Move to E-books

e-book
Photo by Spencer on Unsplash

AUC Press is supporting the shift from traditional printed textbooks toward flexible and affordable digital learning resources, following a worldwide phenomenon that has accelerated during the Covid pandemic.

"AUC Press has been aggressively expanding ebook offerings in recent months," said Michael Duckworth, director of the AUC Press. In one pioneering example, he added, AUC Press has been working with ALI faculty and external consultants to develop a digital platform for Arabic Language Learning for greater customization in developing course materials. This includes aggregating chapters from different books and providing interactive workbook and assessment features. The initial offerings are set to debut in the Fall 2021 semester.

Starting this summer and fall, with the Provost's support, AUC Press is encouraging faculty to shift to fully digital course materials as soon as possible and together with the Library will provide advice and support to faculty exploring new options, including Open Access/Open Educational Resources.

"We are aiming to help the AUC community move to fully digital learning resources by 2023," Duckworth said. 

He mentioned the University's goal of fostering academic excellence as part of the strategic plan. And in order for students to be successful, they need to obtain the necessary textbooks and materials for their courses.

"At present, roughly two-thirds of the faculty-requested Textbooks routinely are not purchased by students. Students report negative impacts from the commercial publishing industry's long-standing practices that inflate costs: publishers release new editions every 2-3 years regardless of changes to the subject, which effectively eliminates the used book market for the previous edition," he said.

“Bundling,” or the practice of packaging textbooks with CDs, pass-codes, and other bells and whistles can force students to pay for unwanted items, which often expire or get lost making books impossible to sell back. Custom editions created for the school, although often presented as a cost-saving measure, can have the opposite effect by segregating students from the larger used book market and eliminating off-campus buying options.

AUC Libraries is playing a major role in this transition, and has been working on digitization for quite some time. We sat with the Dean of Library and Learning Technologies Daniel Ortiz to learn about some of the different initiatives, support for students and faculty and the importance of e-materials.

 

How has AUC libraries been expanding availability and access to e-materials?


The AUC Libraries have been at the vanguard of the development of e-materials in Egypt and MENA.  AUCL has also been a pioneer with the licensing of many e-materials.  Many of the e-materials now in the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB) had been made available by AUCL for the campus community before Egypt launched this extraordinary service to the country.  This is evidence to the fact that AUCL was and is at the forefront of the e-materials era.

That said , it is important to say that the deep and expansive e-material collections at AUCL have saved the day during the past year, including the lockdown period which started in March 2020. 

AUCL e-materials includes e-books, journals, e-theses, and so much more one can also find in many digital libraries and collections housed in ContentDM, FOUNT, DAR, and the Arabic Collections Online. The latter was developed in partnership with New York University and others to offer invaluable one-of-a-kind Arabic language materials to be shared globally freely.

At this time, I am working with my colleagues to continue the development of digital libraries to disseminate in digital forms the vast resources housed in AUCL that are significant Egyptian cultural and historical artifacts or information. These cultural resources include artwork, film-related materials, images in photographs, postcards, magazines, and much more. There are also collections of architectural works that are valuable and a worldwide contribution to world architecture by Egyptian architects that are know globally, such as Hassan Fathy, just to mention one.

Other planning efforts are in place to continue to expand access to e-materials using something known as PDA or EBA, which is library jargon for the AUCL get e-materials for students and faculty that are paid for after a number of uses by students and faculty, rather than buying retail copies of items that may or not be used.

There is much to be said about e-materials and there is much to do to hone development of e-materials access and availability, thus it is my job to set course to take advantage of the best opportunities. There is much to be done, so hold on tight as more is coming to AUC in that front.
 

What is the AUC Library doing to help students and faculty in finding and using e-materials? What the library is doing to support building those capabilities?

The AUCL are in the verge of transforming its core required course on library research and information literacy, LALT 1020, to help students entering and graduating leave AUC with the information management skills needed in the 21st century. There are early discussions to develop self-guided online modules and tutoring to provide tips and understanding on how to find and use information.  All of this is to effect changes across AUC and beyond as information is power.  I like to think of Buffets’ words:  the more you learn the more you earn. Clearly, knowing how to find information and use it connecting the dots are much-needed skills in today’s information-rich world.
 

