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Textbooks in the Library Collection

Thank you to our colleagues at University of Guelph Libraries (U of Guelph) [] and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) [] for sharing their language documenting these challenges. We have adapted GVSU’s adaptation of U of Guelph’s statement with permission.


Until recently, The New School had an option for purchasing books through Barnes and Noble’s textbook program; this program was very recently discontinued by B&N. While the University intends to pursue possible long-term options for textbook suppliers, we’re sharing some information on ordering or reserving books for the upcoming 2021-22 academic year.  

We strongly encourage faculty to use the Course Reserves service to ensure that the library is able to provide students a free option to materials when available. This option is the most effective in limiting potential non-tuition costs for students. Subject Librarians may assist with locating alternative materials, e.g., Open Educational Resources (OER). More information can be found on the Reserves Guide, and as always please consult the Libraries’ Ask Us webpage if you have any questions.

Library staff have continuously explored approaches to how we acquire course textbooks, to ensure that students have access. This work is complicated by textbook publishers who do not provide electronic purchasing options for libraries. Many existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to any library, regardless of budget, in formats other than print. Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students. We also know that the cost of textbooks and other course materials are a barrier for students at every university and essentially sends taxpayer funded student financial aid back to content providers, who further exploit faculty labor and research to monopolize and dominate knowledge production. 

This is not a library problem. This is an industry problem that impacts everyone in higher education: students, advocates in support and success roles, faculty and institutional research output, grant funding, and confuses prestige and paywalls with quality in scholarship evaluation. 

Despite the library’s commitment to make copies of all requested textbooks and course materials available to assist those students who are unable to purchase their own, the following publishers will not allow us to purchase an e-textbook version of their publications:

  • Pearson
  • Cengage
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press 
  • Most publishers of ‘common reads,’ popular fiction, and popular nonfiction
  • Many health sciences texts

This means that in courses that have adopted textbooks by these publishers, students who do not purchase the textbook will not have any alternative access to the textbook content. These publishers have the resources to support a global reliance on flexible distribution, and choose not to.  

We are working with instructors to explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, including:

  • Using an existing e-book in the relevant subject area from the library’s e-book collection or requesting that the library purchase one. Many academic e-books aren’t considered textbooks, and are therefore available for the library to purchase.
  • Adopting an open educational resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors.
  • Creating an online course pack in Canvas by:
    • Posting individual book chapters or excerpts and scanned copies of the content, subject to copyright limitations
    • Linking to content from the library’s existing collection of electronic resources (e-books, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials).

Efforts will be made to secure online materials that are free from digital rights management restrictions (DRM) in order to ensure unfettered student access. DRM includes limits on the number of users that can access a resource at any one time, as well as limits on copying, printing and downloading. Questions?

Any instructors teaching a fall course are also welcome to contact the library at any time for support with sourcing their course materials.