#eBookSOS: Fact and Fiction from the Full-Text Frontline

We’ve all been there. Deadline looming, haven’t done the reading, scrolling through the library catalogue in the hope of finding something in electronic format to avoid making the long trek to the library. Only the text isn’t available as an e-book. And another one tells you that there is somebody else accessing the resource. What’s the point in that? Aren’t e-books supposed to be more accessible? 

The pandemic, of course, meant that e-book access became even more important, for now it wasn’t simply a case of being on the other side of campus with a deadline looming, but on the other side of the world. Publishers were generous at first, offering free access to lots of textbooks which had not been made easily available in electronic form before. However, this free access was withdrawn after the first lockdown, and since then, lack of access to e-books has become increasingly frustrating both for libraries and for students. So, you might wonder, why don’t we simply buy more e-books? Easy solution, right? 

But wait…. it’s not that simple…. 

There could be any number of reasons why you’re getting blocked from accessing that core text, but these are some of the most common ones: 

  • It’s not available. Contrary to common assumption, publishers don’t actually make everything available as an e-book, particularly older titles which have often not been digitised. We can’t buy the kinds of e-books individuals can (like Kindle books) due to licencing restrictions, so even if it is available on Amazon, it doesn’t mean we can buy it for the library. 
  • It’s available, but not licensed for sale in the UK. This is very common.  
  • It’s too expensive. Often, e-books cost six or seven times as much as the print version of the book, for a copy that only one student at a time can access.  
  • The e-book is available, but only if you buy a whole bundle of titles which come with it, which we might not need. Imagine not being able to buy clothes individually, only as whole outfits. 
  • The e-book is available only as something called an e-textbook – a rental model which works out at the cost of buying each student on the course an extra-expensive textbook every year. 

Hang on, you keep talking about ‘licences’ – what are they?  

It may surprise you to learn that we don’t actually own e-books, we simply have a licence to use them. The publishers are the ones who make the ultimate decisions about how the books can be used, and they can raise prices or withdraw e-books from sale whenever they like.  

In an ideal world, every licence would be unlimited use – this means that everyone can access the e-book at once, and as many times as they like. However, these are less common (and much more expensive) than single user or three-user licences, which only allow one (or three) people access to the book at any one time. Anyone else trying to read the book will get one of those annoying little messages telling you the user limit has been reached. Basically, these e-books are like very expensive physical books. When we can, we buy several licences, but the amount that we can feasibly obtain depends on cost.  

Alternatively, some licences allow unlimited access at any one time, but once 200 (or 400, or 300 or whatever number the publisher has set) people have used it, it expires. (One ‘access’ is counted as one user reading the book any number of times in a 24-hour period, so don’t worry if you need to open the book a few times to get that essay done.) 

You keep talking about cost? How expensive are we talking? 

In a crowdsourced list of comparisons of e-book and print book prices, the average print book price was £57.29, while the average e-book licence price was £602.10 for a one-user licence. This is only an average, however – one title which costs around £50 in print was nearly £3000 in electronic form, while another title available for £40 in print is only available online as a £10,000 e-book.  

In addition, many publishers have increased their prices dramatically over the last couple of years – an e-book that cost £20 in 2020 is now nearly £1100, and back in November, one of our main publishers suddenly told us with a week’s notice that they were going to raise their e-book prices by 500%. This caused chaos as libraries had already organised their budgets based on the old prices. 

Pricing also generally tends to be higher for core textbooks in the sciences, for these courses rely more heavily on a few key textbooks which are marketed as ‘premium’ by publishers. However, the problem exists across all subject areas. 

So, what’s being done about this? 

A campaign called #ebookSOS has been launched to call for an investigation into the academic e-book market. Researchers, librarians and lecturers have signed an open letter to bring this matter to the government’s attention.  

For more information on this, see this one minute video from e-book SOS, complete with cute animated blob to explain it to you. 

What can I do to help?  

