Sector pulls together to deliver e-textbooks

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More than 120 UK universities are now being set up to enable access to critical textbook content for upwards of 1.4 million students over tens of thousands of modules of study, from right across the UK and Ireland under the Free Student eTextbook Programme – FSTP. The announcement was made today by Jisc, the UK’s not for profit education and research services provider.

The textbook programme includes thousands of titles brought together by academic publishers, including Pearson, McGraw Hill, Cengage, Taylor and Francis, Wiley, Cambridge and Oxford University presses to deliver a sector wide, student-centric solution to minimise the initial impact of Covid-19. 

Paul Feldman, CEO of Jisc, said: 'It’s vital that as many students across the UK can continue to learn from wherever they are during the lockdown period. The rapid response from universities signing up to the programme combined with the overwhelmingly positive reaction from publishers providing core eTextbooks, is a landmark of unprecedented cooperation across the sector. We hope that this initiative will lead to future collaborations to provide critical textbook access online to all students.'

Among the first universities to go live with across campus access to eTextbooks are the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester: 

'Kortext have provided an invaluable service to the HE sector in stepping up with the Free Student Content Programme at this time of uncertainty and rapidly changing circumstances. It has provided us and our university community with extremely useful teaching tools in a very timely fashion,' commented Jane Cooke, University of Liverpool Library

Olivia Walsby, University of Manchester Library, added: 'At the University of Manchester, as with colleagues across the sector, we are keen to reassure our students and staff that we are here to support their studies and research online by providing access to key digital content during this difficult time. The Free Student eTextbook Programme will have a significant impact in making this transition as quick and comprehensive as possible at no extra cost.'

James Gray, CEO and founder of Kortext said: 'The scale of this programme is truly ground-breaking. Only by pulling together as a sector has this programme been made possible and ensured we are able to support all UK students with an unprecedented amount of content on a single, customisable bookshelf for free, thus ensuring they can continue to study at this crucial time of year.'

Jisc is continuing to encourage all publishers to collaborate with Kortext and other providers such as Vital Source and BibliU to maximise the availability of content to students as well as clinicians who are supporting the NHS during the pandemic. 

In support of university libraries seeking clarity on what content is now available, Jisc has set up an online survey to capture the measures that content and service providers have put in place or plan to implement. The survey includes questions on provision for off-campus access and whether publishers intend to roll out extended trials, or grace periods. Responses will be made available the Jisc website and will be updated daily.