With their fingers firmly in their ears, academic publishers are still busy trying to tout their ebooks to academics. Emails such as the following, which was received by academics today from Oxford University Press (one of the worst culprits in the ebook pricing scandal)
I hope teaching is going well in this very unusual year.
Like everyone else, at OUP we have had to adapt to a virtual way of working for the foreseeable future. At this time of year I am usually on campus visiting lecturers, discussing how staff and students are using our textbooks and beginning to share news of our upcoming publications.
Over the summer period, one of the main focuses for institutions has been on our digital offerings. It would be great to talk with you about our textbooks and how they can meet your course needs digitally, and the ways that we can make that happen for you.
If you are available over the next few weeks for a meeting over Teams or by phone to discuss our titles in more detail, please let me know and we can get this scheduled.
I look forward to hearing from you and as always, any questions do not hesitate to get in touch.
Senior Lecturer at University of Gloucestershire, and campaign supporter, Dr Rachel Sumner, shared her response
I hope you’re well. Many thanks for getting in touch, and for starting the conversation about e-books. With the advent of Covid, e-books are not only increasingly important for students to provide good educational support, but their provision would undoubtedly assist in driving down infection through minimising on-campus contact, and potential infection transference on book surfaces. It seems that they are indeed quite the useful tool not just for ensuring a good standard for education, but also in terms of helping with public health issues.
You may be interested to hear that I have recently developed a new postgraduate course in health psychology, and as such I have been looking for new materials to recommend to my students. As a lecturer who teaches across quite broad subject areas (health psychology, biological psychology, environmental psychology, ethics, and neuroscience) there are several titles that OUP provide that would most definitely be of interest.
I’m sure you can appreciate that – as an educator – my principle interests are not just ensuring that students are provided with the best possible resources, but also that they and their education are treated fairly. The very recent habit of publishers massively hiking up their e-book prices in what I can only assume is a cynical response to the Covid-19 pandemic is a particularly unpleasant trend that I believe that OUP have participated in, and that I would very much like to see the end of.
Whilst I would be happy to discuss what OUP may be able to offer in terms of my teaching, I’m afraid without a commitment to the fair pricing of e-books that is not seemingly based on opportunism, I’m afraid I will decline. I should assure you that this is an increasingly important issue amongst staff in HE, so much so that our own staff have been very outspoken in their fight to ensure that our students are treated fairly by publishers. I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that as academics who also generate publishable work, we are also looking very closely at how publishers are responding in light of Covid, with a direct view as to the decisions we make about the publication of our own articles and books.
Whilst I appreciate that you as a rep do not set the costs for these materials, I do very much hope this response gets fed back to those that make these decisions so that a different strategy may be employed in the near future.
Rachel kindly agreed let us post this on our blog as it is going to take all of us; librarians, academics and students to bring about change. We hope this post will inspire more academics to follow suit and increase the pressure on academic publishers to rethink.