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eBooks at ACU

This guide explains: what eBooks are, which ones ACU Library subscribes to and how to access, print and download them.

etextbooks and higher education - some issues

What is an etext or etextbook?

These are similar to print textbooks and usually refer to an electronic book used by students as a standard, assigned book for a particular course, unit or subject. While the Library buys electronic copies of texts when available, this is a rapidly changing area, with enormous educational, technological, and economic implications. Some of the issues are listed below.

What are the main issues?

  1. Which titles are considered textbooks? Publishers, academics, libraries may all have different title lists. Titles and definitions will also vary according to discipline, and professional accreditation requirements.
  2. Purchase vs rental models. Electronic textbooks are often only licensed for the individual user, and cannot be purchased for "library type" use.
  3. Cost - who pays?
  4. Licensing and Digital Rights Management (DRM)
    • documents encrypted to be read on one device may not be copied to another device
    • can you lend your copy of an ebook to another?
    • printing and downloading limits
  5. Lack of a standard format for both hardware and software - users must choose carefully or they might not be able to read the books that they want. Publishers may not choose to create books in multiple formats.
  6. Improved accessibility, mobility, functionality, convenience, currency.

Issues and benefits for students?

  1. Cost - may be more economical for students.
  2. Convenience - access 24/7.
  3. Updating of information easier.
  4. Portability - carrying heavy texts minimised.
  5. Extra features, eg quizzes, personalisation, notes, searching, copy and paste, navigation, citation.
  6. DRM features restrictive (including printing).
  7. If the etext is a rental - what happens if the student requires the etext for revision, exams, etc after the semester "rental" expires?

What are the issues for libraries and universities?

  1. Are textbooks and etextbooks pedagogically best practice in higher education, and within problem based learning environments?
  2. Licensing etexts for an entire student group may be costly, and may limit access for self study/research of students not enrolled in the unit/course.
  3. Business models - publishers concerned about effect on print sales.
  4. Access limited to the study period.
  5. Licensing (not ownership): networked access may not be possible.
  6. Can the etexts be incorporated into the University Learning Management System?
  7. Etexts (eChapters) often have state-of-the-art options  -  improved grading systems, student performance tracking, curriculum customization, and file sharing capability, making administrative tasks quicker and easier. Or is this the role of the LMS? 
  8. Libraries may not be able to bear the whole cost of etextbooks.
  9. Plagiarism and the copy and paste options.

What are the issues for publishers?

  1. The cost of developing a new textbook and the accompanying materials.
  2. Investments in technology.
  3. Reproduction of color images, tables, and figures  - inclusion of graphics needed for technical publications and textbooks
  4. Licensing and Digital Rights Management (DRM): method of securely distributing ebooks and preserving the copyright and royalties of authors

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