Course Textbooks for the Fall 2020 Semester

To help instructors move their teaching online during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Library is working with instructors to provide online versions for as many course materials as we can, depending on availability and copyright restrictions.


The greatest challenge is that many textbook publishers either do not have electronic versions of their textbooks or they are unwilling to sell them to libraries.

The University of Guelph Library estimates that approximately 85% of existing course textbooks are unavailable to libraries in any format other than print.  From this, and based on our own experience, we know that the following publishers will not sell e-textbooks to libraries:

  • Cengage
  • Elsevier imprints (especially in veterinary and health science) such as:
    • Elsevier Health Science
    • Mosby
    • Saunders
  • Houghton
  • Macmillan
  • McGraw Hill
  • Nelson
  • Oxford University Press Canada (Textbook Division)
  • Pearson
  • Thieme
  • Wiley

This means that in courses that have adopted textbooks by these publishers, students who do not purchase the textbook will not have any alternative access to the textbook content.

We are working with instructors to explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, including:

  1. Using an existing e-book in the relevant subject area from the Library’s e-book collection or requesting that the Library purchase one. There are many academic e-books that aren’t considered textbooks, and are therefore available for the library to purchase.
  2. Adopting an open educational resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors.
  3. Using the Library’s reading list service to:
    • Link to content from the Library’s existing collection of electronic resources (e-books, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials) as well as other openly available scholarly resources from the Web.
    • Post individual book chapters or excerpts and scanned copies of the content, subject to copyright limitations. Copyright permission will be sought where feasible in cases where the excerpt falls outside of the U of R’s fair dealing guidelines.

For assistance with finding textbook alternatives, please contact your subject librarian.

This page was adapted with permission from our colleagues at the University of Guelph Library and University of Manitoba Libraries.