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Important E-Book News for GW Faculty and Students

Comments on Recent Developments

October 6, 2022

Acquiescing to pressure from librarians and the media, Wiley plans to walk back their removal of 1,379 titles from a ProQuest e-book subscription package, but only through June of 2023. This stop-gap measure, intended to allay the bad press the publisher has received, is not a sufficient response. Wiley has not provided assurances that libraries will have the opportunity to purchase the titles after that date, nor have they pledged not to remove titles in a similar fashion in the future. Wiley claims they are “committed to providing students with affordable e-books through initiatives such as our inclusive access and course materials affordability programs.” Inclusive access is a misnomer; in fact, it entails charging students automatically for textbooks that they then lose access to at the end of the course. Publishers that bar libraries from obtaining materials for their collections are contributing to the college affordability crisis and are preventing libraries from fulfilling their mission to provide access to knowledge.

E-Book News for GW

September 16, 2022

For several years, the Washington Research Libraries Consortium (WRLC) has provided access to a large, multi-disciplinary collection of e-books from a variety of publishers. This collection receives high usage and includes titles used in courses at GW. 

At the start of the 2022 Fall semester the vendor of this e-book package, at the behest of the Wiley publishing company, removed 1,379 Wiley titles from the collection, thereby shutting off access for GW and the rest of the WRLC community.

Wiley will no longer offer electronic versions of these titles in the academic library market for license or purchase. To gain access to these titles, students will have to purchase access from vendors that license electronic textbooks directly to students, such as VitalSource, or purchase print copies. At most, GW Libraries can acquire physical copies for course reserve, which severely reduces the previous level of access for all students in a course.

This situation highlights how the behavior of large commercial publishers poses a serious obstacle to textbook affordability. In this case, Wiley seems to have targeted for removal those titles in a shared subscription package that received high usage. By withdrawing those electronic editions from the academic library market altogether, Wiley has effectively ensured that, when those titles are selected as course textbooks, students will bear the financial burden, and that libraries cannot adequately provide for the needs of students and faculty by providing shared electronic access. 

Publishers who manipulate the academic market in order to maximize their profits at the expense of students' financial well-being hinder the university's ability to create an equitable learning environment for all. Libraries and Academic Innovation is committed to working with faculty to make course materials as accessible as possible. We can work with you to identify resources that minimize the financial burden on your students and/or to provide access to library copies (via course reserves). If you know or think an e-book title that you assign might be impacted please contact us at askus@gwu.edu for assistance. 

Media Reports on this Issue:

Inside Higher Ed: Publisher Blocks Access to Ebooks, Scrambling Fall Courses

GW Hatchet: Hundreds of students could face unexpected costs after publisher blocks free textbooks

Vice Motherboard: Publishing Company Starts School Year By Removing Over 1,000 E-Textbooks

Inside Higher Ed: Responding to Criticism, Publisher Reinstates Blocked Ebooks

GW Hatchet: Publisher restores access to more than 1,000 free e-books after faculty complaint