up. The industry claims that selling digital copies to libraries will cannibalize the e-book market.
“This is an old trope just being packaged in a new pandemic wrapper,” says Kyle K. Courtney, the copyright advisor and program manager at the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication. “Unfortunately, the summer of free, where many publishers gave access, has turned into outright non-sales or pricing that is so exorbitant that there is no way libraries can pay to give this access.”
In a shot across the bow, the University of Guelph Library in Canada posted a statement on its website explaining how publishers have limited their ability to serve students in need.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.