HE sector calls for affordable pricing models

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Sconul, in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the #ebooksSOS campaign, Jisc, National Acquisitions Group (NAG), Research Libraries UK (RLUK) and the UK purchasing consortia APUC and SUPC, have released a joint statement and detailed position paper calling for immediate action by publishers and aggregators to introduce more sustainable and affordable pricing models for e-books and e-textbooks.   

The group says that, in the current publishing market libraries have been increasingly excluded from, or priced out of, providing e-books and e-textbooks for their students and their library users – and that the models and fees charged by publishers have become prohibitively expensive and unsustainable for libraries.

Providing students and their teachers with online-only access to learning content has been a priority during the pandemic and will continue to be in a blended learning and teaching environment. E-books and e-textbooks are central to learning and teaching, from seminar reading to exam revision and ultimately qualification.

There is an expectation from the sector, that essential learning and teaching titles are available to students and library users to borrow without them having to purchase their own copies. The potential for the latter to perpetuate a two-tier system of education cannot be overlooked, says the group, adding that UK libraries are ideally placed to coordinate and purchase all kinds of learning content supporting both the post-pandemic norm and current levelling-up agenda.

In the joint statement the group pledges to work collectively to enable students and teachers in UK higher and further education to gain equitable and sustainable access to e-books, e-textbooks and related teaching content. The detailed position paper outlines what this will look like.

Libby Homer, chair of Sconul Content Strategy Group, said: 'This is a call for simplicity, transparency, fairness and accessibility. As it stands, the marketplace is skewed against not just libraries, but users from universities to public libraries and NHS Trusts.'

Nicholas Lewis, library director at the University of East Anglia and lead author of the paper, added: 'It’s time for all parties to re-prioritise the needs of students and library users in this marketplace and come up with far more sustainable solutions for the future’.