Statement by Library Futures and SPARC on Wiley E-Textbook Withdrawal | SPARC

In late August, at the start of the Fall 2022 school semester, Wiley Publishing Company abruptly withdrew 1,379 multidisciplinary titles from Proquest, a vendor for university ebook collections around the world. As a result, librarians and faculty members in the United States and internationally have scrambled to identify alternative textbook options for their students as the pandemic amplified the trouble with restrictive licensing and e-textbooks.

Library Futures and SPARC strongly condemn this action by Wiley, which seriously hinders students’ access to equitable, affordable course materials. The full list of titles and public contact information for their authors was compiled by Johanna Anderson of #ebookSOS.

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The eBook crisis and how it affects academic staff | University of Salford

“The rising costs of textbooks, particularly eBooks, is creating a crisis of availability of core reading materials. This is impacting on academic colleagues’ ability to recommend textbooks and students facility to access core reading materials.

Publishers current supply models make it impossible for a library to provide textbooks on behalf of their students. Consequently, students are either forced to purchase expensive textbooks themselves or not have access to critical resources. This is all happening during a cost-of-living crisis when they are struggling to meet their basic needs to support their studies.

Therefore, the supply and pricing of textbooks, particularly eBooks, is one of the most difficult issues currently facing both libraries and universities. Further information on these issues is available in Jisc’s Briefing for academic staff on Cost, affordability and availability of core reading materials.

Publishers are increasingly constraining our ability to provide equitable textbook access. Their actions include:

imposing stringent access requirements when providing eTextbooks
declining to sell their eTextbooks to libraries
not offering some textbooks in electronic format
escalating eTextbook costs for libraries
withdrawing sale of textbooks previously available electronically…”

Wiley withdrawing key ebook titles from library collections – evidence required please | #ebooksos – Campaign to investigate the ebook market for libraries

A conversation was bought to our attention on Twitter a few days ago that went like this

– In June my library was told that Wiley would be removing 1,379 ebooks from our subscription packages. Because many of these books were heavily used, we looked into purchasing them with perpetual access but were told they were considered textbooks.
So basically, because these books were heavily used, Wiley decided to stop letting libraries buy them as ebooks. To top it off, we lost access the second week of classes. Faculty had planned their courses around students having library access to the texts. #TextbookEquity

– This happened to us, too, except to my knowledge we weren’t told. We found out when students tried to access these texts.

– Same. And some of them are actually just out of print now. You can’t even buy them from Amazon

– Yes, same deal from Wiley in Australia in lead-up to start of 2nd semester.

We are also receiving emails from UK librarians who are experiencing the same issues. Wiley are withdrawing access to key reading materials just a week or two before the beginning of the new academic year. We need to hear how this is impacting your library so we can highlight this matter to the CMA and MPs.

 

Best-selling chemistry textbook is now free | News | Chemistry World

“The author of a popular organic chemistry textbook is making it freely available to students after learning about a loophole in his copyright agreement with the publisher.

John McMurry’s Organic Chemistry has been one of the best selling chemistry textbooks since it was first printed in 1984. Under his agreement with Cengage Learning, the book’s publisher, McMurry realised he could ask for the book’s copyright to be returned to him 30 years after it was first printed. Without copyright of the first edition, the publisher is unable to produce any more new editions, McMurry notes.

McMurry, an emeritus professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, US, says the move was a tribute to his son who passed away from cystic fibrosis three years ago….”

The Book Costs How Much??? Textbook Cost & OER Awareness in Political Science | Journal of Political Science Education

Shawna M. Brandle (2022) The Book Costs How Much??? Textbook Cost & OER Awareness in Political Science, Journal of Political Science Education, DOI: 10.1080/15512169.2022.2104164

 

Abstract

Introductory level political science courses are a near-universal experience for undergraduate students in the US. Despite the wide occurrence of introductory courses, and the increasing attention paid to student loan debt, the cost of the teaching materials for introductory courses has largely been ignored in political science. This paper brings together several data sources to show how political science has not been attentive to textbook costs and highlight one possible solution, Open Educational Resources (OER), which has the potential to increase access to political science for all students.

