Students are buying fewer textbooks from one year to the next. However, the reasons do not rest solely on cost.
The latest survey from the National Association of College Stores’ OnCampus® Research Student WatchTM shows college undergrads spent less on their course materials, an average of $77 per course, during the 2015-16 academic year. The spending decrease is due in part to cost-saving initiatives like rentals and digital formats. Student Watch shows about 40% of students rented at least one unit during both the 2014 and 2015 academic years. During 2015, 60% of students said they included at least one digital element in their course material quiver, either an access code or digital textbook. Only 17% of students said they had not yet used any digital format.
The figures do show a concerning trend: 25% of students say they did not purchase at least one of their required course materials for the fall 2015 term. The primary reason was not driven by cost— the say it's because they believe their books are "unnecessary."
Professors have the right idea; having the course materials students need on hand at the beginning of the term has a positive impact on learning outcomes. Student Watch says more than half of all students found their course materials to be "very" or "extremely" useful.
So how can schools continue to encourage students to obtain their titles so they can be as successful as possible?
Students who already see the value of acquiring their course materials will seek out the best value possible. As the article noted, rental and digital have made a notable impact on how students can save. Your selection of digital titles can save students up to 80% off the list price of a new print title.
You have tools to reach the growing number of students who are considering their books "optional" as well. If your faculty like to adopt older editions of course materials or offer a range of supplemental items like chapter summaries and outside resources, then they may be interested in a custom course pack.
By bundling these materials together in one place, your students can rest assured everything in their "book" for that class was hand-picked by their professor, and you can potentially save them money over the cost of a textbook and associated individual supplements.
Originally posted on July 14, 2015 - Updated for new research