If you would like to, you can sign the open letter calling for an investigation into unfair e-book practices. Otherwise, unless you are publishing your own research, the best thing you can do is to be understanding if the resources you want are not always available in the ideal format, and know that all of us in the library are trying our best to get them to you. Remember that if you just need a chapter from a book, you can use our Bath Copies service to request it, and if you need accessible copies of any texts, the library can provide you with those as well. 

Finally, if you are a researcher reading this, consider checking what the terms of your agreement with publishers are, and whether the e-book model they plan on using is library-friendly…e.g., unlimited access, allows libraries to buy the book rather than rent it, and doesn’t charge ridiculous prices.

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International Open Access Week 2022

“Open Access to information – the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need – has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.” (SPARC, 2022) 

October 24th-30th is International Open Access Week.   Did you know that over 75% of the University’s journal outputs published between 2016-22 are now openly accessible, with no payment or subscription required by the reader?   Browse or search our University of Bath Research Portal to find publications, datasets, theses and more.   

The Library’s Research Services team is celebrating with a series of lunchtime promotional stands across campus.  Drop by to find out more about how the Library can help you with open research including: 

• Funding for Open Access; Complying with Open Access mandates; Help with self-archiving and e-theses 

• Writing your data management plan; Working with research data; Publishing and sharing your data 

• Choosing where to publish; Attracting citations; Managing your digital identity with ORCiD and more. 

We’ll be in the following locations: 

Monday 24th October – 12 – 2 pm in 1 West Level 3 Foyer (H&SS)  

Tuesday 25th October – 12 – 2 pm in 3 South Foyer (Science) 

Wednesday 26th October 12 – 2 pm in 4 East Foyer (Engineering)  

Thursday 27th October 12 – 2 pm in 10 East Foyer (Management) 

Check our LibGuides for more information, or come along to one of our training events.  

You can also follow the Library on Twitter for regular updates throughout Open Access Week and beyond.  

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Springer 2022 e-books and protocols update

Our Library’s ebook collections have been further enhanced this year with c17,000 new ebooks from the following Springer collections. These are largely frontfile additions for 2022. Many more 2022 titles will continue to be released and become available up until the end of the year.

Additionally, Springer Protocols for 2022 have also been purchased, with more than 4,400 new protocols already available.
Springer

By combining these latest ebooks with our existing Springer content, this gives us access to over 144,000 high quality scholarly ebook titles and more than 68,900 protocols Follow the links below to search across the subject specific collections or search for individual titles by keyword on our Library catalogue. For the first time we have now acquired ebook archives for H&SS and Law, unlocking content from 1990-2004. We have also picked up additional Medicine archives to fill our back list gaps (2009-10 and 2012), giving unbroken access from 2007 to date. Finally, Earth & Environmental Science backfiles were acquired from 2011-2020.

Springer ebooks 2022 selection of cover images.

*Lecture Notes in Computer Science – we have access to the full content: 1973-2022!

Posted in biology & biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, e-books, economics, electrical engineering, engineering & design, humanities & social sciences, mathematical sciences, mechanical engineering, new resources, physics, polis, postgraduates, research, Science | Leave a comment

The Library building is open!

The Library building has been reopened and power is restored.

We are sorry for any inconvenience whilst it has not been accessible. 

Very many thanks for your patience over the last couple of days.

The Library

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Library temporary closure (Weds 7 Sept)

The Campus Infrastructure team has updated us about the ongoing maintenance issues in the Library building. Unfortunately, there is still no power in the building and it is unlikely to be restored until later on today (Wednesday 7 September) at the earliest.

There has been extensive flooding and essential areas must be dried out before electrical power and therefore access to the building can be restored. We will reopen the Library with staffed services as soon as it is possible and will make sure to communicate this widely.

In the meantime, alternative study spaces on campus are available in: 6WS, Norwood House and The Chancellors’ Building.

