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Key issues

Briefing papers and Webinars on key issues

  1. Library management system to library services platform. Resource management for libraries: a new perspective
  2. Rethinking the library services platform
  3. The new role of the library in teaching and learning outcomes
  4. The student consumer and the rise of e-textbook platforms
  5. The rise of library centric reading list systems
  6. Aggregate and amplify – enhancing the value and use of theses and dissertations
  7. Open library systems – a new perspective
  8. New approaches to resource sharing

Library Systems


Ebooks in HE


The State of Ebooks in Academic Libraries (US report)

The State of Ebooks in Academic Libraries: 2022. How libraries are continuing the pivot toward a growing array of digital resources. A survey and analysis that examines the current environment of ebooks in academic libraries and updates data collected in 2020. OverDrive Academic and Choice (a publishing unit of the Association of College and Research Libraries) 2023

Key Findings
• The vast majority of academic libraries currently include ebooks and digital audiobooks in their collections.
• While curriculum support continues to be the dominant element in ebook collection development, survey results indicate that non-curriculum-based ebooks are a growing portion of academic library digital collections.
• Ebook purchasing in almost all subject areas is up, with a noticeable jump in popular fiction/nonfiction reading materials.
• Despite the budgetary challenges and service/ material cuts of the past two years, a surprising majority of college and university libraries added digital resources to their collections including, most notably, ebooks and streaming media.
• While the desire to serve and accommodate the needs of students is a primary factor in determining institutions’ distance learning approach, COVID remains an influential outside determinant. However, such initially pandemic-driven remote learning efforts are gradually shifting to support new academic initiatives.

The academic e-Book Market in Higher Education: the Good, the Bad, and the Confusing. Gavin Phillips. Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC). [Blog] January 2022
“The academic e-book market was complex and thorny long before COVID-19, but the severe disruption to education around the world has exacerbated issues around pricing and, access to teaching and learning resources. Here, SUPC Category Manager for Academic Services, Gavin Phillips, explores the positives, negatives and opportunities within the e-book market and offers some suggestions for universities looking to deliver value to students.”

The e-textbook market

How the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated an e-book crisis and the #ebooksos campaign for reform.

Anderson, Y. and McCauley, C. Insights, 35, p.13. 27 Jul 2022, DOI:

“This article sets out the problems with the e-book market and the origins and work to date of #ebooksos, a librarian-led campaign for a fairer e-book market for libraries. While many of the issues identified predated the Covid-19 pandemic, the rapid pivot to remote teaching and learning and the subsequent change in working cultures it precipitated brought these issues to a head. The article is primarily about the academic context as the authors are academic librarians, but the e-book library crisis applies to all sectors and the #ebooksos campaign aims to represent them all. While it is recognized that change will take time, as with related change in areas such as open access and the movement of journals from print to online, this underlines, rather than diminishes, the need for the campaign to keep highlighting the problems and to work with colleagues and stakeholders to deliver an approach to e-books that is equitable and sustainable. The #ebooksos campaign is in its infancy and thus this article presents a snapshot of a work in progress at the vanguard of librarianship and information work”.

Is there a systemic problem with ebooks?

James Gray. Research Information. 23 May 2022.

From the article: “The main concern librarians share with me is that buying a set number of eTextbook licenses, restricted to a single person, that expire after a year, is a lot more expensive than buying paper copies that can be re-used on a bookshelf. Similarly, students don’t always understand some of the restrictions on digital content, considering digital, by its very nature, as synonymous with quick and easy access. Students expect seamless online access to their course content that is both fair and affordable – and, ideally, free.Meanwhile, the primary issue for academic publishers is they can only continue to exist if they find a way to sell their intellectual property digitally for a price that covers their costs”.

Where next for the e-textbook market?

Price rises, changes in models, changes in student demand - the textbook market is still not working well. James Gray, Libby Homer, and Rod Bristow ask what will come next. Wonkhe 6 December 2021
[NOTE: This article was published in association with Kortext. The authors of this piece spoke at at Kortext’s “Winter Webinar” on 8 December.

Extracts from the article:

James Gray, Kortext: There’s broad agreement that the current digital textbook market is not working. It’s impossible to argue that huge price increases or multiple subscriptions are sustainable, or that models of procurement and collection development designed in a hard copy world will work when more and more libraries are moving to digital first strategies.

Libby Homer, Anglia Ruskin University: And longer term there are more ambitious ideas in play. Driven in part by open access mandates around monographs, university presses are once again becoming major players – many providers are now publishing their own textbooks, and some of these are open access. This has also sparked conversations with academics – the people who write textbooks – about different approaches to their rights as authors.

Rod Bristow, formerly of Pearson: At the same time, many students will continue to take control of their own learning and continue to buy resources they need to support it, themselves. The more that can be provided centrally the better, but I think student purchase will always be a part of the model, even alongside provider-level deals on e-resources.

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”

CampaigntoinvestigatetheacademicebookmarketWe are a group of academic librarians, researchers and university lecturers who have compiled an open letter asking the UK government to urgently investigate the academic publishing industry over its ebook pricing and licensing practices.The current situation is not working and it needs to change. Librarians are increasingly unable to provide the resources students, lecturers and researchers need.”

New Jiscmail list for #ebookSOS “We have set up a new Jiscmail mailing list for all things #ebookSOS – a place for discussion about the issues around academic publishing and ebooks, for news and updates about the campaign, calls for help and support, sharing of examples and bad practice (and good practice – it does happen!) We launched this yesterday …

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

Fazackerley, A. (2021) 'Price gouging from Covid': student ebooks costing up to 500% more than in print. The Guardian. 29.1.21

Ebooks in HE : Overview

Ebooks in higher education

Fyfe, C. 2014. Ebooks in higher education: a strategic priority? In: Woodward, H. (ed.) Ebooks in Education: Realising the Vision. Pp. 1–7. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI:

University leaders and managers concern themselves with developments that align with institutions’ strategic priorities, deliver competitive advantage, improve teaching and research performance, reduce costs and enhance value for money. Ebooks have the potential to engage with all these strategic priorities. Following the successful integration of ejournals into the academic workflow, ebooks promise much to universities aspiring to enhance students’ educational experience, enrich research resources and streamline services. They have greater potential to transform the reader experience than ejournals and yet they have experienced a long and difficult birth, suffering from digital rights management, integration, discoverability and functionality challenges. It is taking much longer than expected to arrive at a position in which ebooks have a dominant and reliable part to play in students’ learning and in universities’ provision of texts to support both teaching and research.

The challenge of ebooks (Jisc Project )

The challenge of ebooks. The goal of the project is to help orientate senior institutional managers and to support institutions in the effective adoption and deployment of ebooks and ebook technology. As a consequence the project helps to support the wider ambition to enable improvements in the quality and impact of teaching, learning and research and meet rising staff and student expectations.The work was guided by three core ebook themes – creation, curation and consumption These themes are usefully summarized in the infographics we created. We also produced case studies.

Ebook aggregator platforms


E-textbook 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 role of the library in teaching and learning outcomes

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.”

Institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit (Jisc)

Between 2014 and 2018, Jisc Collections ran a national pilot project funding four project teams from UK higher education institutions (HEIs) to investigate the viability of publishing their own e-textbooks.

Four project teams – from the Universities of Liverpool, Nottingham, Highlands and Islands with Edinburgh Napier University, and University College London – received funding to:

  • Publish two e-textbooks each
  • Apply business, licensing and distribution models of their choice
  • Collate information on the processes, challenges and technologies chosen
  • Report back on the benefits to their students and their institution

The project, developed in direct response to the unsustainable models and high price of e-textbooks being made available to institutions, has been exploring alternative ways to create learning materials for students.Lara Speicher from UCL Press explains that: “Textbooks are very expensive for students to buy on top of their fees and living expenses, and buying large numbers of print textbooks is increasingly challenging for squeezed library budgets. And now these issues are starting to bite as textbook sales are in decline”.There are now clear signs that an alternative approach is underway. In the US, OpenStax, developed by Rice University, is an innovative open access textbook platform and SUNY Open Textbooks, developed by the State University of New York Libraries and launched in 2012 has published over 20 textbooks with more forthcoming. The latter is very much a community project and it is hoped that the outcomes of the institution as e-textbook will kickstart a similar approach in the UK leading to fresh approaches and sustainable models textbook publishing.Furthermore, the advent of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) provides additional incentive for HEIs to raise the topic of institutionally produced textbooks higher on the agenda.

Other resources

Opening textbooks. By David Kernohan & Vivien Rolfe. Wonkhe Ltd [Blog]. 8 December 2017

The direct library supply of individual textbooks to students: examining the value proposition. By Dominic Broadhurst. Information and Learning Science, vol 118, no. 11/12, pp. 629-641. 2017 DOI: 10.1108/ILS-07- 2017-0072

UK Open Textbook project:

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 Ebook initiatives

There are not a whole lot of OA ebook initiatives that are actively seeking funding through crowdfunding, consortial, or membership models just yet. But more are coming! The following are the existing programs . Make note that some of these are more US-based than others,

Central European University Press Opening the Future
Knowledge Unlatched
Language Science Press
Liverpool University Press Opening the Future
MIT Press Direct to Open
Open Book Publishers
Punctum Books
University of Michigan Press Fund to Mission

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 \\

Controlled Digital Lending

What is CDL?

CDL in the context of book lending promotes the idea that libraries are – or should be – able to lend out digitised copies of works in their collections on a strict owned-to-loaned ratio[. It applies to the lending of digital copies of in-copyright works, given that those already in the public domain (i.e. no longer subject to economic rights) can already be digitised and made freely available. This lending, crucially, is ‘controlled’ through the use of technological protection measures, which prevent illicit copying and limit the length of loan periods. In effect, it gives libraries a choice between digital and physical formats in how to give access to works in their collection.

Crucially, CDL is based on exceptions and limitations or “user rights” in copyright law, in contrast to market-based licensing solutions. In the United States it has been justified, in an article by David Hansen and Kyle Courtney, under the legal doctrine of fair use. The authors assert that digitisation and lending of an electronic copy by libraries is permitted after the exhaustion of rights following the first sale of the physical copy, as long as the total number of copies in circulation (physical and digital combined) does not exceed the number owned by the library, and each physical copy is withheld from public access for as long as a corresponding digital copy is on loan. There have also been moves to clarify the legal status of eLending in Europe, where the European Court of Justice has found that libraries are permitted to lend not just paper books but eBooks under existing copyright law.

ebooks.txt · Last modified: 2023/02/18 14:14 by