Library I am a Lecturer How to find zero cost to students flexibly-licensed textbooks

How to identify zero cost to students flexibly-licensed textbooks


If a prescribed textbook is set, it is important to ensure students have satisfactory access to it from day one. This guide will help teaching staff understand licence conditions for eTextbooks held in JCU Library collections. It also provides information on the benefits of using open educational resources (OERs) as alternatives to traditional published textbooks. Opting for either choice for a subject's learning materials ensures students will enjoy a zero textbook cost (ZTC) experience within that subject.

Common eTextbook misunderstandings

Academics are encouraged to request books and eTextbooks for JCU Library collections. However, please keep in mind that academic textbook publishing limitations can be frustrating. Publishers may not offer your preferred textbook as an eTextbook, or an eTextbook may be available for individual purchase but not library purchase.

Please connect with Library staff if you have concerns.

JCU Library subscribed eTextbooks

Where possible, JCU Library aims to subscribe to eTextbook copies of prescribed texts (see JCU Library Prescribed and Recommended Textbook Guidelines). However, these eTextbooks come with licensing conditions that may restrict concurrent usage, downloads, copying, printing and access to supplementary materials. Restrictive licensing conditions could affect student access, especially during peak usage periods, such as in the lead up to an assignment task due date.  By connecting with library staff in the early stages of curriculum planning or refresh projects we can assist with identifying a prescribed textbook that has satisfactory availability and access conditions. Library services will then arrange eText acquisition when you have chosen your preferred text.

Searching for eBooks and eTextbooks

Search One Search using a book’s title and an author’s surname. Search with keywords if you don’t have a specific textbook in mind. Phrase searching using double quotation marks “ ” will stick words together.

If you like a book, click ‘All Online Options’ (underlined below) to view its Library catalogue record

.A screen shot of JCU Library One Search platform. Search keywords are: "strategic management" accounting eldenburg. Th first book result is shown - it's title is 'Management Accounting' by Eldenburg. At the bottom of the book record is a link 'All Online Options' that has been underlined by a think orange line.

Next go to the ‘View Now’ heading. The underlined section provides basic information on user access. Click the provider link (in this example, ProQuest Ebook Central) to go to the book.

A screen shot of 'View Now' information on a book's catalogue record. This example shows 3 users can access the book at the same time.

This screen shows complete information on limitations of use for the book. Only three users can access the book at the same time, and copying, printing and downloads are not available. This limited licence is not ideal, the library may be able to negotiate a better licence. If not, you could consider an alternative text with better licence conditions.  Connect with Library staff to discuss your options.

A screen shot of online book 'Management Accounting'. It includes a book cover thumbnail, title and author details. Usage limitations are specified.

Here’s another potential eTextbook. This text allows for unlimited user access. It also offers each user some copying, printing and download functionality. (These limits often reset after 24 hours.)

A screen shot of online book 'Strategic Management Accounting'. It includes a book cover thumbnail, title and author details. Usage limitations are specified.

Typical use limits

  • Full downloads or loans: The Library will generally limit prescribed eTextbooks to not allow full downloads or loans to maximise student access. This means an eTextbook is only available to read online or for chapter download.
  • Unlimited: There is no cap on the number of users who can access the text at the same time.
  • 1 or 3 user licenses: Use is limited to only 1 or 3 users at the same time. These are often restricted to read-online only access (or chapter downloads) to prevent books being locked for extended periods.
  • Concurrent or non-linear licences: There is no cap on the number of users at the same time, but with a limited number of uses per year (usually 200-325). Use is then closed, however, if they expire before the subscription anniversary, the Library may purchase additional access.
  • Printing, copying and download limits: Individual titles will have different settings, it is important to consider whether these will suit your students needs.

Open educational resources (OERs)

OERs offer many benefits for learning and teaching. OERs usually:

  • Are peer-reviewed and/or are considered high-quality learning resources
  • Are compliant with principles of universal design for learning (UDL) maximising accessibility for all students
  • Are openly licensed so that texts can be adapted to showcase the latest information, local contexts and/or inclusive exemplars and language
  • Can be downloaded in their entirety so that students without the internet can use them at home
  • Offer unlimited simultaneous usage, copying, printing and download functionality.

OER example

Principles of Strategic Management Accounting

A screen shot of OER 'Principles of Strategic management Accounting'. It includes a book cover thumbnail, title, Creative Commons licence, author, affiliation, date and an short description of the book.

Book features:

Learn more about OERs and how to find them from JCU Library’s Open Education Resources (OER) Guide.

Open Education Resources Discovery Collection

Explore our collection of Open eBooks that are available for adoption for subject disciplines taught at JCU, curated by our JCU librarians for your convenience.

Connect with Library staff if you would like assistance identifying suitable OERs for your subjects.