E-books provide student savings through Penn State partnership

Pattee-Paterno Library at Penn State. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State program has saved online learners an estimated $1.2 million in the cost of buying textbooks since it launched in the fall of 2017. Its success is now laying the groundwork for even greater savings for students across the University.

Penn State, through a partnership between Penn State World Campus and the University Libraries, has made available more than 330 e-books for almost 300 courses offered through World Campus starting in the 2017-2018 academic year. The e-books are available to students through Canvas, the University’s learning management system, and are also searchable online in the University Libraries’ catalog.

World Campus has committed to invest up to $50,000 annually for three years to increase the Libraries’ digital collections.

“Penn State is committed to minimizing students’ costs toward obtaining a degree by making free and affordable course content available through the University Libraries. The e-book licensing partnership between the Libraries and Penn State World Campus is one of the ways we are making that educational content accessible to all students,” Barbara I. Dewey, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, said. “The partnership is mutually beneficial as it helps the Libraries increase its collections strategically while also supporting Penn State’s strategic plan foundation of enabling educational access and affordability and its commitment to help students avoid costs by offering free and low-cost textbooks.”

The partnership was designed to provide e-book access to Penn State World Campus students in high-enrollment courses. World Campus students enrolled in courses in which e-books have been licensed can access the e-books via the “Library Resources” tab in the course dashboard of Canvas. The license also can provide Libraries catalog access to any Penn State student at any campus who is enrolled in a course that uses the selected e-book.

“Penn State World Campus students benefit from the longstanding history of the University Libraries being at the forefront of using the latest technologies and innovative approaches to support students, faculty and staff,” said Renata Engel, vice provost for Online Education. “University Libraries employees understand and are committed to providing access to rich content with an eye on reducing costs to students, seamless integration into courses and high-quality support.”

A screenshot of "On Strategy," one of the e-books available through a new Penn State program Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

E-books have been available in about 20 percent of courses. The following shows a breakdown of the estimated savings:

  • fall 2017: $380,169
  • spring 2018: $378,900
  • summer 2018: $445,289

In feedback submitted through Canvas, students have praised the e-book program, saying:

  •  “With a family to provide for, sometimes my budget for schooling is overwhelming and saving a few hundred dollars on books every semester would be amazing."
  • “I like that the book is linked right from Canvas under the class navigation pane."
  • “It makes my studying experience much better because I can easily search the text and access it whenever I need to."

The University Libraries and World Campus pilot program has been so successful that the Libraries has launched a similar pilot with the College of Information Sciences and Technology to provide e-book resources this fall to its students at the University Park campus.

Each licensed e-book title added to the University Libraries’ collection also is available to all current Penn State students, faculty and staff, searchable through the Libraries’ catalog at, and accessible to anyone with Penn State WebAccess login credentials.

Visit the University Libraries website to see the courses for which e-books are available.

Last Updated August 13, 2018