Today it was bought to our attention that the ebook platform, Kortext has been sending the following to University staff.
|Keep your eyes peeled for people in purple because Kortext is coming to a campus near you!
The student cost of living crisis is real. In fact, according to UUK, more than 50% of students are worried about whether they can afford to continue their studies. This means buying vital learning resources will be tough! Well, we’ve got an exciting programme underway to help students save on their textbooks. Discover the Kortext Store
|Kortext Brand Ambassador Programme
University libraries play a critical role in student success, but with library books in limited supply and university book shops disappearing fast, many students are counting their coins and heading online to find the best deals – and that’s where we can help. We’ve recruited a team of 150 eager Brand Ambassadors from 50 UK universities to spread the word about Kortext’s online store – offering the latest digital textbooks at a competitive price, plus all the fantastic study benefits that aren’t available with print books.
We immediately forwarded it to the Competition and Market Authority as it raises many alarm bells for the following reasons,
Market manipulation :
University libraries play a critical role in student success, but with library books in limited supply and university book shops disappearing fast, many students are counting their coins and heading online to find the best deals
Why are “library books in limited supply”?. Well, that is why our campaign exists. Big ebook publishers are pricing libraries out and are putting a chokehold on our ability to purchase ebooks, as is evident in data crowd-sourced by librarians and reported by The Guardian. Pearson put it’s ebooks up in price by 500% earlier this year while the Publishers Association reported a 14% increase in profits in the academic market in the UK alone. In September, Wiley withdrew key ebook titles from library collections.
The bundling practices that platforms such as Kortext engage in is making it increasingly difficult for libraries to manage their collections in a sustainable manner.
One can be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the tone of the marketing sent out by Kortext who seem to position themselves as the saviours of a problem they are party to creating.
Choke the market and then position yourselves as the solution. How is this anything but market manipulation?
the practice (by a government, regime, etc) of taking advantage of a major disaster to adopt neoliberal economic policies that the population would be less likely to accept under normal circumstances.
We first witnessed this phenomenon with the jaw-dropping price rises of ebooks during the COVID pandemic. Now we are seeing it with the cost of living crisis. The perverse thing is that libraries are ideally positioned as an antidote to the cost of living crisis. If we could afford to buy books for our students then they would not have to buy books themselves. Indeed, our students are never expected to buy books for themselves. The library ebook market is being manipulated to give students no other choice and providers like Kortext are taking advantage of a crisis, for profit, whilst being thoroughly disingenuous about their motives.
Furthermore, if Kortext really were concerned about the cost of living crisis they would not be pushing privately rented ebooks that cannot be shared or passed on to students who are “counting their coins”. Ebooks cannot be shared or resold in the same way hardcopy can or used by multiple users as library books are.
Ethics and Conflict of Interest
It is surprising, to say the least, that universities are allowing private companies to recruit students to turn up on campus to market a product to fellow students that undermines the central remit of universities.
We are once again urging the Competition and Market Authority and the Education Select Committee to investigate the ebook market and consider this new material in their deliberations.
It is ever more important that independent intervention is staged. This seems particularly vital given that an ebook “solutions” meeting planned by the Department for Education, which was later cancelled due to Boris Johnson’s resignation, had the CEO of Kortext on the list of invites and not members of #ebooksos or the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.