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Reading List Guide: More about Kortext

Introduction to the Library's Reading List Service

What is Kortext?

Kortext offers significant advantages over traditional e-book platforms and overcomes their various limitations:

  • Students get unlimited access to reading list material
  • Students are able to highlight and annotate directly in the electronic full text
  • Tutors receive an electronic desk copy of all readings requested for their modules
  • Tutors can access detailed analytics to see how students are engaging with readings
  • Tutors and library staff can easily swap titles in and out of the package as teaching requirements change

As the name suggests, publications obtainable via Kortext are predominantly "core texts" – textbooks and other monographs that students are expected to refer to from week to week as part of their studies. It should not be considered a digital library in its own right and cannot give us electronic access to all academic publications. Nevertheless, Kortext supplies academic and some popular titles from a wide range of subject areas, making it a useful resource for all disciplines and modules regardless of whether they usually require textbooks.

Don't forget to send us your reading lists! If we receive a reading list from you, Library staff will automatically request Kortext e-textbooks for your students. Click the picture above to find out more about the Library's Reading List Service.

If Library staff have requested e-textbooks for your module, you also have access to student engagement data relating specifically to those readings. If this is the case, you will have already received an email inviting you to access Kortext Analytics. Click the picture above to find out more about how to use this engagement tracking service.

How do E-Textbooks differ from E-Books?

E-textbooks and e-books have the following attributes in common:

  • Electronic, remote access to scholarly information
  • Users can read texts online, and sometimes download texts for offline use
  • Users may highlight and annotate digital text, and automatically cite text
  • Users are able to print and copy the text within copyright limitations

Although there are a number of e-textbook providers available for libraries and universities to chose from, they all offer the same advantages over traditional models:

  • Unlimited user access, rather than restricting access to a few users at a time
  • Readings can be integrated within virtual learning environments (VLEs), rather than discoverable only via the library catalogue or an electronic reading list
  • Tutors can track engagement through analytics and formative assessment 

Unlike traditional e-books, e-textbook providers incorporate pedagogy into their interface design. Currently under development are formative assessments integrated into the electronic full text. E-textbooks therefore provide a great means of tracking student engagement with key readings across the life of a module. This has never previously been possible with traditional e-book platforms.

One key difference between e-textbooks and e-books is that e-textbook providers work on a subscription rather than a purchase model. In other words, libraries only retain access to requested e-textbooks for the length of the subscription period, whereas e-books are purchased outright by libraries and access is assured in perpetuity.

Otherwise, the difference between the two is largely semantic. The titles available as e-textbooks tend to be just that – electronic textbooks. Monographs and more scholarly publications that are available electronically are usually referred to simply as e-books.

Access to E-Textbooks

Generally, only those students registered on the module for which an e-textbook was requested will be able to access the full text of that e-textbook. In other words, e-textbooks are not usually available to all university staff and students via their library catalogue. At Exeter, however, we have opted for the Kortext Complete model, which overcomes this by making Kortext content available to any staff member or student.

Depending on the specific e-textbook provider and model chosen, students are also able to download and retain access to their e-textbooks beyond the completion of the module, and even after they graduate. Due to the Library's choice of subscription model, however, this benefit is not currently available to Exeter students, but ironically would have been possible had we chosen a more restrictive, less open model.

Why do we need Kortext?

The decision to try Kortext was made in light of the pandemic, which necessitated a shift within the Library to digital content provision and meant that it would be impossible for students to access reading list materials only available in print format. Kortext therefore provided an opportunity to make reading list materials previously only available in print in a library building available digitally to students.

However, due to publisher price gouging of e-books, Kortext also serves as a means to provide better value for money for the University by making a large collection of digital content available to students and staff that may otherwise have been prohibitively expensive.

If you would like to learn more about publisher price gouging during the pandemic, click here to read about campaign by librarians and academics to demand that the UK Government to address the situation, on which BBC News also recently reported.

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