“To accommodate students who may be struggling financially, instructors will often request that the library purchase a copy of their course-required commercial e-textbook to place on reserve. However, many textbook publishers or vendors will not sell electronic versions of their books to libraries (like VitalSource) since it is more profitable to sell directly to students. If e-textbooks are available for libraries to purchase, they are often unreasonably priced (see this crowd-sourced spreadsheet of examples) and come with restrictive licensing (e.g., limited simultaneous users, limited ability to download and print). For example, several of the academic publishers we work with and buy from regularly have started classifying their eBooks as either ‘eBooks for library sale’, or ‘eTextbooks, only available for individual student purchase’. Some of the publishers that we deal with who have these restrictions on textbooks include: …”
In the majority of cases libraries no longer own their eBook collections – and unless there is much needed reform they never will. As publishers have abandoned copyright law in favour of choosing whether to lease digital content to libraries (or not), age-old practices undertaken in the public interest are brought into question. These include important activities such as common access irrespective of an individual’s financial position, collection development, teaching, preservation and cultural heritage.
When books are not available to readers from libraries, authorship is also undermined. Libraries are places that encourage reading, research and intellectual exploration, and less access to materials from libraries impacts on an author’s capacity to create new works and for their works to be discovered. Moreover, they will have no guarantee that their own works will be available to new readers when publishers no longer find them commercially viable to keep “in print” on eBook platforms.
Recently, John Wiley & Sons made headlines internationally when it abruptly removed over 1,300 ebooks from academic library collections just as the new academic year was starting. This created extra costs for students, libraries and educators as they hurriedly tried to reconfigure reading lists and teaching plans as well as purchase replacement titles. Unsurprisingly the disruption Wiley caused universities was widely condemned by library groups, students and authors alike.
In the face of widespread pressure, at the start of October, Wiley made headlines again when it announced it was restoring access, but only until June 2023. While a welcome respite from one publisher, this however changes little as high pricing, refusal to license, bundling, removal of titles with no notice and other issues remain the norm for eBook markets.
This webinar will discuss the eBook crisis libraries, educators and authors face with international thought leaders in the sector. Exploring the many issues that have arisen as collections are increasingly leased and not owned, the session will take the form of a wide-ranging interview and discussion with our panellists.
Questions will also be welcome from attendees.
Caroline Ball Co-founder of eBookSOS / Academic Librarian, University of Derby / Trustee, WikimediaUK
Mikkel Christoffersen Chief Consultant, Copenhagen Libraries
Dave Hansen Executive Director, Authors Alliance
Cathal McCauley President of the Library Association of Ireland / University Librarian, Maynooth University
DATE: 21st November 2022
TIME: 14:00 – 15:30 CET | 13:00 – 14:30 GMT/UTC
“#ebookSOS is run by three academic librarians, on a voluntary basis, and with no formal resourcing. We all do all of this work on top of our busy day jobs.
We rely on donations to be able to keep advocating for fair access to books for libraries.
In the interest of transparency and to make it easier for organisations and individuals to support us, we have set up an Open Collective account, which can be accessed here https://opencollective.com/ebooksos-campaign
Open Collective facilitates one-off donations or regular contributions and allows supporters to see our financial status and exactly how we spend our funds.
Please consider making a donation or regular payment to enable us to carry on with this important work. Every little bit helps.”
Wiley released a statement yesterday announced they would be returning the withdrawn 1,379 ebooks to the ProQuest Academic Complete package in response to librarian, author, student and organisational pressure – but only until June 2023.
Whilst #ebookSOS welcomes this news and counts it as a success for our collective action and sustained pressure (with particular acknowledgement and thanks to the Library Association of Ireland and Authors Alliance), this is not an outright win. None of Wiley’s actions negates the fact that this is standard practice for publishers and ebook collections, and libraries regularly see titles removed from Academic Complete and other packages throughout the year. The only thing unique about this situation is the timing and the scale and the fact that all titles are from one publisher.
A Statement from Matt Leavy, EVP & GM, Academic & Professional Learning for Wiley
In June 2020, Wiley requested our library aggregator partner ProQuest transition approximately 1,380 ebooks out of its Academic Complete online digital library as part of a regular review of collections. In working with ProQuest, this change was delayed to August 2022 for contractual reasons and to provide time for customers to make any necessary adjustments. Nevertheless, many customers were caught off guard.
After reviewing the decision against the current environment and listening to our customers, we are returning these ebooks to the ProQuest Academic Complete collection so libraries that subscribe to the service can access them again.
We are working to restore access to the ebooks as soon as possible. The materials will remain in the collection through June 2023 to ensure access through the remainder of the academic year.
We sincerely apologize for any disruption this may have caused students, instructors and libraries. We are reviewing the process of updating collections to avoid similar situations in the future.
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.
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.
Anderson, Yohanna, and Cathal McCauley. 2022. “How the Covid-19 Pandemic Accelerated an E-book Crisis and the #ebooksos Campaign for Reform”. Insights 35: 13. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.586
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.
The freedom for libraries to acquire books and develop a collection. A relic of a pre-digital age? Or an ongoing issue in dire need of action? Who and what determines what libraries, both public and academic, can offer: user needs vs publishers’ policies? And how can we protect the rights of access to education, knowledge, and cultural participation?
Join Knowledge Rights 21 for their first webinar and hear what experts have to say on these topics.
The situation facing libraries when working with eBooks is a key theme of the Knowledge Rights 21 Programme. In the webinar, you will learn all about KR21, and the latest developments around eBooks in different parts of Europe. Finally, they will be discussing the solutions being pursued.
Keys takeaways will be:
– A strong understanding of the issues around eBooks in libraries today,
– Opportunities open to libraries under the wider Knowledge Rights 21 Programme,
– An open invitation to help us shape the Programme’s next steps on eBooks.
Benjamin White, Chair of LIBER’s Copyright and Legal Matters Working Group, researcher at Bournemouth University’s Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management.
Barbara Schleihagen, Executive Director, German Library Association
Cathal McCauley, University Librarian, Maynooth University.
#ebooksos were dismayed to learn yesterday that Pearson Education UK intend to increase the price of their ebooks by 500% on December 6th. Pearson were one of the few publishers with ebook prices that mirrored their hardcopy prices. Librarians are now faced with just a week to review their Pearson ebook licence holdings before the huge price rise. With many libraries having budgeted for the year ahead already, the timing of this increase pulls the rug from under the feet of those ever more thinly spread budgets
For Rachel Bickley, market pressure alone cannot solve the problems in the market for academic ebooks.
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.