 

Rodríguez: Alternatives to paying for pricey textbooks – San José Spotlight

“The high cost of textbooks affects more than just a student’s bank account, however. Their learning outcomes and ability to succeed in classes are also impacted, as recent studies show nearly two-thirds of students skip purchasing a textbook because of cost—despite concerns that not having the materials will negatively impact their grade. Additionally, students experiencing food insecurity report forgoing buying course materials at even higher rates, with more than 80% of food-insecure students not buying required textbooks due to cost.

For community colleges students, who disproportionately come from low-income households, the high price of textbooks presents a significant barrier to academic success and degree completion. Most students rely on their financial aid in order to be able to afford textbooks. But due to the financial aid disbursement schedule, they often do not have access to funds prior to the start of classes. By the time students have access to their financial aid and are able to order and receive textbooks, they are often already behind in their classes and struggle to catch up once they have their books in hand.

Possible solutions to the high cost of textbooks include Open Educational Resources (OER) and Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) degrees….”

Absolutely Terrible Textbook Publishing Giant Pearson Wants To Make Everything Even Worse With NFTs

Pretty much everyone who has ever gone to college hates educational publishers. There’s an oligopoly of just five giant publishers, and they long ago learned that they are in the best market ever: the buyers of their textbooks (the students) have no choice and are forced to buy the books if their professors assign them — and more such books will get sold every semester that the professor requires it. Therefore, textbook prices are insane by any imaginable standard. And, for decades, they kept getting highermassively outpacing tons of other goods. For unclear reasons, the never ending march upwards in book pricing finally seemed to hit a ceiling around 2016, and prices seem to have somewhat leveled out since then. This chart from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is really pretty striking:

And, while publishers claim that the shift to digital textbooks (partially accelerating by remote learning during the pandemic) has resulted in a decline in student spending over the last five years, the College Board’s latest estimates are still that students will spend an average of $1240 per year on textbooks and supplies. That’s… a lot.

While there are some considerate professors out there who take into account the cost of textbooks (and a very rare few who will only require open access textbooks), most don’t seem to much care. They assign the books they want, the students are required to buy them, and so the publishers just keep raising the prices. Of course, the other way that students try to save money is by buying used textbooks. The savings are not always that significant, but when you’re talking about such large numbers, it can still make a huge difference.

Pearson, the largest of the Big 5 textbook publishers, also has a longstanding reputation for being particularly evil and uncaring. A decade ago, we wrote about how it had sent a single DMCA notice that resulted in 1.5 million teacher and student blogs being deleted. The company also was a key plaintiff in suing a startup that tried to offer free alternatives to super expensive textbooks (the lawsuit was eventually settled with the startup shifting business models, before it was acquired and its cheaper textbooks were shut down).

But, the most evil thing we’ve seen Pearson do was, back in 2019, when it announced it was so annoyed by the used textbook market digging into its never ending profits, and that it was going to switch all its textbooks to non-resalable digital textbooks. For the books it did print, it was going to try to shift to a rental only system. You pay for the textbook for a semester and then you return it. To Pearson. Who can resell it.

Since then, digital scarcity in the form of NFTs has come and gone as the new hotness. And while I still think there’s something interesting about NFTs (and am still working on a big paper about the pros and cons of NFTs), Pearson, in a manner only it could find reasonable, is embracing NFTs… to fuck over students even more.

The print editions of Pearson’s titles — such as “Fundamentals of Nursing,” which sells new for £57.99 ($70.88) — can be resold several times to other students without making the London-based education group any money. As more textbooks move to digital, CEO Andy Bird wants to change that. 

“In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” he told reporters following the London-based company’s interim results on Monday, talking about technological opportunities for the company. 

“The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market, and technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life,” by tracking the material’s unique identifier on the ledger from “owner A to owner B to owner C,” said Bird, a former Disney executive.

I mean, I kinda have to hand it to Mr. Bird, the former Disney exec. Usually, these kinds of execs at least try to hide how fucking evil and greedy they are. Andy Bird doesn’t give a shit.

