Working and studying through the Coronavirus pandemic has meant that we’re more reliant on ebooks and other electronic resources than ever before. As much as we would have liked for this to be a seamless transition to hybrid learning, it’s been a struggle throughout the year to make sure that we have access to all the essential materials you need for your coursework.
One of the reasons that we’re not always able to provide ebook access is that publishers do not always make their material available electronically. They may do this for a number of reasons, one of which is that they are worried they will not make the same amount of profit from print book sales as they usually would. They may also make the price of the ebook much much higher than the price of an individual print book to compensate for this potential loss of sales. For us in the Law school, we have found problems where publishers make books only available if you purchase access to an entire database of resources, often for hundreds of thousands of pounds, when we only need access to a handful of ebooks. This is not a realistic way for us to purchase access – budgets for resources are limited and getting tighter every year.
Some academic librarians in the UK have joined forces to launch an investigation into this spike in ebook prices and limits to availability because it is seriously affecting the courses that universities are able to run. You can read more about this campaign and the open letter sent to the UK Government asking for support here: https://academicebookinvestigation.org/
More recently, this campaign has had some publicity in national newspapers including this article in The Guardian by Anna Fazackerley, ‘Price gouging from Covid: Student ebooks costing up to 500% more than in print’: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/jan/29/price-gouging-from-covid-student-ebooks-costing-up-to-500-more-than-in-print
Last week it was announced that the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has petitioned the Competitions and Markets Authority to investigate this issue:
We wanted to draw your attention to these items so that you’re aware that action is being taken at a national level, and that librarians and academics are working hard to ensure that higher education institutions are not held to ransom over ebook access. The issues we’re facing here in Edinburgh are not unique, but they are very worrying. We hope that the investigations that are now being proposed will result in fairer and more equitable access for all in future.
If you’re worried about ebook access to core material for your course please speak to your course organiser or email us, firstname.lastname@example.org.