Textbook Acquisition Policy

Update: Beginning in fall 2022, in partnership with VIVA, Virginia’s academic library consortium, the University of Virginia Library is excited to be able to provide some electronic textbooks as part of the Curriculum Driven Acquisitions Program. The program works by analyzing bookstore lists and acquiring unlimited access e-books wherever possible. 7/2022

It is the general policy of the University of Virginia Library not to purchase copies of textbooks. We define a textbook as a monograph specifically intended for work in a classroom environment and have adopted the following specific definition found in ODLIS —Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science by Joan M. Reitz, Libraries Unlimited (last updated November 19, 2007): "An edition of a book specifically intended for use of students who are enrolled in a course of study or preparing for an examination on a subject or in an academic discipline…sometimes published in conjunction with a workbook, lab manual, and/or teacher’s manual."

This policy does not apply to supplemental reading materials, most of which would ordinarily be acquired for the collection as a matter of course.

There are a number of reasons we do not purchase textbooks:

  • One copy will generally not suffice for an entire class and buying multiple copies for all classes that need them is prohibitively expensive.
  • Textbooks are generally expensive and are constantly updated, so repetitive purchasing over time would be required once started.
  • The library has traditionally been resourced to purchase material for research and to supplement that used in the classroom, not basic curriculum material. Purchase of textbooks would fall outside of the library’s traditional mission and beyond our current level of funding
  • Space considerations make it impractical to maintain growing collections of textbooks in library stacks.

The Library does not acquire electronic textbooks — and most publishers do not sell e-textbooks to libraries since doing so would cut into a key revenue source. Electronic versions of textbooks that are able to be purchased by libraries are often expensive and allow only one user at a time. 

The library endeavors to provide digital content that is free from digital rights management restrictions. As courses increasingly move online, we work with instructors to explore and identify viable e-textbook alternatives, including: 

  1. Non-textbook e-books already in the library collection or obtainable by the library.
  2. Open educational resources (OER). 
  3. Scanned chapters and excerpts of e-textbooks, subject to copyright limitations.

Exceptions to this policy will be considered on an individual basis by the Library’s collection team in consultation with the appropriate subject liaison. Possible exceptions include:

  • Purchasing a single reserve copy of a textbook that the Bookstore has difficulty supplying for students in sufficient numbers;
  • Acquiring titles that are not typically identified as textbooks and broadly support the University of Virginia's teaching and research interests.