Be Book Smart: An open letter to professors on textbook costs

Akanksha Bhatnagar - Thu Aug 09, 2018

Dear Professor,

My name is Akanksha Bhatnagar and I am the 2018/19 Vice President Academic of the Students’ Union. In this role, I advocate on behalf of the 31,000 undergraduate students at UAlberta, addressing academic issues and related student concerns. I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the affordability of academic materials for undergraduates and discuss some steps you can take to make academic materials more cost-effective for students.

Currently, the University of Alberta recommends that students budget approximately $1750 per year for academic materials. The rising cost of academic materials is a primary concern for students who are already struggling to afford a quality post-secondary education and cover their living expenses. Stakeholders, such as publishers and university bookstores play a very important role in setting the price of academic material; however, you, as an instructor have the academic freedom to select which materials are used. In this way, you can be a primary partner in challenging the rise of textbook prices.

Here are a number of simple strategies that can provide students with alternative options for more affordable and accessible academic material without compromising on the quality of instruction and learning. We recommend that you ...

  • Allow the use of older editions of the textbook for your class;
  • Consider developing a custom a course pack, to perfectly suit your curriculum. SUBprint is able to create and print custom course packs for your class at no cost to your department;
  • Assign journal articles that can be accessed for no additional cost through the University libraries;
  • Avoid giving tests and assignments that require the purchase of additional software;
  • Order textbooks six to eight weeks before classes start as late orders have rush shipping and handling fees that are passed directly to your students; and/or
  • Integrate an Open Educational Resource (OER) or consider developing one for your course. These are teaching resources which are free and openly licensed to allow you to customize for your class.

The Centre for Teaching and Learning and University of Alberta Libraries can offer consultation services to support instructors in identifying and integrating OERs. Additionally, the Copyright Office can assist with questions related to copyright and OERs.

If you already make an effort to save students money on textbooks, please email me back with a description of your innovative solution and I would be honored to nominate you for a University of Alberta OER Award. For more resources and tips on what you can do to save your students money, visit

I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer and have a great term.

Kind Regards,

Akanksha Bhatnagar
UASU VP Academic 2018-19
Chair, Open Educational Resource Advocacy Group 2018-19

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