Thank you for your continued patience,
The Library

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Accessing restricted datasets using the Library’s SafePod

In March of this year we were proud to launch our new SafePod, a new facility for research that allows access to restricted datasets from within the Library. Research Culture week provides a welcome opportunity to take a closer look at this new Library service. You can see for yourself on our SafePod open morning on Tuesday 21 June. Feel free to drop by at any time, on Level 1 of the Library between 9am and 12pm.

What is a SafePod?

The SafePod is a small, stand-alone room on Level 1 of the Library from which a researcher can access and work on data that requires secure access. In most cases no data is held inside the SafePod. Instead, access is provided by secure remote connection to the servers of the data centre that hold the data. The SafePod meets the requirements of the Five Safes Framework, providing all the necessary security and controls required to meet conditions imposed by the data centre. This means that researchers don’t waste valuable time setting up individual safe rooms, or travelling long distances to the handful of dedicated safe settings in the UK.

The SafePod itself provides a pleasant working environment, with a height adjustable desk, ambient lighting, ventilation, and lockable storage. Researchers can request the use of a whiteboard within the SafePod, an additional chair to allow for collaboration or training (both researchers must be approved to access the data and be included in the booking), and to use additional notes. You can see these facilities for yourself during our open morning, and we have SafePod freebies to give away to the first researchers to attend!

The SafePod Network is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and run by the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research as part of the ADR UK programme. The Library’s SafePod is one of a network of standardised safe settings hosted at universities across the UK.

What data is accessible?

Although no data is held directly in the SafePod, a wealth of government datasets, as well as study and survey datasets, are available for secure access from the SafePod. This includes new linked datasets created by Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) projects, such as the ground-breaking Data First programme at the Ministry of Justice, and the majority of datasets held by the Office for National Statistics’ Secure Research Service, the UK Data Service and SAIL Databank.

The security of the data accessible via the SafePod is vital, as many of the datasets are based on the administrative records of millions of people across the UK. Strict controls are already in place for their research use, and the datasets are either de-identified or anonymised before they can be used. SafePods maintain the physical security needed for research use of these datasets and enable researchers to provide valuable insights about how our society and economy function, without compromising anyone’s privacy

How do I book the SafePod?

Booking time in the SafePod is a three-step process:

  1. Researchers firstly need have an approved project with the relevant data centre listed above. This may also involve gaining accreditation with the Data Centre. This step is performed once at the start of the research project.
  2. Next, researchers need to register and complete a short test with the SafePod Network. This is also a one-time process and doesn’t need to be completed every time a SafePod booking is made.
  3. Finally, researchers book time in the SafePod via the SafePod Network Portal. This involves selecting a free time slot in the SafePod and selecting the data centre that you wish to access your project datasets from. At this point you can select use of the white board and additional materials.

The booking request is then sent by the SafePod Network to the chosen data centre, who approve or decline the booking and notify the researcher. Once the booking is confirmed, Library staff are informed of the booking. One of the Library’s team of SafePod Coordinators then contacts the researcher to confirm that we are able to facilitate the booking, and to confirm arrangements. It’s worth noting that the SafePod can be booked at any time up to the date of the booking. However, for short-notice bookings within the next three working days it’s necessary to check via safepod@bath.ac.uk that one of the SafePod Coordinators will be available to facilitate the booking.

On the day of the booking a SafePod Coordinator meets the researcher at the SafePod. Our SafePod is on Level 1 of the Library and can be accessed by either the east staircase or the lift. The Coordinator will already have completed security checks on the SafePod, so the process of checking both the SafePod booking confirmation and the researcher’s identity is very quick.

For researchers new to using the SafePod, the Coordinator will also provide an induction. Security arrangements limit what researchers can take into the SafePod, so we also provide a secure locker where the researcher can store their belongings while using the SafePod. A CCTV camera will record the booked session where it is a requirement for data access. The researcher is provided with a door access card that works for their booked time slot, allowing them to leave the SafePod for comfort breaks.

