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University of Sydney Library eBook and eTextbook Guidelines

Preference for electronic access

These guidelines outline the Library’s preference for the provision of electronic access to eBooks and eTextbooks over purchase of the print equivalent. The Library recognises the advantages of digital formats which may include searchability, remote access, 24/7 access, access on portable devices, multimedia, simultaneous multi-user access, no late fines, and the ability to integrate into online course materials.

These guidelines contribute to the Library’s goal of providing digital resources to support and extend University research and teaching, and complement the Library’s Policy on Networked Electronic Access.  

The global eBook market is under constant change and development. Considerable growth in the availability of books in digital format has occurred since 2011. In this rapidly changing environment, the Library recognises that different access models may meet needs of different faculties or schools.

The Library’s preference is to purchase material in electronic format, and will purchase an eBook where both a print and eBook are available.  However the Library recognises that electronic access to resources is not appropriate in all cases. Patrons may request materials in print in certain circumstances:

  • If the image quality of illustrative materials (tables, graphs, photos, illustrations, musical notation, scripts other than English, etc.) is not adequate for teaching, learning or research, or if printing gives unacceptable results.
  • If an eBook copy is not available within a reasonable time period or a suitable eBook alternate title cannot be found.
  • When the license or conditions of use of the eBook do not allow the book to be used effectively to meet teaching, learning or research needs.
  • Rare or special collection items where the physical object is required.

To request print items please contact your Faculty Liaison Librarian who will investigate the request and discuss options and issues with you.

1. Acquisition

The University of Sydney Library usually (though not exclusively) purchases access to eBooks and eTextbooks under the following models:

  • subscription or lease
  • outright purchase (perpetual access)
  • Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA)

Preference is given to purchase of perpetual access rather than to subscription, except when the subscription model provides for the continuing updating of texts, or when the costs for perpetual access are prohibitive.

Titles available via Patron Driven Acquisition already appear in the Library catalogue and are triggered for purchase or short term loan when the book is opened, downloaded, printed or saved.

Electronic titles are purchased either as part of eBook collections or as single titles. For a list of eBook collections in the Library see http://sydney.edu.au/library/databases/ebooks.html. The Library has a number of preferred publishers based on the access and acquisition models they provide.  Acquisition from non-preferred vendors is possible; though investigation of pricing models and negotiation of access models may delay acquisition. If you have any questions about access to an electronic book from a specific vendor, please discuss your needs with your Faculty Liaison Librarian.

1.1. Acquisition of eTextbooks

The Library recognises that eTextbooks are a new and distinct form of publication which can differ quite substantially from eBooks. eTextbooks come with features not available to print equivalents including customisations, assessment and audio/visual resources.

ETextbooks also differ in their access and pricing models. Publishers have frequently excluded libraries from eTextbook purchasing and dealt with students or academics directly. Those that do sell to libraries charge per enrolled student, making the cost prohibitive for Library budgets.

EBooks and eTextbooks that aren’t purchased through the Library’s acquisition processes cannot be funded by the Library. We will not purchase any eTextbooks that have prohibitive access models, for example where the effective cost per student is excessive, or where the access is limited to a particular student group such as a unit of study cohort.

The Library has a role in assuring equity of access to textbooks for all students, in keeping with Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) and the Higher Education Provider (HEP) Guidelines (2003, s8.5.1). The Council of Australian University Librarians has highlighted the potential for inadvertent breaches of the HEP guidelines when academic staff enter eTextbook contractual arrangements directly with publishers (Hallam, 2012). We advise academic staff to consider the following points if you are approached by publishers to purchase or publish eTextbooks directly for your students:

  • Is the assessment module customisable?
  • Can my own assessments be included?
  • Is it compatible with BlackBoard?
  • Is access purchased or leased?
  • Are there any privacy implications for student data? For example, is student data going to be stored on publishers’ servers?
  • Are there legal implications if student usage and personal data is accessed by a commercial provider?
  • Check the terms and conditions of the license to ensure it complies with University guidelines.
  • Do assessments abide by University and HESA/HEP guidelines?

2. Budget

Some eBooks and eTextbooks are only made available by publishers in packages with other titles and cannot be purchased as single titles. It may not be possible for the Library to purchase titles if the cost of subscribing to or purchasing the eBook/eTextbook package is prohibitive.

To request to use Library funds for eBook or eTextbook purchases contact your Faculty Liaison Librarian.

3. Licensing & Privacy issues

EBook access varies between publishers with the result that some items have severely restricted access and others are very open.  As publishers set the terms of access some eBooks offer unlimited access by multiple users, full download of content, and unlimited printing or saving. Others limit the number of uses per year, limit the amount of printing, copying or downloading, or do not offer downloading to mobile devices.

The Library’s preference is to acquire eBooks and eTextbooks that can be used on a range of devices and without the need for additional software.

4. Digital Rights Management

The technical issues relating to viewing and downloading eBooks can be complex and encompass issues around software requirements, device compatibility, and Digital Rights Management (DRM) and copyright protection.

In some instances third party software is required for viewing eBooks and eTextbooks in order to manage publishers DRM.

 

Created April 2014. To be revised in April 2015.