New Tool Helps Students Identify Library E-Books That Are Course Textbooks

During the first week or two of the new semester one of the most frequently asked student questions at Paley Library is “Does the Library have my textbook?”

Owing to the expense of commercial textbooks, students are hoping they can borrow a library copy instead of having to buy the book. Temple Libraries does not generally purchase commercial textbooks. Not only are they costly, but they are hardly conducive to the Library’s goal of building a research collection that contributes to great learning and research.

That said, on occasion we do have books in our collection that are also being used as learning resources by faculty. The problem is that one student in the course typically borrows that book, beating everyone else in the class to it, so it really doesn’t help much. To alleviate that situation, some faculty will place a physical book from the collection on reserve for students, but students can only borrow the book for a two hour period.

E-books are one way to overcome these limitation. Since they are always available online, and mostly accessible by multiple users, students can equitably use the e-book. The challenge for students is how to find out if we have their textbook in e-book format.

Thanks to Brian Boling, our Media Services Librarian, we now have a new tool that makes it easier for students to find out if one of the books for their course is available as a library e-book.

“E-books At Temple University Libraries” looks through all the books available at the bookstore for the current semester and shows any match for an e-book available through the library.

screenshot of the library's e-book - textbook tool

Library’s E-book – Textbook Tool










There is a search or browse list that students can use to locate books by their faculty members name or course name.

screenshot of the library e-book to textbooks

Search/Browse feature of the textbook ebook collection






We hope that students will use this new tool to determine if the library has an e-book version of their textbook. Temple University Libraries provides access to many thousands of book in electronic format. We also hope that faculty and students will make use of them to advance student learning and research.


Submit a Proposal For the Alternate Textbook Project

Do you want to save students money by not requiring them to buy a textbook?

Do you want to improve student learning?

Do you want to offer students access to more digital learning content?

If you answered “yes” to the above then please consider applying for one of ten Alternate Textbook Project awards. Faculty members whose proposals are accepted receive an award of $1,000 to subsidize the preparation of their alternate textbook.

Both full and part-time faculty are eligible. Proposals must address how the current commercial textbook will be replaced with learning material that is available at no cost to the students. This could include open educational resources (OER) and licensed library materials, such as scholarly articles, e-book chapters and educational video.

To date 37 Temple faculty have received alternate textbook awards and have so far saved Temple students over $300,000 in textbook costs.

Please consider applying for an alternate textbook award.

Proposals are now being accepted through the deadline of April 30, 2015. Awards will be announced by May 15, 2015.

For more information and the proposal submission form go to the Alternate Textbook Project information guide.

The Alternate Textbook Project is sponsored by the TLTR2 and Temple University Libraries.

How We Saved Temple Students $300,000 – An Open Education Week Story

Open Education Week is coordinated by the The Open Education Consortium, an association of hundreds of institutions and organizations around the world that are committed to the ideals of open education. Universities, colleges, schools and organizations from all over the world have come together to showcase what they’re doing to make education more open, free, and available to everyone.

Open Education Week is an effort to bring more attention to open courses, such as those offered by Coursera and EdX, and open educational resources (OER). OER is more than just learning content that is freely available on the web, although much of it is freely available, such as OpenStax textbooks. But to be truly “open” these resources should meet the criteria of the “5 Rs”.  Those Rs stand for:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

OER therefore is not only free, but allows other scholars to make all types of uses of that content in repurposing it for learning and further sharing.

Temple University Libraries supports OER by encouraging faculty to stop using costly commercial textbooks and instead use open educational content supplemented by licensed library content (the latter which is free to Temple students and faculty but not “open”). One vehicle to support that activity is the Alternate Textbook Project. To date it has enabled 35 faculty to stop using a commercial textbook. Since the launch of this project in 2011, Temple students have saved over $300,000 in textbook costs.

Take some time during Open Education Week to learn more about how faculty members are sharing their educational materials through open repositories such as MERLOT, a website where faculty can contribute and find peer-reviewed learning content, such as presentations, tutorials and quizzes. Many faculty use MERLOT resources in their courses to help support an alternate textbook. Complete open textbooks may be found by using the Open Textbook Library, a searchable catalog of open texbooks. If you have any questions about the Alternate Textbook Project or OER, contact Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian at bells @


Do You Have My Textbook?

One of the first things students do as the new semester begins is figuring our their textbook strategy. Which ones can they borrow from friends that took the course before. Can it be rented in e-format from B&N, Amazon, Google or Chegg? Does the bookstore have a used copy? For which courses could a textbook purchase be delayed or even ignored? With the high cost of textbooks, figuring out how to get them at the cheapest possible price is high on the students’ beginning of the semester to-do-list.

That’s why one of the most frequently asked questions at the Temple Libraries during the first week or two of the semester is about textbooks. Students want to find out if the Libraries hold a copy of their textbook. Some assume we buy them, but they find out that’s not the case. Sometimes their book is placed on course reserve by the instructor. Sometimes a fairly out-of-date edition, a past reserve item, can be found in the book stacks. Some students will choose to take that outdated edition over the current edition.

Student interest is growing  in having faculty point them to open education resources instead of assigning traditional textbooks. In a research paper titled “Online and Campus College Students Like Using an Open Educational Resource Instead of a Traditional Book“, Brian Lindshield and Koushik Adhikari of Kansas State University, report that data gathered over several semesters using an alternate textbook they called the “flexbook”, that utilized an open-source textbook platform to allow faculty to collaboratively offer freely available learning materials, was preferred by students over the traditional textbook. They conclude  “that students are willing to move beyond traditional print textbooks.” An article in Inside Higher Ed titled “Expense Experiments” identifies how different institutions are experimenting with both e-textbooks and technology for reading them.

Additionally in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Almanac of Higher Education 2013, there is a chart that summarizes student responses to a question asking them what technologies they would like to most see their professors using – and what they’d like to see used less often. Nearly half of the students surveyed indicated that they would like to see more use of freely available course content beyond the student’s own campus. A slightly lesser number of students wanted more use of e-books and e-textbooks.

The Temple University Libraries offers a resource page for faculty seeking more sources for open educational resources – such as the University of Minnesota open textbook catalog that can subject search the holdings of numerous open textbook repositories. The Libraries also owns thousands of e-books that may be used as an alternate to a textbook. Using the SUMMON search (on the Libraries homepage) it is possible to modify a search to locate book chapters in electronic sources:

With the growing number of open educational resources available to faculty, and the increasing student acceptance of e-resources, the possibility of replacing traditional textbooks with open learning materials is greater than ever.