So, here’s the thing. The power of NFTs to track resales and allow the content creator to participate in later sales is often touted as a benefit of NFTs. But, the reason it’s seen that way is because when done for digital artwork it benefits the artist, who sometimes has to sell their works pretty cheaply upfront.

This, is not that.

This is a company that already has jacked up prices to ridiculous levels on a captive market that is effectively forced to purchase at whatever price the publisher sets — and now wanting to “diminish the secondary market” and to track and take a cut of any future sale.

That’s not the power of blockchains and NFTs. When people talk about the useful aspects of those technologies (to the extent there are useful aspects) it’s to enable greater ownership, not less. It’s to enable greater independence from giant corporations, not more. The reason NFT resale bounties work is because everyone feels that it’s fair, and it creates a seamless way to further compensate an artist who most buyers want to support. Not to funnel more cash to a giant, greedy, evil company that is already sucking students dry.

What Pearson is looking to do is to make everyone hate Pearson that much more.

Leveraging IT and Library Partnerships for OER Faculty Development across Institutions | EDUCAUSE

“Textbooks are expensive. For many years, increases in the prices of textbooks have significantly outpaced inflation. An article from 2018 pegged the average cost per textbook in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system at $125.

Footnote1 Such prices dissuade some students from buying required texts if they believe they can get by without the texts, compromising their ability to fully participate and succeed in the course. Open educational resources (OER) offer low- or no-cost alternatives to traditional textbooks, and in many cases OER also serve as more current and more valuable learning resources than conventional texts.

Persuading faculty to adopt OER for their courses, however, has proven to be an ongoing challenge. The work of transitioning to OER is not trivial, and many faculty are hesitant to commit the time and energy needed to find—or create—OER that suit their courses and their teaching style. Professional development programs have been successful at encouraging faculty to adopt OER, but these programs often prove difficult to maintain for a variety of reasons, including unsustainable funding approaches, lack of faculty interest, and overworked support staff.Footnote2

Partnerships across departments is one way of sharing the financial or personnel burden of faculty development programming. A faculty development cohort on OER was established at Minnesota State University, Mankato (MNSU) in 2016 and continued in subsequent academic years. The program was supported with grant funding for the 2017–18 academic year and with funds provided by the IT Solutions department in the other academic years. The program consisted of cohorts of faculty interested in textbook affordability and OER; they participated in learning sessions and consultations to adopt OER in at least one of their courses. Cohorts met for a series of in-person content delivery sessions over the academic year and worked with an instructional designer to choose and implement OER or other low-cost course materials. A total of twenty university faculty participated in the three cohorts, and student textbook savings from those faculty members’ courses totaled $100,000 by the 2019 academic year. Faculty received a modest stipend for this work….”

Pearson says NFT textbooks will let it profit off secondhand sales – The Verge

“It’s not clear how, when, or if NFTs might show up in Pearson’s catalog. But they could mark a new stage in a long-standing publishing war. Thanks to legal concepts like the first-sale doctrine, physical book buyers typically own the media they’ve purchased outright, and they’re allowed to sell it without the original publishers making money. But ebooks have complicated that calculus. Any digital transfer creates a new “copy” of the work, and third-party secondhand ebook sales (along with other secondhand digital media sales) have faced serious legal challenges as a result….

Nothing prevents Pearson or any other major publisher from letting people sell ebook licenses using non-crypto DRM. In fact, third-party sellers like Tom Kabinet and ReDigi have been trying to create digital secondhand markets for years. But publishers have been generally hesitant to open the door to digital resales, especially as they’re trialing methods that give book buyers even less control, including subscription services like Pearson Plus — which Bird described glowingly during the earnings call.

So what’s changed? Possibly nothing. Pearson hasn’t committed to NFT textbooks, and Bird doesn’t lose anything by spitballing about the future value of a buzzy (if recently flatlined) new technology. A cut of a resold textbook is probably still less lucrative for Pearson than the subscription model it currently favors. But NFTs do seem to have a psychological effect — they make people feel like they own something, even if the ownership is fairly abstract. Textbook makers might see this as an opportunity to push digital markets in a new direction.

