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E-Books at UC Library

Guide to accessing and using e-books at University of Canberra.

How Does an E-Textbook Differ from an E-Book?

E-textbooks are a subset of the e-book format, generally born digitally, which contain core course content. In addition to the usual e-book advantages, e-textbooks support increased interactivity through embedded multimedia objects and assessment tools.
Often publishers do not always licence e-textbooks to libraries, but rather only to individuals. As this may have implications for student equity please contact your Liaison Librarian if you are considering adding an e-textbook to your Reading List.


UC Library promotes the incorporation of electronic textbooks by academics into teaching and learning. In addition to the general advantages of e-books, e-textbooks generally come with features not available to print equivalents. For example:

•    assessments, such as quizzes;
•    lecture slides and
•    social media channels, facilitating student interaction

What is not widely known in academic communities is that publishers generally do not make these features available for purchase by libraries.More importantly, many publishers do not license (i.e. sell) e-textbooks to libraries. They are sold to individuals only.Those that do sell to libraries charge per enrolled student, making the cost prohibitive within library budgets.

If libraries were to buy e-textbooks for selected courses only, its role in assuring equity in access for students may be compromised (in keeping with Higher Education Support Act 2003 Guidelines). Funding e-textbook access for every student in a course would mark a fundamental change in Library service levels.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What's the difference between putting an e-book, versus an e-textbook, on a reading list?

It is the publisher or vendor that deems the books status. A title's status as e-book versus e-textbook will determine whether:
•    libraries are able to buy it;
•    how much of its content they will be able to buy (e.g. the assessment components?) and
•    if it will be available for sale to individuals only.

This has implications for students:
•    can they rely on access via the Library?
•    must each student purchase access?

If available via the Library, considerations include:
•    is access limited to one person at a time - and how long are others locked out (1 day, 3 days, 14 days?)
•    is content complete?
•    how much may be printed or downloaded within a stated period?

Some publishers or vendors generate unique user IDs the first time a reader accesses a title. They are then able to track and block the amount of reading, printing and downloading performed by that user.
So, an e-textbook differs from an e-book at the publisher's discretion. As described earlier, an e-textbook is often defined by its print equivalent status, or by the publisher's assessment of its application to teaching. If a publisher representative partnering with an academic has one of their titles listed as required reading on a course outline, that title will be deemed an e-textbook. This preserves the sales/usage ratio of 1:1, rather than 1: many.

Do publishers partner with libraries with respect to e-textbooks?

In UC Library's experience: no, they do not. This is also reported by other Council of Australian University Librarians members.
E-textbook publisher representatives do not contact UC Library. They deal directly with academics.
UC Library usually learns of these partnerships when students fail to locate the e-textbook in the library catalogue.