McGill Alert / Alerte de McGill

Updated: Thu, 07/18/2024 - 18:12

Gradual reopening continues on downtown campus. See Campus Public Safety website for details.

La réouverture graduelle du campus du centre-ville se poursuit. Complément d'information : Direction de la protection et de la prévention.

Commercial Textbooks Challenges

The Libraries staff assist faculty and students by providing access to a course reserves collection. A significant portion of the books on reserve are print copies of required textbooks. During the pandemic period, we transitioned to a mainly online environment for course reserves, and have a commitment online reserves to meet the needs of our students.

Providing online access to the reserve collection is hampered however by textbook publishers who do not provide electronic purchasing options for libraries. Approximately 85% of existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to libraries in any other format than print. Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students. Libraries are cut out of this model in an effort for these publishers to maximize their profits by selling only to students and not to libraries. Despite this, we also know that the cost of textbooks and other course materials represent a major financial hurdle for students at McGill. Despite the McGill Libraries' commitment to make copies of all required textbooks and course materials available to assist those students who are unable to purchase their own, several publishers (listed at the end of this page) do not allow libraries to purchase the e-book version and sometimes restrict the print versions.

    • This means that students who do not purchase the textbooks from publishers prohibiting sales to libraries will not have any alternative access to the textbook content via the McGill Library.

    It also means that Faculty members cannot upload these textbooks as PDFs into D2L without clearing copyright costs, which as very cost prohibitive, because of the leasing structure options they have in place. Any texts uploaded to a D2L must be cleared by copyright. Here is more information about copyright issues: 

    • As required by our agreement with Copibec, scanned material must be reported on Savia
    • Need help reporting your scans? Please contact copyright.library [at]

    We work with instructors to explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, including:

    1. Using an existing e-book in the relevant subject area from the Libraries' e-book collection or requesting that the Libraries purchase one. There are many academic e-books that aren’t considered textbooks, and are therefore available for the Libraries to purchase.
    2. 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. 
    3. Creating an online course pack in our Course Management System (D2L) by:
      • Posting individual book chapters or excerpts and scanned copies of the content, subject to Copyright limitations. Copyright permission will be sought where feasible in cases where the excerpt falls outside of fair dealing guidelines.
      • 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 (DRM) restrictions 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 Term course are also welcome to contact the library at any time for support with sourcing their course materials. 


    McGill Libraries Contact information.

    To request a e-textbook for purchase: McGill Libraries Request a Purchase Form.

    For information for Faculty about Course Reserves.

    For information for Students about what is on Course Reserves


    Here's a link to the executive summary of the SSMU’s 2017 OER report.

    Thanks to University of Guelph Library for their news item that we used as a the basis of this web page!

    Publishers that do not allow access

    The following publishers are course book companies or have divisions of their publishing company that sell text books and they will not allow us to purchase a digital version:

    • Pearson
    • Cengage
    • Houghton
    • McGraw-Hill
    • Oxford University Press Canada (Textbook Division)
    • Cambridge University Press (Textbook Division)
    • Elsevier imprints (especially in veterinary and health science) such as:
      • Elsevier Health Science (Textbook Division)
      • Mosby
      • Saunders
    • Thieme
    • MacMillan Higher Education, including:
      • W. H. Freeman
    • Wiley-Blackwell (Textbook Division)
    • Some publishers (McGraw-Hill (e.g. AccessPharmacy, AccessPhysiotherapy, etc.)) make their e-textbooks available only via large subscription packages, which can be very expensive and cost-prohibitive.
    • There are textbook platforms that also sell only directly to students, and some publishers only have their electronic access there, including:
      • RedShelf
      • VitalSource

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