Wiley released a statement yesterday announced they would be returning the withdrawn 1,379 ebooks to the ProQuest Academic Complete package in response to librarian, author, student and organisational pressure – but only until June 2023.
Whilst #ebookSOS welcomes this news and counts it as a success for our collective action and sustained pressure (with particular acknowledgement and thanks to the Library Association of Ireland and Authors Alliance), this is not an outright win. None of Wiley’s actions negates the fact that this is standard practice for publishers and ebook collections, and libraries regularly see titles removed from Academic Complete and other packages throughout the year. The only thing unique about this situation is the timing and the scale and the fact that all titles are from one publisher.
Neither does this action make up for the time spent by librarians desperately trying to support academic staff in identifying alternative texts to replace those removed, at incredibly short notice right before the start of academic term. It is unlikely that these Wiley texts will be restored to reading lists now this work has done, and many libraries and students will already have purchased the required alternatives.
Come June 2023 we will still lose access to these Wiley titles, with no way to obtain them except via even more expensive e-textbook subscription models. This is an unsustainable model for libraries to pursue, underming the core purpose of libraries in making access to our collections available to all who need them, not ringfencing resources for those we can afford to pay for.
It is noteable that Wiley’s press release includes the statement – “Wiley is committed to providing students with affordable e-books through initiatives such as our inclusive access and course materials affordability programs”. Committed to providing students, not libraries. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, with students already paying high tuition fees, it is unacceptable that publishers like Wiley are increasingly shunning sales to libraries in favour of the more profitable student market.
We need to maintain pressure on all publishers, including Wiley, to commit to making all digital texts available to libraries on reasonable terms. The fight does not end here!