The cost of a college education continues to rise, and textbook prices are rising at three times the rate of inflation. While there is a debate about how much students actually spend, even factoring in the sale of used books, and student-to-student transactions, it's still a big number. As a result, students are piling on debt and recent graduates are struggling under the weight of loans they wouldn't have needed 10 years ago.
Publishers only make money from new books, so they have moved to releasing new editions in a two-to-four-year cycles, which keeps the cost of book rentals and used books higher due to their shorter life cycle.
Professors are often unaware of the cost when assigning the latest versions of textbooks. Most new editions contain only small changes, like newer photos and somewhat updated cultural references, but enough to change the page number references.
Publishers attach etext and supplemental materials to textbooks that might look like a good bargain, but raise the price. A study by the California State Auditor found that the majority of students have had to purchase "bundled" materials they never used for 2 to 5 courses. Our own survey of CSUSM students confirmed this.
The Cougars Affordable Learning Materials Project (CALM) is part of the CSU Affordable Learning Solutions initiative started in 2010. CALM aims to aid faculty in replacing costly textbooks with lower cost alternatives by using high-quality open educational resources (OER), library materials, digital or customized textbooks, and/or faculty-authored materials. As of fall 2017, 88 participating faculty have saved our students over 2.9 MILLION DOLLARS by adopting open or lower-cost course materials!