UCD Students and Librarians condemn removal of access to 1,300 eBooks

by Alex Greaney
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Irish libraries have condemned the sudden withdrawal of more than 1,300 eBooks from college libraries, many of which were recommended to students as key books on course reading lists.

The Library Association of Ireland (LAI) said the “abrupt” move by academic publisher Wiley caused high levels of disruption at the beginning of the new academic year.

The national association also objects to the new model it said the major publisher is now pursuing, which is to sell its books as ‘eTextbooks’ on a subscription model based on class sizes for “exorbitant fees”. Such a model is “unsustainable, anti-competitive and highly problematic in the use of public funds”, it added.

Representatives of students and librarians at UCD have also condemned the abrupt removal of over 1,300 eBooks by Wiley Publishers from its collection just days before the start of the academic term.

Students and librarians say that in a move that will immediately and directly impact on the quality of higher education, Wiley removed these books from already-subscribed services without making any efforts to reach libraries that pay hundreds of thousands of Euros from public funds per year to ensure students have access to books they need.

Dr Sandra Collins

Dr Sandra Collins, University Librarian at UCD, stated that: “This unilateral action by Wiley Publishers, taken at a time when students are facing accommodation and cost of living crises, severely impacts the work of academic libraries in providing access to essential texts for teaching and learning and research. It is a major setback for inclusive access and especially for people with reading difficulties for whom ebooks are critical. We urge people to actively support the #ebookSOS campaign for sustainable electronic content and ebook pricing.”

Martha Ní Riada, Education Officer at UCD Students’ Union, added: “UCD Students’ Union stands with the Library Association of Ireland and other Higher Education Institution Librarian organisations, and supports the #ebooksos campaign. Students now more than ever rely on eBooks to continue their education, as a result of the accommodation crisis many students face long commutes and are unable to access print copies of core texts. In the interests of an equitable and accessible education system we call on the government to address the licensing conditions at the core of this issue rather than simply increasing funding to these unsustainable publishing practices.”

Martha Ní Riada UCD student union

The Students Union continues saying: “The licensing conditions to which libraries are subjected to are extremely onerous, and in this instance University libraries will continue to pay the same extortionate fee for the eBooks bundle despite the removal of numerous texts as the publisher reserves the right to change the titles available within the collection at any time.”

In 2020, three academic librarians in the launched the #ebookSOS campaign, in response to the frustrating unavailability, high prices and restrictive licences of ebooks during the Covid-19 lockdowns. The campaign published an Open Letter, calling on the UK parliamentary Education Select Committee, to launch an investigation into the unfair sales, pricing, and licensing practice of academic publishers. Meanwhile, librarians across the UK crowdsourced details of the prices they were being charged by publishers and the unfair licencing restrictions they faced. The campaign has since spread to Ireland and is seeking support in countering the unethical practices of publication companies.

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