STUDENTS will increasingly be given access to ebooks covered by their course fees, according to the boss of the UK’s leading provider of electronic textbooks.

Bournemouth-based Kortext recently attracted £15million in new funding and is creating 50 jobs.

Founder and chief executive James Gray said the pandemic had led to a “four- or fivefold increase” in enquiries from around the world.

The company looked at speeding up its “roadmap” for its products and secured investment from DMG Ventures.

“They agreed to put in £15m, which basically funded our ability to be able to accelerate that roadmap and bring that vision to bear over the next two to three years, instead of four or five or six years,” he said.

“So we’re super excited, because it just really means that we can really support universities in that move to blended learning, in terms of placing content at the heart of the learning experience, but connecting students, academics, with the materials, with each other, with their course.

“It’s really all about scaling up the ability to support universities, not just in the UK, very importantly, but internationally as well as they.”

He said electronic textbooks could be a “leveller of access” to knowledge.

“If you think about the traditional model, it’s always been a ‘student pays’ market. An academic would adopt a textbook for their course, they would stand in front of the lecture hall and say, ‘I’m using this book, off you go and buy yourself a copy’, and they would go to the local bookshop, or wherever it was,” he said.

“By definition, wealthier students had an advantage over poorer students, those that struggled to pay for that content. And they would rely on the library buying a few copies, where then they would have to queue up and to get access to that.

“So I think the shift that we’re beginning to see is universities thinking about supplying that material as part and parcel of the course fees.”

The Kortext platform already has more than two million ebooks from around 4,500 global publishers.

The platform is interactive, with students able to make notes and lecturers able to monitor progress.

“It’s that environment where not only can you access and use the text, but you can highlight, you can take notes, you can share, you can collaborate and that digital environment really enables you to do a lot more with the book than you ever could in print,” said Mr Gray.

“But for those people that want to, if they want to print out some pages, they can.”

Kortext employs around 130 people, with support functions in Bournemouth and a second office in Canada. Mr Gray said he had a “fantastic team” and that Bournemouth had a good supply of talent.

“America’s got its Silicon Valley. London’s got its Silicon Roundabout, and we got our Silicon Beach,” he said.

“Bournemouth has got a serious talent pool here. It’s got some very serious businesses – JP Morgan, Nationwide, BNY Mellon – and personally, I struggle to think that there is a better place to live and work.”