Letter to be delivered & Evidence Needed

This week, Alex Chalk MP (Cheltenham) will deliver the open letter to Chair of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon MP. Alex will also bring the letter to the attention of Ministers Michelle Donelan (Universities) and Gillian Keegan (Apprenticeships and Skills). On 3rd November 2020, Michelle Donelan MP, answered the following question submitted to Parliament by Colleen Fletcher MP,

“To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he plans to make an assessment of the effect of academic publishing industry (a) pricing and (b) licensing practices for ebooks on (i) students and (ii) universities.”

The answer, which can be read here, displayed an extremely alarming absence of knowledge about one of the biggest issues facing universities today. It is of the upmost importance that we communicate the reality of the the situation to ministers.

Alex Chalk’s office has requested examples of ebook pricing problems to accompany the letter. With this in mind we have compiled a spreadsheet and are asking librarians to contribute evidence. The spreadsheet can be accessed here

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us thus far, particularly Alex Chalk MP, for his advice and championing of our campaign.

Below is a snippet of some of the examples we have collected. These are now the norm. The left-hand side column is the price of a hardcopy and the right-hand side, the ebook version of the same title

Library Association of Ireland backs investigation into ebook publishing and calls on Irish Government to take action

The Library Association of Ireland (LAI) have released a statement supporting our campaign for an investigation into the publishing industry over its ebook pricing and licensing practices and calling on the Irish Government, publishers and other stakeholders to

recognise, and take action against, the electronic content crisis facing libraries and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic”. They state, “We are deeply concerned about the rising costs and unfair licensing conditions for such content
Access to online content has never been more important yet the capacity of libraries to deliver it is inhibited by a perfect storm of financial pressures, a dysfunctional market and skyrocketing customer demand

LAI go on to list actions that need to be taken to address the issues. We fully agree with them all.

We applaud the statement and hope that colleagues worldwide follow suit. The problem is a global one. International pressure and collaboration is essential

Statement of Support from Welsh Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF) + 2,070 signatures received.

In a fitting end to the working week, we have sailed past the 2000 signature mark. We are also delighted to close the day with the receipt of a statement of support from Welsh Higher Education Forum (WHELF)

The Chair and Vice-Chair of WHELF support this open letter on behalf of our board members and the wider Welsh academic and research library sector. The current e-book and e-textbook market is increasingly unsustainable, and the growing impact on our students and researchers across our communities is significant. The current situation severely limits access to information, research and knowledge across our organisations.

Through the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, Wales has enshrined in legislation the core principles around the wellbeing of the nation and its citizens. We would suggest that the status of the academic e-book market means that the purchase of core educational resources is increasingly beyond the budgets of our member libraries. This restricts the nation’s citizens access to a range of key lifelong learning and research opportunities; opportunities that they have every right to expect from us.

w: http://whelf.ac.uk/

t: @whelfed

Big thanks to WHELF!

Finally, thank you so much all who have signed and shared the letter.

Good weekends all!

Ebook campaign welcomes support from NUS and Student Unions

As our open letter reaches 1802 signatures, we welcome support from National Union of Students (NUS) and Students’ Unions across the UK. The open letter has been signed by NUS Vice President Education and the Students’ Unions of

University of Gloucestershire, Bath Spa University, Plymouth Marjon University, University of Sussex, University of Strathclyde, University of Central Lancashire, University of Leicester, The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of West of England, Oxford Brookes, Ulster University, University of Derby, Queen Mary University of London, Northumbria and Goldsmiths

@NUSUK tweeted

Ebooks are becoming increasingly unaffordable, unsustainable and inaccessible for academic libraries to purchase. Our education must be accessible and fully funded! Support by signing their open letter, sharing this round and reading about the campaign

We need an investigation into academic ebook publishing, at a minimum, students deserve access to the key reading needed for their course & libraries should not be priced out of obtaining these resources #StudentsDeserveBetter Sign the open letter

Ultimately, we are fighting this campaign for our students and we very much look forward to working together with students’ unions in the future to see this issue addressed.

Massive thanks to all who have taken the time to read about our campaign and signed and shared the open letter.

