How Do I Help Students Reduce Textbook Costs?

How Do I Help Students Reduce Textbook Costs?

Textbook prices have increased over 73% since 2006, more than four times the rate of inflation (NBC News, 2016). You can support students by making affordability a priority in your course design and considering the cost and quality of the course materials you choose.

Strategies to Reduce Textbook Costs

When choosing textbooks, your first priority should be to select course materials that provide high quality content and support the instructional goals of your course. In addition, you can reduce costs for your students by:

  • Choosing textbooks that are available in a range of publication formats so that students can opt to purchase a new or used print copy, an e-copy, or rent either a print or digital copy.

  • Offering students the option to use different editions of the required textbook. Older editions will be less expensive than the latest print edition and, depending on the discipline, newer editions may differ more in the organization of the material than in the content.

  • Carefully assessing the potential student learning benefits for supplemental materials associated with publisher access codes. Access codes are typically the most expensive option for students because these materials cannot be resold, shared, or placed on library reserve. Do you really need to require them?

  • Placing a copy or copies of the required course materials on reserve at the library. Students may experience financial difficulty in purchasing all of their course materials

  • Adopting, adapting or creating Open Education Resources (OER). OERs can substantially reduce textbook costs for students and more importantly can improve student academic performance (Colvard, Watson, & Park, 2018). The UMass Library Open Education Initiative provides funding for faculty interested in developing OER projects and provides resources for finding and authoring OER content.

Post Your Course Materials by the First Day of Class Registration

Entering all course material information through the eCampus and their Fast Adoption Tool as early as possible, and certainly by the first day of course registration, supports students by:

  • Providing students with time to plan and budget for their textbook costs.

  • Allowing eCampus sufficient time to secure textbooks at lower and more competitive prices.

  • Ensuring that students selling back their books receive the best buy-back price at the end of the semester.

Utilize Flexible Options for Required Textbooks

Several resources and options within eCampus can help students make thoughtful decisions about which textbooks to purchase and what purchase options make the most sense for them.

You can:

  • Indicate whether books are required, optional, or recommended.

  • Limit the use of the “require New only” option to items with terminal usage (e.g. access codes) so that students can choose to buy new or used print copies, or to purchase short term or lifetime digital access. eCampus is able to provide the lowest cost savings for students when multiple purchasing opportunities are utilized.

  • Use the “Book Comment” section in eCampus to highlight that a particular text is used in multiple courses or is a primary reference in the discipline, to provide a rationale for why a certain text was chosen and how it will be used in class, or to offer suggestions on alternative editions that might be acceptable.

  • Use the “Course Documents and Comments” sections to attach a syllabus, provide an expanded course description, or share any additional information about the course.



Colvard, N., Watson, C.E., & Park, H. (2018). The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Volume 30, Number 2, 262-276.