The University of Calgary Library has recently entered a partnership with the online bookstore Amazon, prompting questions about advertising in the academic environment.
Students searching the library catalogue now have the added option of expanding their search into the Amazon databases. If they purchase anything from Amazon, the library earns a small percentage of the revenue.
“It’s a partnership opportunity that Amazon offers,” said Library Client Services assistant director Darlene Warren. “Our development officer identified this as a potential source of added revenue, and the Information Resource Council approved it.”
Warren said profits will go to acquisitions like book endowments.
“Depending on the volume of sales we would earn from 5 to 8.25 per cent of the purchase price on completed sales based on a sliding scale,” explained Warren.
The official information technologies policy classifies the use of “university computing or network facilities for personal business purposes” as unethical.
U of C chief information officer Harold Esche agreed advertising on university web-space is usually inappropriate, but said it can be acceptable under certain circumstances.
“We don’t want people setting up a business on the side, but at the same time the World Wide Web is not as black and white as it used to be,” said Esche. “I think there is some room for interpretation in terms of having appropriate ads in the context of the website.”
Although the library website does have Amazon banners, Warren said they are not advertising.
“I don’t see this as advertising per se,” she said. “It’s more of a fundraising partnership. Amazon has an engine that we can interact with, so this is an extra place to search.”
Another searchable database, one headquartered a fair bit closer than amazon.ca, is our very own University Bookstore. Currently the library site does not have any links to the bookstore.
“I can understand their need for the Amazon site, but even a link to the bookstore would be nice,” said bookstore manager Brent Beatty, stressing he wouldn’t want to replace the Amazon link, just be included alongside it.