Open Letter will close to new signatures 5pm Monday 19th October

We would like to get the open letter submitted as soon as possible because the academic year has started in earnest and this issue needs addressing urgently. We had intended to submit it to the Chair of the Education Select Committee sooner but the response has been such that we are still receiving lots of signatures, so it was kept open for longer. Academic publishers are fully aware of the campaign and the outcry it has prompted and yet remain silent on the issue and show no indication of changing their approach.

We will be closing the letter for signatures at 5pm Monday 19th October. Please keep sharing and urging people to sign this week as it will be the last opportunity. Huge thanks to all who have signed so far.

Over 1,500 signatures received as NHS Librarians add their voices

The campaign reached the 1,500 signature mark today, with NHS Librarians adding their voices. NHS libraries need to cater for many different users including nursing and medical students. They often work closely with Librarians at universities running health and medicine related courses and face the same barriers we do. We are all disadvantaged by the ebook market but it seems especially unethical for publishers to restrict or deny access to key resources our health workers need.

Health warning : Please make sure you are seated before reading this post

As we reach over 1300 signatures, Librarians have taken to Twitter using the hashtag #ebooksos to share examples of the extraordinary situation we are facing.

This morning an incredulous UK based HE Librarian shared this quote she had been given.

and no, you are not misreading it! Another Librarian shared this quote. The hardcopy book is £37.99

This is not just a UK issue, it is a global issue. Look at the difference in pricing here for the same product from different providers.
Then we have inexplicable leaps in prices to deal with. See this example

Of course, as our letter states, only around 10% of academic books are available in eformat to university libraries so, while you may see them for sale to individuals in eformat, libraries are not given access to purchase them. See here.

Then you get ebooks only licenced in certain countries

And that is not all. Nope! Some publishers will not make their key text books available in eformat at all.

There are many more examples on the #ebooksos hashtag. Librarians have been trying to navigate this situation all summer. The frustration evidenced on the hashtag speaks for itself.

Update : 1200 signatures collected and National Acquisitions Group voice their support

This campaign was launched just a week ago today. In that time the open letter has gained 1200 signatures (and it is still growing fast). As well as from individuals, it has received support from a number of key organisations and professional bodies. Today we were delighted to learn that the National Acquisitions Group (NAG) are also backing the campaign. This morning they tweeted,

“After discussion with NAG Exec we are supporting this open letter to push for new solutions around eBook publishing practices. Libraries, publishers and library suppliers are all NAG members so we hope we can be part of developing a sustainable solution.”

Thank you to NAG.

A few people have asked how long we are keeping responses to this letter open for and, the truth is, we don’t yet know. We really want to get it submitted ASAP as the academic year has already started in earnest and students need access to these books. However, whilst we anticipated this campaign receiving wide support, we have been absolutely staggered by the numbers responding. We want to send the clearest message we can and so we will keep this letter open until, as Alex Chalk (MP for Cheltenham) puts it “it has reached peak support”. At that point, with his assistance, we will coordinate an approach to the chair of the select committee.
We also appreciate that organisations need to reach their decision regarding the support of our campaign via committee and we would like to give them the time to do that.

The letter will be taking responses for at least another week. We will give several days notice before we close for responses.

A huge thank you to everyone so far who has supported us and shared the open letter with others. Several librarians have told us how distressing and frustrating it has been to be blocked from fulfilling even the basics of our role whilst also having to deal with the personal toll of the pandemic. The strength of support we have received has really boosted our resolve to demand better for our students and researchers.

Thank you!

Johanna Anderson, Subject Librarian

An unprecedented 1000 signatures reached + endorsement from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals received

The campaign has met another notable milestone. 1000 signatures have now been added to the letter. Johanna Anderson, a founder of the campaign, tweeted

“I genuinely can’t remember an issue that has galvanised the sector like this. From academics, to librarians, students, researchers, procurement professionals…professional bodies. Change has to come”

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us and shared the letter thus far.

Today we also received support from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). CEO, Nick Poole said

and their Twitter account @CILIPinfo urged their members to sign the letter.

Over 900 signatures and endorsement from London Universities Purchasing Consortium

We have now collected over 900 signatures and are delighted to report that we have also received support from London Universities Purchasing Consortium, who tweeted saying

“LUPC also supports this activity. We encourage our members in library procurement and academic roles to review the contents and sign if in agreement”

Support from such organisations can surely leave no doubt that the current market is broken and intervention is desperately needed. We hope many more will follow the lead of SUPC and LUPC