Background information (you can skip this)

There's a technology called automatic textbook billing, or "inclusive" access (IA). It is also known by many other names.

With IA, students are generally billed automatically for e-textbooks, unless they opt out.

Disadvantages of IA

There are many issues with IA, including cost, format, expiry, and other issues.

Instead of using IA, faculty can adopt free online Open Educational Resource (OER) textbooks. OERs are cheaper. Also, unlike IA, OERs may improve academic outcomes. (Source.) Sadly, many faculty don't know much about OERs. (PDF source.)

Advantages of IA

IA increases publishers' revenues. This lets them produce slides, videos, test banks, and more. It also lets them produce textbooks which are far more polished than free online Open Educational Resource (OER) textbooks.

My question

IA textbooks normally self-destruct after a year or so. (Source.) This can cause problems for students. (Example.)

Perhaps it might be in textbook publishers' best interest to offer students extended access to their IA textbooks, longer than one year. Publishers could offer this either for no additional cost, or for an additional fee.

Long-term access might make students and instructors happier, at little or no cost to the publisher. And it might invalidate at least one common criticism of IA.

Traditional e-textbook retailers often do offer customers a choice between rental or perpetual purchase. (Example.) The perpetual purchase option may cost more, but at least it's possible.

But I'm not aware of any IA providers which offer long-term access as part of their IA programs. Why not?


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    – cag51
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 16:41

3 Answers 3


But I'm not aware of any IA providers which offer long-term access as part of their IA programs. Why not?

Apparently because they have found this not to be in their best interest. Companies are not in it to make customers happy: they are in it to make money. Happiness of customers is only a consideration towards an end. So, one might speculate that textbook companies have done market research showing that offering long-term access:

  1. Would not bring in substantial additional profit.
  2. Might undermine the market for students who, for some reason, currently purchase short-term access multiple times.
  3. Would not prevent students from switching to competitors.
  • 4
    And especially Textbook publishers do not have to make their customers happy, because they don't choose the book, so there's no market incentive
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 5:31
  • @Hobbamok Professors do chose the book, and many of them are sensitive to market-like incentives, such as "value for the student." If two books were otherwise identical, but one self-destructed and the other didn't, I daresay that every professor I know would chose the second one. However, the things that make professors happy are not necessarily the things that make students happy, so they overcome that by offering things like LMS integration, stats/reports on students' reading, etc.
    – David
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 16:48
  • @David they are influenced by it, yes, but not to the extend that the students are
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 23:55

Rent seeking. Replacing durable goods with artificially consumable goods is very common because it is profitable. Every industry that can is switching to a software-as-a-service model because they think that is where the money is.

Planned obsolescence is a long-standing practice in the textbook business. Publishers used to renumber homework problems to make old books obsolete. Deactivating digital books is a new version of the same thing.


Does this example rejects your hypothesis?

How long will students be able to keep their e-textbooks in this model?

Students receive perpetual or long-term access under this agreement. All publishers have agreed that e-textbooks acquired in this model will be available to students after their course ends. A student who transfers from one Ohio institution to another will keep access to textbooks acquired at their first institution, and for publisher platforms with a digital bookshelf, access will be granted via a student’s username and password. Students can also download e-textbooks to their digital devices and store them locally

Which publishers are currently participating?

As of today, OhioLINK has agreements with McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson, Cengage and SAGE Publishing

I think it is fair eternal online hosting is not included in a discounted price.

On the other hand, you should expect that your students can save a permanent copy (PDF) of the textbook along with any notes. No reason not to negotiate that, and obviously it was possible for Ohiolink.

  • Nice find! You've invalidated the last paragraph of my original post, which starts "But I'm not aware". Dear all: What should I do now, if anything? Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 19:25
  • One caveat: I doubt that OhioLink IA actually lets students save a PDF of the current edition of an entire book. I assume they just offer very-long-term hosting. Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 19:28

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