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Textbook Affordability

Options for reducing overall textbook costs from the Earlham College Libraries.


Textbook prices have skyrocketed in recent decades.

graph showing 900% increase in college textbook price over past 20 years vs general 275% increase in all other consumer price indexed items

Individual textbooks can cost between $200-$400. Students are struggling with these costs. One study found 65% of students had skipped buying a required textbook due to cost. Students also enroll in fewer credits due to high textbook costs, potentially interfering with their ability to graduate on time. 

Fortunately there are ways to reduce the costs of course materials. Earlham Libraries can help in the following ways:

  • Library Ebooks: The library owns 300,000+ academic and popular press ebooks, many with unlimited use licenses. Search the library catalog for options. Talk to a librarian about adding new titles.

  • Library Subscription Resources: Assign articles, book chapters, videos, and music directly from library-licensed databases like JSTOR, Kanopy, NYTimes, etc. 

  • Open Textbooks/OER: Open Educational Resources (OER) include textbooks, quizzes, even full courses--free to use, share, and remix. 

  • Reserves: Ask the Libraries to put a copy of your textbook on Reserve for 2- or 4-hour loan at the library.


Have questions, or not sure where to start? Talk to a librarian about options.


Figure: Graph showing 900% increase in college textbook price over past 40 years vs. 275% increase in all other consumer price indexed items. Image licensed for reuse under a CC-BY-SA license by Jonathan A. Portiz

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Earlham College • 801 National Road West • Richmond, Indiana 47374-4095