Statement on Textbooks in the Library Collection

[We are grateful to our colleagues at Grand Valley State University and University of Guelph Libraries for sharing their statements on this subject. We have adapted their statements with permission.]

The faculty and staff at UNCG’s University Libraries have worked since 2016 in conjunction with the UNCG Bookstore to provide classroom texts electronically. The Libraries purchase electronic versions of textbooks when unlimited access is available. When these titles are purchased, the instructor of record is notified and the link is added to our Course-Adopted Texts guide.

However, this work is difficult because many textbook publishers do not allow libraries to purchase electronic access to their textbooks. These publishers make a profit by selling access to electronic textbooks to individual students. This is not a library issue but an industry issue that affects everyone in higher education. Despite the Libraries’ efforts to provide electronic access to textbooks and other course materials in order to better support students who are unable to purchase their own materials, the following publishers and many of their subsidiaries will not allow us to purchase electronic versions of their textbooks:

  • Pearson
  • Cengage
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press
  • Most publishers of popular fiction and nonfiction
Additionally, some publishers (such as Sage publishing) allow libraries to purchase some books electronically while marketing others as textbooks with only individual access.

This means that if professors have adopted texts from these publishers, students who are unable to purchase the text will have no access to the content unless there is a print copy on reserve in the library and the library remains open.

Although a different industry, some similar problems impact our ability to license streaming films—even when they are available to rent or buy by individual consumers through platforms such as Amazon, YouTube, or Apple, or including in streaming subscriptions through services like Netflix or Hulu. While the library owns both entertainment and instructional DVDs, simply owning these DVD copies does not give us the ability to provide streaming access to them. Please visit our Streaming Media guide for more information about available platforms for streaming media and licensing models.

Liaison librarians and Technical Services staff are working with instructors to identify alternatives, including:

  • Using an existing ebook that the library already owns or can purchase with unlimited access.
  • Adopting an Open Educational Resource (OER). OERs are any type of material or resource used for teaching available in the public domain that is free to use and/or alter. More information about OER is available on our OER guide.
  • Selecting book chapters to be posted in Canvas as eReserves or articles that can be linked from library resources.

Any instructor is welcome to contact the Libraries for assistance in locating electronic resources that can be provided by the Libraries.