Online Access and E-Resources Center

Statement on Commercial Textbooks in the Purdue Libraries Collection

Updated 2 years ago

Commercial Textbooks in the Purdue Libraries Collection
Thank you to our colleagues at University of Guelph Libraries for sharing their language documenting these challenges. We have adapted it with permission.
Libraries staff are working hard to provide alternative access to the print course reserves collection. A significant portion of the books on reserve are print copies of required textbooks, and students cannot access them without physically visiting the library. To support instructors and students over the next several months, we are developing new approaches to how we acquire course textbooks. Our goal is to ensure that all students have access, even in a primarily online, alternative delivery environment.
Unfortunately, this work is hampered by textbook publishers who do not provide electronic purchasing options for libraries. Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students at exorbitant cost. Unlike traditional textbooks which can be resold, these e-textbooks often consist of a single-use download code that eliminates a student’s ability to purchase a copy of the textbook at a reduced cost on the secondary market or recoup some of their significant investment at the end of the semester.
Despite the library’s commitment to make copies of required textbooks and course materials available to assist those students who are unable to purchase their own, most publishers will not allow us to purchase an e-textbook version of their publications. As a result, students who do not have the means to purchase the textbook themselves will not have any alternative access to the textbook content. This is particularly devastating as the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hits millions of families and students are encouraged to social distance and avoid communally handled items, like paper textbooks on reserve. 
We encourage instructors to explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, including:

  • Using an existing e-book in the relevant subject area from the library’s extensive e-book collection or requesting that the library purchase one. There are many academic e-books that 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 a Library Reading List through the Libraries’ new electronic course reserves management tool:
    • 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) or acquiring new content whenever possible.
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.
Any instructors teaching a fall course are welcome to contact the library at any time for support with sourcing their course materials.
·       Email Course Reserves at
·       Submit a request via
·       Reach out to your liaison librarian

Explore our list of open textbook resources here