You can find out more and book the Library’s SafePod via the SafePod Network Portal, or visit us on Level 1 of the Library on Tuesday 21 June between 9am and 12pm

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Quiet study during revision and exams

Please be considerate to your fellow students during the revision period by keeping noise to a minimum on all levels of the Library.

Quiet study space is very popular at this time of year. We have made it easier for you to find and use individual study spaces when you need them in the Library by removing the need to book. This decision is supported by data from the bookings system which shows that these types of study spaces are rarely booked.

This means that more than 1,000 individual study spaces, with and without PCs, across all floors of the Library will now be available for drop-in use.

We know our bookable individual and group work rooms are in high demand so these are still bookable. You can book these spaces in advance through Libcal. Individual study spaces in open areas in other buildings also remain available to book.

You might also have spotted that new water fountains have recently been installed near the lifts on Level 2 and Level 3 of the Library.

To find out more about bookable (and non-bookable) spaces, both on and off campus, go to: Where you can study on campus and in the city.

The University recommends face coverings are worn when moving around indoors and in teaching settings. More guidance from the University on how to Be safe on campus and in Bath is available online.

Using e-books during the assessment period? Please remember to sign out or close your browser when finished, otherwise you might lock access for other readers if there are limits on how many can access the e-book at the same time.

You may find the following Library resources helpful:

  1. Find Past exam papers
    Browse and access past papers via our online database.
  2. Take a break!
    Taking a break can help improve memory, increase your energy, reduces stress, improve health, plus boost your performance and creativity. Keep an eye out for our ‘Take a break’ envelopes in the Library during revision week.
  3. Managing exam stress and ‘Read Well’ themed reading lists
    We’ve created some themed reading lists of resources you might want to draw on for managing exam stress and reading for wellbeing. You’ll find a display on level 2 and can view the Skills and Wellbeing list on our Library Lists system.

Finally, our colleagues at the Skills Centre have a great deal of support on offer via the Support for exams web page. This include guides, blogs, 1:1 appointments, the Be Well app and much more.

Good luck with your exams!
The Library

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Changes to Library Study Spaces after Easter

We’re making it easier for you to find and use individual study spaces when you need them in the Library by removing the need to book. This decision is supported by data from the bookings system (Libcal) which shows that these types of study spaces are rarely booked.

This means that more than 1,000 individual study spaces, with and without PCs, across all floors of the Library will now be available for drop-in use, in addition to the flexible study spaces on Level 2, which have been extremely popular.

We know our bookable individual and group work rooms are in high demand so these are still bookable. You can book these spaces in advance through Libcal. Individual study spaces in open areas in other buildings also remain available to book. Please remember to activate your booking within 15 minutes of arriving, and to cancel any bookings you no longer require:

You can visit the following webpage for more information on Where you can study on campus and in the city.

Best wishes,

Your Library

Image of level 2 of the Library
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Quiet study during revision and exams

Please be considerate to your fellow students during the revision period by keeping noise to a minimum on all levels of the Library and please wear a face covering at all times, unless exempt.

Quiet study space is very popular at this time of year so it is more important than ever that you book a study space online to avoid disappointment. To find out more about bookable (and non-bookable) spaces, both on and off campus, go to: Where you can study on campus and in the city.

When using the spaces, you must:

  • clean the desk before and after you use it
  • vacate your space by the end of your booked time
  • not move any furniture from marked study spaces
  • please be aware that other people may be more comfortable keeping a social distance
  • wash or sanitise your hands regularly
  • follow any directional signage
  • keep windows open
  • not consume any food
  • make sure any drinks are in sealed bottles, flasks or reusable cups with lids
  • leave the space clean and tidy when you’ve finished
  • remember that study spaces are for quiet study; do not disturb others

Further University guidance on safety during the Covid-19 pandemic is available online.

Good luck with your exams!
The Library

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Open Access Week: 25 – 31 October 2021

Open Access Week is “an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.” Check the OA week website for more information and resources.

Find out more about our Library support for Open Access by checking out our Libguide. You can also follow us on Twitter for updates throughout OA week and beyond!

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