Be Book Smart: Info for instructors
Textbooks form 15.4% of the average student’s educational costs. The University of Alberta recommends that students should budget $1200 per year for academic materials.
Many instructors remember when textbooks were much more affordable and are already doing their best to help keep costs down for students. And students fully support our instructors’ right to choose their teaching materials. With students and professors working together we can do more to ensure that academic materials remain both high-quality and affordable teaching tools!
11 Tips to Save Your Students Money
Think Before You Buy. Consider these steps to reduce the costs you pass on to your students:
- Know the price
- Recommend, don’t require
- Re-use an old edition
- Coordinate with others
- Consider course packs
- Provide alternate materials
- Order early
- Go unbundled
- Use the net
- Work with the libraries
- Talk to students
Know the Price
Publishers may not be transparent with the actual cost of textbooks for students. Ask the Bookstore for price estimates before you place an order, as they account for the shipping and cost-recovery mark-up that students pay. If multiple materials will work for your course, negotiate for better prices and guaranteed pricing.
Recommend, Don’t Require
Be up-front with students and the Bookstore about the level of necessity of the textbook. Communicate to students how often you expect them to use the book, and consider whether or not the majority of students will refer to the book after your course is finished before making it mandatory.
Re-use an Old Edition
If there have not been substantial changes in creating a new edition, consider suggesting to students that the previous edition is still acceptable. If you used that book before, hold on to the references and page numbers to make both editions a viable option for students. You can also ask publishers for a translation guide between the old and new edition.
Coordinate with Others
Many textbooks are designed to cover a full year of study (based on US curricula), and you may only require part of an edition. Work with instructors teaching related classes to use similar materials, or use materials from previous and current sections of the course. That will provide the option of buying used books to more students.
Consider Course Packs
Printed course packs are often cheaper than textbooks, and customized to your curriculum. Send material to the Copyright office for clearance well in advance and then to SUBprint for students to purchase at the Bookstore. As well, in-class handouts or eClass links can also suffice, given Copyright approval.
Provide Alternate Materials
Prohibitive textbook costs can deal a strong blow to a student’s education: 78% of students who don’t purchase their textbooks due to cost fear that their university success will be negatively impacted. Link students with less expensive alternate materials on your course website and syllabus. If students can’t buy your required text, make sure that they aren’t disadvantaged by providing them with alternative forms of access to information required for assignments and tests.
Ordering textbooks 6-8 weeks before the start of classes ensures that they are available before the first day of classes. It also gives students an opportunity to shop around for their books. Late orders have rush shipping and handling fees that are passed directly to your students.
Only half of students indicate that they use additional materials bundled with textbooks often. Bundles increase the costs for students upfront, while also significantly reducing the value for students reselling their used textbooks. Determine what is necessary for your course, and whether or not bundled materials are a substitute for effective teaching practices.
Use the Net
Students prefer eBooks if they offer a substantial reduction in price. The Bookstore will not provide students with digital alternatives unless you order them separately for your course, here. Search for online open source materials, open access materials, and books from the Lois Hole Digital Library as alternatives to a new book.
Work with the Libraries
University of Alberta Libraries has many required course textbooks available for short term loan through our reserve rooms. If your required textbook isn’t available, submit a request to have it put on reserve for your class. In addition, place your supplemental materials on reserve so all students have access to them. Consider recommending library materials as alternative materials for students. And consider using books from our online collection – but check to see if they have user limitations first.
Talk to Students
Be upfront with your students on which books they need to buy. Ask them during your class about their perceptions on the cost, availability, and utility of your textbook. And if you’re about to select a new book, invite a student representative to be a part of the decision.