#Textbookbroke: Findings of a University of Guelph student survey on textbook purchasing behaviours and outcomes
The high cost of commercial textbooks creates financial burdens for many post-secondary students. There have been a number of recent studies exploring the link between high textbook costs and negative outcomes for students. The 2014 publication "Fixing the Broken Textbook Market" by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) reported that in the past decade, "textbook prices have increased by 82%" and that "...textbooks remain one of the largest out of pocket expenses for students and families – meaning that high price tags are yet another threat to affordability and accessibility of education in the United States."1 Surveys conducted in 2010, 2012, and 2016 by the Florida Virtual Campus found that "the high cost of textbooks is negatively impacting student access, success and completion."2 Student groups across Canada have initiated #TextbookBroke campaigns to draw attention to the challenges these trends are creating for students. In addition to rising textbook prices, student groups have pointed out that publishing industry practices such as the bundling of content, the use of access codes, and the frequent updating of textbook editions, have virtually eliminated the used textbook market.3 Students are left with few options when it comes to obtaining affordable course materials. In order to find out whether these same issues were affecting University of Guelph students, the Library partnered with the University’s Central Student Association (CSA) in the fall of 2016 to survey undergraduate students about their textbook purchasing behaviours. The goals of the UG Student Textbook survey (referred to as the #TextbookBroke survey) were to determine whether textbook and course material affordability was an issue on the Guelph campus, and if so, how UG students were affected by it. The survey was sent out just after students had completed their textbook-purchasing decision-making for the semester. The University of Guelph has an undergraduate population of approximately 23,000 and more than 4,000 of these students responded to the survey. Some 3,200 responses also included written comments.