What is the importance of normalizing the use of e-materials?
 

The availability of e-materials is as wide-ranging in formats, content, digital platforms and interfaces as it can be due to a number of variables.  However, the AUCL work to select, curate, and offer the best e-materials within the expanding and changing landscape of e-materials. This diversity of platform and contents, requires AUCL to lead by showing and guiding students and faculty in the use of e-materials in a variety of ways and approaches. For example, nowadays, there are many tools to manage citations while using e-materials, including the e-materials published on the web.  One of these is Zotero, that will be added to LALT 1020 to prepare all to dive deeper into the growing universe of e-materials.

It necessary to remember that e-materials are not static and that much is being developed with new standards which evolving, and adaptability is key, as well as a set of criteria and skills to navigate a sea of change dictated by technology.  But more on that from at a later time.

 

Anything else you'd like to add?
 

The past 18 months have been transformative and required new adjustments, as we all know due to the global pandemic. One example of this change in how we worked is how textbooks sales, use, etc. in AUC, AUC Press, and the AUC Libraries changed. We had to improvise to do their best and deliver what was needed.  Something that was not easy with so much put on hold or slowed down for over a year.

Right now AUC Press and the AUC Libraries are working to disseminate new options that hopefully students and faculty will embrace by using e-textbooks, e-materials in the libraries, and learning about Open Educational Resources. I fact, HUSS has been at the cutting edge creating an OER for a music course that was developed by the librarians with faculty authored works. So that trailblazing will lead future work at the AUC Libraries.

Useful Links

AUC Library's A-Z Database List

FOUNT

DAR

AUC Theses & Dissertations

The two external sources mentioned (AUC Library contributed extensively to the Arabic Collections Online resource):

Arabic Collections Online  

Egyptian Knowledge Bank

 

Tips for Faculty

AUC faculty are encouraged to set up a variety of sources for their required materials, and make all possible materials available on their course website. Besides ordering from the AUC Bookstore, many books may be purchased as a Kindle edition. Faculty should note in their syllabus if course texts are available on reserve in the AUC Library or as an e-book. Reserve e-books and e-textbooks generally come with access restrictions; faculty should consult circadmin@aucegypt.edu for assistance. E-books and e-textbooks in Kindle, Overdrive, etc., do not have the same rules as digital copies available to academic libraries. Use AUC Library Reserves to request that textbooks, e-textbooks, and class and supplementary readings be placed on reserve for student use in the library. Faculty can also place personal copies of textbooks, etc., on library reserve. Contact circadmin@aucegypt.edu for questions or assistance.

Consider using free or low-cost digital materials as required readings. Faculty can use campus-authored content and/or library-licensed digital resources instead of commercial textbooks. Also consider open-access textbooks which are free online and affordable in print. There are over 140 titles available in the University of Minnesota Open Textbook Library, for instance. See also:  http://www.studentpirgs.org/opentextbooks/catalog, http://guides.library.AUC.edu/oerhttp://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/. Also consider rentals through online rental sites such as Follett.com, Chegg.com, BookRenter.com, or CampusBookRentals.com. For e-textbooks, besides AUC Bookstores, e-textbooks can be purchased via CourseSmart.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Kno.com. Book shopping online offers a greater selection, which usually means lower prices. Let students know if older editions are acceptable for class use. Sometimes one can find "international editions" of the same book printed for other countries at cheaper prices. Students can search the international arms of the websites below (like Amazon.co.uk) or price comparison sites. They should be aware, however, that there might be differences in the text if it has a different ISBN and they may need to get the new book's page and workbook questions from a friend. Sources to start with:

  New textbooks: Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or AbeBooks.com (carries hard-to-find or rare books).

  Used textbooks: Half.com (an eBay company), Textbooks.com, Thriftbooks.com, or eCampus.com.

  Price comparison: CampusBooks.com, BigWords.com, or AllBookstores.com.

The Press with the Library and other campus resources such as CLT will be working to develop additional training and resources for faculty in coming months to help accelerate and support the shift to digital learning materials.