Dipping our toes in water: eBooks as part of No Hidden Costs at Coventry University
Dipping our toes in the water:
ebooks as part of No Hidden
Extras at Coventry University
• A modern university, incorporated 1992
• C 21,000 undergraduates
• 38% of student population from overseas
• Very diverse student body, with wide range of library skills
• University very focussed on NSS scores
• No Hidden Extras is the University’s response to the
increase in student fees in 2012, and has been in place
• The “Promise” is that students will not have to find any
further costs to support their studies beyond their basic
Recruitment - influence students’ choice of university through
commitment to minimising ‘hidden extras’
Student satisfaction - tangible enhancement of the student experience,
impact on NSS scores!
Pedagogical - critical to achieving course learning goals
Widening participation – equal access to core material
No Hidden Extras
Each student paying full fees to receive up to £250 per year in
learning materials to support their course
Start Up Packs – e.g. protective clothing, Sports Kit,
Software, laptops, professional subscriptions, art materials
field trips/day visits
support grants for placements, overseas experience, or
• Distributed 20,000
books to 3,400 students
over 3 week period!
• Books packed by
course into “Amazon-
style” boxes for issue
• Packs issued to student
Review of 2012-13
• An enormous logistical operation!
• Had to gather requirements from lecturers across 120
• Need to estimate likely student numbers in advance of A
• And find a venue big enough!
• SO WOULD ADOPTING EBOOKS MAKE THIS
2013-14: Bigger and Better!
• Year Two students were also now eligible alongside new
Year One students
• We distributed 40,000 books to 7,200 students!
• A small e-book pilot as an alternative to print was
E-book Pilot with Vital Source
– Conducted with computer science students across 6
courses (6 texts) and bioscience students across 4
courses (3 texts)
– Students downloaded a personal e-copy of the
textbook from the relevant module from our VLE
– The text could be held on up to 4 devices, such as
laptops, tablets and smartphones
– Ability to make notes and annotate
Experiences with ebooks
• Students initially slow to download – needed several reminders!
• Some initial teething problems:
– Availability of some texts
– Correct access for authorised groups of students
• But gained momentum: 53% of computing students and 67% of
bioscience students downloaded the texts
• Not a high proportion, but higher than the 18% of computing students
who collected the print text!!
• Students liked the portability and ease of reference
• Also liked the ability to annotate and bookmark
• But still also liked print: each survey we have run since
the launch of NHE has indicated students prefer print!
• Students have not been previously exposed to ebooks in
this way – unaware of possibilities (its not like reading an
e-book via our catalogue!)
• Students dislike reading large amount of text on screen
• Communications – need to keep reminding students of
their availability and functionality
• Ensuring availability of title as e
• Persuading academic staff to adopt ebooks – they are
similarly very wedded to print!
• We continued again with small ebook pilots in 2014-15
with new supplier Kortext with bioscience and business
• Final year students can also buy etextbooks with credit
from our online store
• Currently conducting an overall review of No Hidden
Extras in terms of value for money, impact on recruitment
and pedagogic value
• We hope to increase the proportion of ebooks offered for
• Identify requirements early
• Sell the benefits – to staff and students
• Identify courses and subjects where it adds maximum
• Communicate constantly
• Review the metrics to inform future projects
Forster, S. 2014. E-textbooks at Coventry University: a pilot
In: Woodward, H. (ed.) Ebooks in Education: Realising the
Vision. Pp. 125–129. London: Ubiquity Press.