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F&M College Library

Scholarly Communications: Textbook Affordability

Services and resources for faculty and students

The Textbook Crisis

The "Textbook Crisis" describes the significant problems that the high cost of course materials are causing today's college students, ranging from the inability to obtain all the required books for a course to needing to drop a course or even change their major. In 2018, more than 20,000 students took part in a Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey run by Florida Virtual Campus. 64% of respondents said they had not gotten a required textbook, 41% had not registered for a course because of the prices of the required materials, and 23% said they had dropped a course for the same reason. See the infographic below.

Textbook Affordability Strategies

  • Consider price and availability when selecting course materials. 

  • See if the College Library owns digital access to the title. While we don't collect consumable textbooks, we can purchase unlimited, digital access to readers, critical editions, and other texts commonly assigned as required reading.

  • Place your book orders as early as possible. The earlier you place your orders, the more time students have to shop for the best prices and locate used editions. 

  • Place your book orders with the bookstore. During the first two weeks of the semester, financial aid dollars can only be spent at our Barnes & Noble campus bookstore.

  • Use physical and electronic (Canvas) course reserves. Placing print copies of required texts on reserve in SFL can help students who are waiting for their book to arrive. Uploading searchable PDFs to your course Canvas site and linking out to other sites is an easy way to save students money.

  • Use Fair Use to legally share portions of copyrighted works in class. The College Library can help you determine whether the resource you'd like to share with your students is covered by the Fair Use exemption to copyright law.

  • Speak to your students about the accessibility and availability of the course materials you require. Should they purchase some books and rent others? What are their options?

  • Allow your students to use older or other editions of required texts

  • Search for Open Educational Resources which would suit your course. See our OER guide.

Why are textbooks so expensive?

Textbook Prices versus Medical Care Costs

The skyrocketing cost of healthcare (blue line) in the United States is well known, but this graph illustrates that the rise in prices for textbooks (red line) has far exceeded what's been seen in the medical care industry. Since the 1970s, prices for "Educational Books and Supplies" increased at more than 3 times the average for all other items in the U.S..

Graph charting price increases for educational boos and supplies, medical care, and the average for all items.

2018 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey