CITY COLLEGE OF SAN FRANCISCO
TEXTBOOK AFFORDABILITY
SUGGESTIONS & STRATEGIES
FOR INSTRUCTORS

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR:
STUDENTS INSTRUCTORS DEPARTMENT CHAIRS

Student survey results (Spring 2010)    |     Instructor survey results (Fall 2010)

Do you know how much your textbook costs?
To find out, click the Book link on the class schedule.

SUGGESTIONS & STRATEGIES FOR INSTRUCTORS

  • Be aware of the price of your textbook and how it affects your students. Consider allowing use of earlier editions.
  • Negotiate price with publishers.
    • Team up with other instructors to select and use the same text (improves buying power)
    • Clearly state you are looking for a specific price.
    • Consider customizing text (bind text and study guide together).
    • Bundle. Often publishers can reduce price through bundling, because then it's a custom product whose price they can set.
    • Ask for several (documented) quotes from various publishers.
  • Make sure used copies are available for your textbook.
  • Make sure the bookstore will buy back your textbook.
  • Help students find Ebooks (note: printing limitations, and student can not resell).
  • Consider creating readers or sending students online articles.
  • Inform students of other online purchasing choices other than the bookstore.
  • Provide copies to the library reserve and/or study hall reserve, where students can use desk copies of the book. (Ask publishers for extra copies or in worst case scenario, get the department to purchase them from supply funds.) (More information here: Library Reserve.)
  • For high-demand classes, request copies be purchased by the Bookloan program.
  • Consider using open source materials that are available online free or for a reduced price.
  • Make sure that students will really be using your textbook, if you're going to require them to buy it. Otherwise, create handouts for the reference material you most want them to study at home.
  • Especially for classes with a high proportion of students who can't afford any textbook at all (especially noncredit):
    • Consider having a supply of books in the classroom for use there
    • Consider supplying handouts or having students copy down exercises in class
    • Consider using materials that are available for free (online, grant funded, donated, or from the community)

EXAMPLES FROM WITHIN CITY COLLEGE

Negotiating with publishers for reduced prices

  • Psychology 5 (~300 students per semester) -- The faculty was alarmed that a text we have been using for over 20 years cost students over $170 (new). We made a conscious effort to drive the price down by telling publishing representatives that we would no longer use such a high priced text. We basically were able to get the publishers in a “bidding war” for our business. One instructor switched to a new text that cost students $74 dollars (new -- bundled text no bookstore by back) and we were able to create a customized version of the long-used text that cost students $85.
  • Oceanography 1 (~180 to 250 students per semester) -- We got a special price for a loose-leaf hole-punched, in color, nonbound version. We told the publishers that we were considering switching to their textbook, that we had reviewed many and preferred their book, but that price was extremely important and their price was too high. Through e-mail, we received an offer of a lower price for the loose-leaf version. Because the publisher was required to do a special printing, we needed a special ISBN #. We coordinated with the bookstore to make sure that we knew what the markup would be and thus the final price. We need to check each semester to make sure the arrangement is still working properly. Textbook new from Amazon: $121.35; from CCSF bookstore: $94.75.
  • Astronomy -- Textbooks need to be affordable for our students! I play the publishers reps off each other to get the best deal on the textbook we want.

Using older editions

  • Earth Sciences (almost all our courses): Although we use and prefer the most current edition in class, we encourage students who cannot afford the new edition to purchase the most previous edition online for just a few dollars. We do not consider the older edition to be the best resource (in our fields, current events and research are extremely important). So we warn anyone with an older edition that they will have to regularly access and review the current edition on reserve in the library or in our study halls. Our hope is that at least those who can't afford the current edition will have something to use at home that covers 90+% of the actual content. None of the assignments require that they use one particular edition. However, they may miss out on a few vocabulary words and might have to bundle chapters that were fused or separated in the current editions. Price difference: $130 new, current edition and $5 to 16 used, older edition.
  • Anonymously provided -- This is the last semester that I am going to use current edition text books. Starting next semester I am switching to old edition books. They are available online in sufficient quantities, and they are roughly 1/10th the price.
  • Engineering -- In this field, the books have the same content as previous editions. This has been the case for decades. For example the book in 1970s has the same chapters, the same titles, the same problems, etc. They change the pages and numbers in the problems, and call it a new edition. I have been allowing students to buy a couple of editions before the current edition for less than $10, rather than paying $150+ for the same exact material, with the exception of page numbers and answers at the end of the book. In my class syllabus, I have laid out the reading and homework assignments for 3 editions. Students can use any of the three. Mostly use the oldest edition for price reasons. Some get the latest edition because they are used to it.
  • Anonymously provided -- I try to use the same edition of the book for as long as possible, asking the bookstore to buy back the former edition when new ones are forced upon us by the publishers. I have used one book for my class, and the current edition has been available since 1992.

Finding books for the library reserve

  • Earth Sciences and other departments -- To get the library reserve textbooks, we ask the publisher for them. We have multiple instructors and most publishers will give instructors multiple copies so they can store one at home and one at work. With part-timers coming in and out, we often have a few extras. Where that's not possible, we will purchase a copy directly and place it on reserve. (Comes out of instructor's pocketbooks.)
  • Anonymously provided -- I regularly put required books on reserve and ask for extra exam copies so I can give them to book loan! I have been open about this policy with publishers' reps, and the good ones never flinch at sending extra copies.
  • Anonymously provided -- I have copies of all my texts on reserve at the library and I encourage my students to purchase the books online. For that reason, the first two weeks of the semester, I have provide course material for the students in case they need time to get the book (and sometimes the bookstore runs out of the required text during the first few weeks and has to re-order).

Using Readers

  • Digital Arts Media -- We have endeavored to create readers for classes whenever possible. One class now has a reader used by all sections authored by one of the faculty who teaches the class. This reader is available in the bookstore for a reasonable price and starting Sp11 will be available for 50% of the ccsf bookstore price electronically from iBooks and Amazon.
  • Anonymously provided -- I self-publish BECAUSE the textbook company got WAY too expensive. Now I know the information is what I want it to be and affordable for students. Students are ALL surprised that the book is only $20.00 new and even less used.
  • Digital Printing Services -- through the Graphic Communications Department, CCSF
    At the Mission Campus, color and black-and-white digital printing is available at cost to City College departments and programs. Digital printing is well suited for short-run jobs and multiple page documents such as course readers. A variety of binding options and paper stocks are available.

    Many Departments take advantage of our high quality course readers produced at our facility and sold through the CCSF Bookstore. This approach results in a considerable savings when compared to readers produced by commercial vendors. The Bookstore addresses all of the copyright issues and it keeps teachers from distributing books and handling student funds.

    Please call (415) 920-6045 or 415 920 6048 to discuss digital printing prices, options and turnaround. You may also contact our Production Coordinator's Johanna Rudolph or Barbara Hernandez at digiprnt@ccsf.edu, or drop by Mission Campus room 204 & 205.

Want to share your own examples?
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TEXTBOOK AFFORDABILITY TASK FORCE.