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Expert TA Blog

Why Bundled Textbooks are a Bad Deal for Students

In our experience, college professors work tirelessly to look out for the best interests of their students. They are well aware of the ever-increasing expense of a college education, and therefore are highly cost-conscious when choosing a textbook for their class. According to OpenStax College, the average student is now paying $1,200 each year just for textbooks. We have a longstanding partnership with OpenStax College, whose mission is to improve student access to quality learning materials, and we share their concern about the financial burden students face every semester.  

What can be done to reduce the cost of textbooks for students, without compromising instructors’ curricular decisions? One solution is to take a closer look at how bundled textbooks, those that include the book and an online homework system, unnecessarily increase student expenses. Textbook companies claim that the bundled homework system is free for the student who purchases a new textbook, while in reality it often costs the student hundreds of extra dollars. Bundled textbooks may limit the ability of an instructor to make the decision that best meets their students’ needs. These three scenarios offer insight into this problem:

Scenario 1: Professor A selects what she has determined to be the best textbook available, but it is also one of the most expensive and comes bundled with a homework system. In order to get the homework system, the student cannot purchase a used copy and is forced to pay the full price for the bundle. Total cost: $260

Professor A may have the option to offer an eBook version of the text. This will save some money, but the student will have no access to the materials at the end of the semester. Total cost: $110

Scenario 2: Professor B opts for an unbundled option. He still has the ability to choose the textbook he prefers, but since there haven’t been any substantive changes to the book recently, he decides to allow his students to use the previous two editions. Now having buying options, most students will decide to find a used copy, saving up to 80% by buying earlier editions. Professor B now has the opportunity to determine which homework system is best for his course. Let’s say he chooses a system with a cost of $28. Total Cost: $62

Scenario 3: Professor C’s main concern is the overall cost to her students. In this case, she decides that a free textbook, like those offered through OpenStax College, is the best option for her students. The content is peer-reviewed, accurate, and aligns with the scope of her course. Professor C, after investigating a variety of options, also chooses a homework system with a cost of $28. Total Cost: $28

Scenario 3 clearly offers the lowest cost-per-student, but the best scenario is the one that meets the needs of both the students and instructor, without compromising educational quality. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to textbook selection, but having the ability to control costs, choose the right book for your course, and find a dynamic homework system puts control back in your hands.


See how Expert TA’s software can be easily mapped to your textbook of choice

Formed from the belief that a homework system should help instructors teach and students learn, Expert TA harnesses the power of technology to encourage practice during homework, while also giving meaningful feedback to both instructors and students. The Expert TA blog was created to serve as a hub of information to help educators track and discuss trends in education, software and student performance.