Digital coursepacks would raise costs 

By Karen Herland

In an increasingly digital environment, it would seem logical that providing students with course readings online would save students’ money, and the planet’s trees. Last year the bookstore used more than 3.5 million sheets of paper to produce coursepacks over the fall and winter terms.

At the request of the CSU, the Senate tasked University Librarian Gerald Beasley with determining how to encourage, facilitate and support faculty to switch to digital course packs whenever possible.

“It turns out that you can’t easily do both. Saving trees does not save money,” said Beasley who presented his findings at the May 8 Senate meeting.

Working closely with Lina Lipscombe, director of the university bookstores, Beasley learned that the current agreement signed between the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ) and COPIBEC, the provincial body that manages copyright, works much better for material in print than online.

The report explains that COPIBEC currently levies an additional 15¢ per page fee on behalf of copyright holders for the digital distribution of material. Using a concrete example, Beasley and Lipscombe did the math and realized that a fairly standard course pack containing 28 items and retailing for $42.60 in paper form, would cost a prohibitive $105 in digital form just to cover costs.

Concordia’s VP External Relations and Secretary General Bram Freedman will form a stakeholder task force to determine what can be done internally in the current climate.

Beasley adds that there are options professors can explore, like using open access materials. His recommendations include development of a university copyright guide, improving the functionality of course management software such as Moodle, and encouraging faculty to seek alternatives in the library collections. Beasley is also hoping that Sustainable Concordia gets involved.

In the short–term, he acknowledges that paper coursepacks effectively get current, tailored material to students in the most cost-efficient, easily distributed way possible. “They are a great solution to the need to deliver vast quantities of reliable information to students every term. But perhaps their time is coming to an end.”

Beasley points out that the digital world promises that one day “students will have access to course-related information and all you pay, if you choose, is the price to print it out.” But getting from here to there will involve a lot of smaller steps and it will involve a host of players across campus.


Concordia University