Irish Librarians condemn publisher Wiley’s removal of hundreds of titles from ebook collections

Irish Librarians and library-related organisations wish to express our grave dissatisfaction at the sudden withdrawal by Wiley publishers of over one thousand titles from key ebook collections to which many academic libraries subscribe.  On 31st of August 2022 Wiley abruptly removed more than 1,300 ebooks, many of which were recommended by faculty to their students as key books on course reading lists, from these collections. Electronic access to these titles was procured by libraries on behalf of their institutions in good faith and in good time for the new academic year.  However, Wiley removed these books from already-subscribed services without making any efforts to inform academic libraries that pay hundreds of thousands of Euros from public funds per year to ensure students have access to the books they need.

We condemn Wiley’s lack of consultation with libraries, the suddenness of this move and the timing which has caused high levels of disruption at the beginning of the new academic year.  Libraries have had to embark on time-consuming efforts to urgently liaise with faculty, amend reading list collections, find alternatives, get pricing information and investigate new procurement options, all at a time when we should be orientating new students who are settling in to the first normal academic year after an extremely difficult period during the pandemic.  Ciara McCaffrey, Deputy Librarian at the University of Limerick said: “This is a disgraceful action by one of the largest publishers in the world with annual revenues in excess of $US2 billion. Removing access to core ebook titles at the start of the educational year is a slap in the face for students, faculty and librarians.  We are desperately trying to sort out the mess it has caused when we should be focusing on ensuring our students get off to the best start possible.”

We further object to the new model that Wiley is pursuing, which is to sell its books as etextbooks on a subscription model based on class sizes for exorbitant fees.   It is a model that is unsustainable, anti-competitive and highly problematic in the use of public funds.  It erodes libraries’ rights, is time-consuming to adopt, the pricing is lacking in transparency and there is no predictability about access or prices from year to year.   The sudden removal of these titles makes ebook collections similarly unpredictable.  Ultimately, these poor practices among the book publishing industry generate an utter lack of confidence and trust among librarians, faculty and students.

Libraries consistently engaged with the publishing community during the pandemic to ensure that users would have access to critical collections.  In light of this, the decision by Wiley is particularly egregious, ill-timed and lacking in any spirit of collegiality to customers who will suffer by this calculated move.  The decision points to the dysfunctional nature of the ebooks market, highlighted by libraries globally and underlines the need in Ireland and elsewhere for government investigation and legislative change.  Since 2020 the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) has been raising awareness about these problems as part of the international #ebookSOS campaign.  Cathal McCauley, President of the LAI said: “Unfortunately what Wiley have done is yet another example of the behaviours that the #ebookSOS campaign has been highlighting.  Increasingly libraries cannot get access to ebooks, are offered prices which are multiples of the print edition and/or are subject to onerous and restrictive terms and conditions.  These trends represent an existential threat to the vital role libraries play in making information available to citizens and urgent action is required before it is too late. The LAI will continue to engage with the relevant government departments, international organisations and colleagues in this regard.”

Library Association of Ireland

Consortium of National and University Libraries (CONUL)

Irish Universities Association Librarians’ Group

Technological Higher Education Association Librarians’ Group

For further information please contact:

Cathal McCauley President of the Library Association of Ireland      

Ciara McCaffrey Irish #ebookSOS Steering Group