Digital materials save money, enhance learning

It’s the end of the semester, and that means the time-honored tradition of students selling their textbooks back to the CSU Bookstore begins on May 10. It’s a thrifty way to go: During the Spring, Summer and Fall 2018 semesters, students saved nearly $470,000 through book buybacks.

They saved an additional $835,000 by purchasing used books and $580,000 by choosing less expensive versions in the first place, and nearly $770,000 by simply renting books needed for their classes. Those savings add up – to about $2.65 million over the three semesters. 

But they saw even greater savings by opting to use digital materials – licensing textbooks and other learning materials available only online. That alternative saved students a whopping $3.4 million in 2018, more than half of the total $6.1 million savings for last calendar year.

“It’s part of what we do,” said John Parry, director of the Bookstore. “We’re dedicated to making materials as accessible as possible to all students, and that includes meeting students’ needs at the least cost possible.”

For comparison, new course materials for Comp 150 can cost $136; an e-textbook is about $54 for the semester, according to Parry, who said digital materials average between 50 percent and 80 percent cheaper than print.

Request course materials

Faculty can request the Bookstore make course materials available through the Inclusive Access Materials program when available from the textbook publisher. The Bookstore will also order print versions of the same materials, if they are available and if students want to purchase them, but the demand to have a book in hand is dropping as both faculty and students become more comfortable teaching and learning on Canvas.

Parry said this is the third year the Bookstore has offered electronic options. “We really saw it take off in Spring 2018,” he added.

As for Parry, the shift to digital presents another challenge: As students pay less for materials, the Bookstore’s operating budget decreases. It’s a challenge faced by campus bookstores across the nation, one that has been accelerating since the invention of the internet.

“In the end,“ Parry said, “we have to be wise in our decisions about how to best serve students.”