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Textbook Affordability: Resources and Alternatives: For Faculty

Information and resources for both faculty and students to help decrease the cost of textbooks.

What can faculty do about the high cost of textbooks?

The cost of college textbooks continues to increase and the economic burden is of great concern to students. The College Board estimates that the average student in this country spends around $1,200 a year on books and supplies. A single book can cost as much as $200. Between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks rose 82% — nearly three times the rate of inflation, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office. 

There are several ways faculty can help make educational resources affordable for your students:

  • Stop assigning over-priced textbooks, especially those that are frequently and needlessly updated.  Can you use a previous edition?
  • Place course materials on Course Reserves in the library.
  • Work with your subject specialist librarian to identify appropriate ebooks already available in the library's collection and use them as course textbooks. 
  • Fully exercise the right of fair use to make as much course material as possible digitally available to students via course-management or library systems. Provide permalinks to journal articles and other resources from the library's website on your Blackboard site or Library E-Reserves (free access to students).
  • Choose a standard textbook and place it on reserve in the library. Then let your students know how to access it.
  • Make use of Open Educational Resource (OER) available through repositories and other open access resources, such as those listed below.
  • Publish open-access scholarly articles that can be freely used as course texts. Deposit your materials into Huskie Commons, NIU's institutional repository. 
  • Encourage colleagues to invest time, intellect, and effort into writing, editing, and peer reviewing open-access textbooks rather than writing textbooks on behalf of for-profit publishers.

(Adapted from Barclay, Donald A. "No Reservations: Why the Time Has Come to Kill Print Textbook Reserves." College and Research Libraries News 76, no. 6 (June 2015): 332-35. http://crln.acrl.org/index.php/crlnews/article/view/9331/10450 and the University of Richmond LibGuide: http://libguides.richmond.edu/scholarlycommunications/OER)

Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Additional Open Access Resources

Course Reserves

Course reserves provide controlled access to limited portions of library-owned materials as well as personal copies that support classroom instruction.

  • Access to Reserves items may be provided electronically, through Blackboard, or in print.
  • Reserves materials include items that are essential to a course and may be in high demand.
  • Materials are placed on Reserves at the request of instructional faculty only.
  • Reserves can include books and book chapters, articles, exams, quizzes, class notes, CDs, DVDs, video recordings, and other materials.
  • Faculty may place personal copies of textbooks on reserve. Instructor's editions are allowed.
    • Faculty might try requesting a complimentary copy from the publisher; but take note that we are unable to place books on reserve that are printed with the phrase “For Review Only” or which contain language about similar copyright restrictions. See below for details on requesting a review or "desk" copy. 
  • Reserves are not intended to replace textbooks or course packs.

Request a Desk Copy

Almost all publishers are willing to send an instructor at least one free "Desk Copy"—and they are frequently willing to send more for a high enrollment class. There are a couple of things to keep in mind before you make the request:

  • You should use your university email address—the publisher may use this to ensure that you are, in fact, teaching faculty.
  • You can only request a required book; recommended items don't usually qualify.
  • You can only ask for a Desk Copy of a text after you have submitted the coming semester's book order to the campus bookstore—if you haven't submitted your book order for the term, you can ask for a "Review" or "Evaluation" Copy, but those will cost you money.

In order to request your Desk Copy, you will usually be instructed to either complete a form on the publisher's website or send a written request using Department/Institutional letterhead. The publisher will most likely ask you to supply some or all of the following information:

Instructor Name Instructor Phone Campus Mailing Address
College/University Email Position/Rank Name of Institution
Department Name Course Name Course Number
Section Number Expected Enrollment Semester/Term
Campus Bookstore Name Bookstore Contact Info ISBN/Title/Author Info

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Remember to contact your subject specialist if you need assistance. To find out who the subject specialist is for your department, view the Subject Specialist Directory