Skip to Main Content

Scholarly Communication: Textbook Alternatives

This guide will outline what scholarly communication is and its relation to Open Access

Textbook Alternatives

As we continue to offer online instruction, the librarians and staff at the Geoffrey R. Weller Library are working to provide alternative access to the print course reserves collection. Among the readings on course reserves, there are usually a number of course textbooks (e.g. items from the library’s collection, or books loaned to the library by an instructor).

With teaching and learning moving largely online, instructors are asking that print textbooks on reserve be replaced by e-textbooks, to provide better access to students. However, there are numerous textbook publishers that do not permit libraries to purchase electronic textbooks. Many existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to libraries in any other format than print. Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling textbooks directly to students.

The following publishers are examples of those that will not allow the Library to purchase an e-textbook version of their publications:

  • Pearson
  • Cengage
  • Houghton
  • John Wiley & Sons (Textbook Division)
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press Canada (Textbook Division)
  • Elsevier imprints (especially in veterinary and health science) such as:
    • Elsevier Health Science
    • Mosby
    • Saunders
  • Thieme

This means that in courses that have adopted textbooks by these publishers, students who purchase the print or e-textbook will have access, but the textbook in its entirety will not be available via print or electronic course reserves.

The Geoffrey R. Weller Library encourages instructors to explore and identify viable alternatives to textbook readings, including:

  1. Using an existing ebook in the relevant subject area from the Library's ebook collection or suggest that the Library purchase one. There are many academic ebooks that aren't considered textbooks and are therefore available for the Library to purchase if they fit within collection development policies.  You can also reach out to your subject librarian for advice on ebooks available for purchase by the Library.
  2. Adopting an Open Textbook or Open Educational Resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors. Resources for locating OER textbooks are available on the Copyright Libguide, Open Access webpage or Open Textbook tab on the Scholarly Communication Libguide  However we realize that sometimes it can be difficult to find OERs and that OERs may not exist for every course.  You can also reach out to your subject librarian for advice.
  3. Creating an online course reading list on Moodle by:
    • Scanning book chapters and excerpts, subject to copyright limitations.. Copyright permission will be sought where feasible in cases where the excerpt falls outside of fair dealing guidelines. We use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to convert scanned content into accessible PDFs
    • Linking to content from the existing collection of electronic resources (ebooks, 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. However, often publishers only offer ebooks with DRM.

Instructors are advised to submit course reading lists to the UNBC Copyright Office as soon as possible.  The UNBC Copyright Office will:

  • review your syllabi,
  • arrange copyright permission where feasible in cases where the excerpt falls outside of fair dealing guidelines, and
  • create PDFs and/or permanent links for your Moodle shell. 
  • However, in some cases, it may not be possible to obtain permission or licenses.

If faculty wish to consult the library about specific resources, subject librarians are available to provide support.

The above text was adapted with permission from a June 22, 2020 news post by the University of Guelph Library (