Alternatives to textbooks

Liz Gabbitas recently provided a guest post to The Scholarly Kitchen, an independent blog of the Society for Scholarly Publishing. Her article can be viewed here.

Email the Reserve Department to learn more about the Espresso Book Machine at

For assistance with alternative course materials and affordable solutions for your classes, contact the Course Material Services Team at

On any given day Liz Gabbitas, course reserve supervisor at the Marriott Library, can be found busily helping students find the materials they need for their classes. She manages what is often referred to as the “Reserve” collection—textbooks, workbooks and other books that professors select for their courses.

Students often are able to find expensive textbooks in the library’s Reserve collection available to borrow, saving themselves some money.

However, from time-to-time, a professor will need a book or resource that just isn’t available, period. This situation arose in 2017 when Marie Groberg, then a University of Utah instructor, came to the library seeking resources for an entry-level Arabic language course she was teaching.

“Professor Groberg had been using a textbook that was widely circulated in academia, but it really didn’t fit the way her class was designed plus it was very expensive,” said Gabbitas.

So over the course of the summer, Gabbitas and Groberg worked together to aggregate Groberg’s original work and other resources that would be used in her fall semester Arabic class. Groberg’s research in the teaching and learning of the Arabic language was highly valuable content that simply needed to be published so her students could use it. The next step was to use the library’s Espresso Book Machine to print the course materials.

“The Espresso Book Machine allows users to print titles that are no longer being published, but it also provides individuals with the ability to load their own content and have it printed,” said Gabbitas. “This is what we did for professor Groberg, which gave her what she needed and also saved her students over $200 in textbook costs.”

While this sort of publishing and collaboration doesn’t happen every day in the library, it is certainly becoming more popular as faculty begin to realize there are alternatives for traditional course materials.