Answered By: Kira Appel (Libraries)
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2024     Views: 90

Thank you to our colleagues at University of Guelph Libraries (U of Guelph) [] and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) [] for sharing their language documenting these challenges. We have adapted GVSU’s adaptation of U of Guelph’s statement with permission.


Many existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to any library--regardless of budget--in formats other than print. Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students. We also know that the cost of textbooks and other course materials are a barrier for students at every university and essentially sends taxpayer funded student financial aid back to content providers, who further exploit faculty labor and research to monopolize and dominate knowledge production. 

This is a problem with the textbook publishing industry that impacts everyone in higher education: students, advocates in support and success roles, faculty and institutional research output, grant funding, and confuses prestige and paywalls with quality in scholarship evaluation. 

Library staff continuously explore approaches to how we acquire course textbooks to ensure that students have access, however, the following publishers will not allow us to purchase an e-textbook version of their publications:

  • Pearson
  • Cengage
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press 
  • Most publishers of ‘common reads,’ popular fiction, and popular nonfiction
  • Many health sciences texts

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. These publishers have the resources to support a global reliance on flexible distribution, and choose not to. 

The University has been exploring new options for textbook suppliers since Barnes & Noble discontinued their textbook program. Faculty, please be aware that if you are expecting students to purchase a copy of a course textbook, you must seek another commercial vendor for the book and link to it in your syllabus.

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