8 Statement on Textbooks Offered by the Portland State University Library

Statement on Textbooks Offered by the Portland State University Library

August 5, 2020


PSU Library faculty and staff work 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. Due to the constraints of building capacity, staffing, and the handling of materials with a short turn around, we are unable to offer print course reserves for checkout in the fall.

Library faculty and staff continuously explore approaches to how we acquire course textbooks to ensure that students have access electronically. This work is made arduous by textbook publishers who do not provide electronic purchasing options, and therefore create access inequities for students including further barriers for disabled students who rely on electronic copies for access. Many existing course textbooks are simply unavailable for purchase to any library, regardless of budget, in any format 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. Also, this model 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 PSU Library’s commitment to make copies of all high enrollment 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 or in a way that makes them viable for multiple student access:

  • Pearson
  • Cengage
  • John Wiley & Sons
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press
  • Sage Publications
  • 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. For classes requiring textbooks from these publishers, the only option for a student will be to purchase or lease an expensive print or e-textbook. These publishers have the resources and platforms to support online access by academic libraries, and choose not to do so.

We are here to work with course 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 faculty and instructors. There are several publishing platform options available to faculty.
    • Find available OER textbooks on the Guide on Open Educational Resources
    • Pressbooks, an open creation platform, is managed by the Office of Academic Innovation (OAI)
    • PDXOpen is the platform maintained by the Portland State University Library providing alternatives that can be adapted and adopted. Please contact our Digital Initiatives Unit at pdxscholar@pdx.edu for further information.
  • Creating an online course pack in D2L by:
    • Linking to content from the library’s existing collection of electronic resources (e-books, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials).

When the PSU Library licenses or purchases electronic materials, we strongly prefer materials that are unlimited in use and free from digital rights management (DRM) so that students don’t have to compete with each other for access. DRM includes limits on the number of users that can access a resource at any one time, as well as limits on pages that can be copied, printed and downloaded. PSU faculty members and instructors teaching this fall may contact your  subject liaison at any time for support with sourcing their course materials, or submit a Suggest a Purchase form for e-books that may be used as alternatives to traditional textbooks.


This statement is drawn from statements made by our colleagues at  Grand Valley State University Libraries & at the University of Guelph Libraries. We thank them for taking the lead on these issues and letting us adapt their content with permission.


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Portland State University Library General Collections Guidebook Copyright © by Jill Emery & Elsa Loftis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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