LSU Library offers students savings with free E-textbooks initiative

The LSU Library is promoting a new program that enables students in more than 100 courses to access electronic textbooks, rather than having to purchase costly printed ones. The change represents significant savings for students, who typically shell out several hundred dollars each semester on textbooks. E-textbooks are free.

“We have a Materials Engineering class this semester with 170 students in it and a $90 (printed) textbook,” says Sigrid Kelsey, director of communications for LSU Libraries. “By accessing the book online, that class collectively can save $15,291.”

For the library, moving towards e-textbooks is not so much a financial decision but part of a critical mission. Libraries across the country have been moving in that direction for some time.

“Libraries have always been in the business of providing access to books, and providing this kind of access to textbooks just makes sense,” Kelsey says. “Another advantage of the electronic format is that a whole class can use it, as opposed to a paper textbook, which can only be used by one person at a time.”

Though the LSU library has been offering e-textbooks for a couple of years, fall 2014 was the first time the program was officially offered and advertised to students and faculty. This semester, 113 courses are participating.

Kelsey says when purchasing the digital rights to e-textbooks, the library looks for deals that allow unlimited users and are not platform dependent. As a result, not all textbooks are available. Still, professors have been flexible about working with the library, sometimes even switching textbooks to those that are available in electronic editions.

One of the biggest challenges has been to promote the program. The library system has reached out to students, faculty and parents through traditional and social media. Usage is good this semester but the goal is to grow the number of texts and users considerably for the fall semester.

“We are working to promote it to the teaching faculty … if they have a book they want to assign and we don’t have it, we can find out whether it is available online with appropriate licensing, and if so, add it to our collection,” Kelsey says. “We don’t want students to spend a lot of money on books if they don’t have to.” —Stephanie Riegel

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