This might be a mixed bag for students. On one hand, some resale opportunity is better than none — which is what people often get with ebooks. On the other, a publisher-controlled resale market will almost certainly be tilted to favor the publisher. Library ebooks have self-destruct conditions that require buying new copies after a certain number of checkouts, for instance, and an NFT ebook could have a similarly limited number of resales. On a more abstract level, it short-circuits a real legal debate over whether people should have the right to control their digital purchases. And it adds yet another incentive for publishers to make buying physical textbooks as unpleasant and difficult as possible because, from their perspective, they’re just losing money on them….”

 

Pearson plans to sell its textbooks as NFTs | Publishing | The Guardian

“Textbook publisher Pearson plans to profit from secondhand sales by turning its titles into non-fungible tokens (NFTs), its chief executive has said.

Educational books are often sold more than once, since students sell study resources they no longer require. Publishers have not previously been able to make any money from secondhand sales, but the rise of digital textbooks has created an opportunity for companies to benefit….”

Pearson planning blockchain, NFTs for educational books to earn on resales – Ledger Insights – blockchain for enterprise

“During an earnings call this morning, Andy Bird, the CEO of learning company Pearson said it’s looking at non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as a way of earning additional revenues on the sale of second-hand books. A Pearson textbook can be re-sold up to seven times.

“Technology like blockchain and the NFTs allows us to pass through every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life,” said Bird. He mentioned the possibility of participating in downstream revenues.

That’s because many creators of art and sports NFTs take a small cut of the re-sale price, often around 5%. While NBA Top Shot sales of NFTs may have surpassed $1 billion, the vast majority of that money went to individual NFT holders in re-sales. But Dapper Labs, the NBA Top Shot rightsholder, made money on initial NFT sales and every re-sale.

However, re-selling NFTs in a purpose-built app differs from physical textbooks sold locally. The transfer cost is built into the NFT’s smart contract in the digital world, so it’s almost impossible to sidestep. In real life, one can sell a book without scanning a barcode with the embedded NFT. And students are naturally penny-pinching, so they might be keen to sidestep a 5% tax….”

Pearson (LON:PSON) Sees NFT, Blockchain Helping Making Money From E-Books Sales – Bloomberg

“The chief executive officer of Pearson Plc, one of the world’s largest textbook publishers, said he hopes technology like non-fungible tokens and the blockchain could help the company take a cut from secondhand sales of its materials as more books go online. …

“In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” he told reporters following the London-based company’s interim results on Monday, talking about technological opportunities for the company. 

 

“The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market, and technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life,” by tracking the material’s unique identifier on the ledger from “owner A to owner B to owner C,” said Bird, a former Disney executive….”

UNC Press initiative aims to tame the soaring and burdensome cost of textbooks | NC Policy Watch

“This month the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics released a new edition of Contemporary Precalculus Through Applications, the popular book and the only text in the school’s precalculus courses.

But this new edition is available digitally, for free, to not just students at the elite residential high school but high school and college students all over the state. The move is part of a partnership between NCSSM — the only high school that is part of the UNC System — and the nonprofit UNC Press….

It’s part of UNC Press’s commitment to “open educational resources” (OER), said John Sherer, Director of UNC Press. He hopes the the press will be doing this kind of work more and that it will be replicated by university presses in other states….”

2023 OpenHawks grants to help students save on textbooks – Library News

“University Libraries is pleased to announce another 12 OpenHawks grants for the development of open educational resources (OER). OpenHawks is a campus-wide grant program that funds faculty efforts to replace or avoid high-cost textbooks with OERs for enhanced student success.

The cohort of projects, which are slated to be completed in 2023, will save UI students $167,688 in the first year alone. Removing cost barriers to course materials opens student access and positively impacts learning. The funded OER projects, which were selected through a competitive application process, will benefit students in a wide range of disciplines, including law, radiation oncology, communication science and disorders, language learning, mathematics, library and information science, pediatrics, and social work….”