Manchester and Liverpool become first UK universities to kick-start Free Student eTextbook Programme

The textbook programme includes thousands of titles brought together by academic publishers

The Universities of Liverpool and Manchester have become the first in the UK to go live with cross-campus access to Kortext’s Free Student eTextbook Programme (FSTP), made in conjunction with edtech non-profit Jisc.

The news comes as Jisc announces that over 120 universities across the country are being granted remote digital access to crucial textbook content, serving upwards of 1.4 million students over tens of thousands of study modules.

The timely textbook programme includes thousands of titles collated by academic publishers, including Pearson, McGraw Hill, Cengage, taylor and Francis, Wiley, Cambridge and Oxford University presses, amongst others, to deliver an all-encompassing and student-centric solution to the growing impact of COVID-19.

“It’s vital that as many students across the UK continue to learn from wherever they are during the lockdown period,” said Paul Feldman, CEO of Jisc. “The rapid response from universities signing up to the programme combined with the overwhelmingly positive reaction from publishers providing core eTextbooks, is a landmark of unprecedented cooperation across the sector. We hope that this initiative will lead to future collaborations to provide critical textbook access online to all students.”

Olivia Walsby of the University of Manchester Library said: “At the University of Manchester, as with colleagues across the sector, we are keen to reassure our students and staff that we are here to support their studies and research online by providing access to key digital content during this difficult time. The Free Student eTextbook Programme will have a significant impact in making this transition as quick and comprehensive as possible at no extra cost.”

Jisc is urging publishers across the sector to work with Kortext, along with other providers such as Vital Source and BibliU, to maximise the availability of content students have access to while working from home, as well as for clinicians who are supporting the NHS as the pandemic develops.

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In support of university libraries seeking clarity on what content is now available, Jisc has put together an online survey to capture the measures that content and service providers have put in place or plan to implement. The survey covers questions on provision for off-campus access and whether academic publishers intend to roll out extended trials or grace periods. Responses will be made available via the Jisc website and will be updated daily.

Caren Milloy, director of licensing at Jisc, says: “The pandemic of COVID-19 is disrupting the entire bookselling industry. This is a seismic shift from blended (print and online) learning to online only – particularly in textbooks.

“Major textbook publishers, often in partnership with e-book platforms, have been actively opening up online access to their textbooks and courseware to support students, faculty, schools and libraries. Limitations have been removed, not just in terms of the titles being made available online, but also in terms of the number of users able to access a title at the same time. This is a welcome move for students, teachers and libraries and we wish to build on this constructive approach by continuing discussions with publishers on behalf of our members to ensure licensing terms and future agreements support continued online access with affordable and sustainable pricing.

“To help our members understand what is on offer from publishers, we are asking publishers to evidence their support of the statement from the sector by completing our online survey and collating the information in one central place. We are also working with our members to develop some best practice guidelines for publishers that focus on enabling access using existing systems embedded in institutions and that minimise the administrative burden on libraries and students.”

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