Skip to Main Content

Textbooks and alternatives


Most textbooks are published in both a print and digital format.  When both formats are available the bookstore provides students the option to purchase either format. The large publishers are focusing their development and sales on digital editions and are limiting the sale of the print versions. Increasingly, publishers are only selling print editions directly to students and will not supply print to the bookstore or to libraries. 

The library is committed to providing students access to learning resources in digital formats. The cost of textbooks and other course materials can be a significant financial hurdle for students. However, many textbook publishers will not sell digital copies to libraries.  Guelph University Library estimates that approximately 85% of existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to libraries in any other format than print. The business model  for digital textbook publishers is based on direct sales to students.   

The following textbook publishers will not sell digital textbooks to libraries: 

  • Pearson
  • Cengage
  • Houghton
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press Canada (Textbook Division)
  • Elsevier imprints  such as: (including Mosby and  Saunders)  and 
  • Thieme

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. The library will continue to make every effort to provide students access to materials where they can through the reserve collection.

In addition, librarians and faculty in CETL will support instructors in exploring alternatives to textbooks. This guide includes details on these alternatives. 

  • Adopting open education resources
  • Creating a course pack, subject to copyright limitations (i.e. fair dealing ) can be produced purchase. 
  • Identifying readings available through library licensed materials (ebooks and journals) and providing links through D2L. All requests for new digital content available for purchase by the library will be considered. Efforts will be made to secure ebooks that are free from  digital rights management restrictions (DRM)--such as limits on printing, downloading and the number of simultaneous users.