The Challenges of Online Textbook Access

Thursday, Aug 13, 2020

As we approach the fall 2020 semester, MacEwan Library is working hard to provide alternative access to our Textbook Collection. The majority of textbooks we currently have on reserve are print copies and students cannot access them without coming into the Library. We recognize library copies do not replace the access students have when using a purchased or rented copy of their required textbook. For example, Library copies of textbooks do not include a code for online quizzes and supplementary materials which some courses require students to access.

To support faculty and students over the next few months, we are modifying our approach to acquiring course textbooks to ensure that students have access even in a primarily online, alternative delivery environment. However, this work is hampered as most major publishers will not sell electronic copies to libraries.

Enhanced textbook access options include: 

  1. Scan on Demand – a new MacEwan Library service that makes it possible for students to request a scanned portion from any book in our print collections (including textbooks).  

  2. More copies of certain high-demand textbooks are being purchased to accommodate a 72hr quarantine period between uses. 

    • New for this Fall, students will be able to place holds on textbooks. 

To review all options available to students, visit our Find Textbooks page. 


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This article was inspired by “Commercial Textbooks Present Challenges in a Virtual Environment” by The University of Guelph Library.