Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Order Textbooks

The cost of many textbooks has risen dramatically in recent years, putting a financial strain on students who have to purchase them for classes. Here are a number of things we can do as faculty to help students manage these costs without compromising the quality of their education.

  • Place bookstore orders by the designated deadline. While the deadline may seem excessively early (April for the fall and September for the spring), this timeframe allows the bookstore to negotiate discounts with publishers and pass that discount on to students; to buy back as many books as possible from current students to resell at lower cost; and to obtain as many used copies of the text as possible to sell at discounted rates.
  • Consider cost when choosing materials for the course. For example, think about assigning an earlier (generally cheaper) edition of a textbook or the less expensive of two equally appropriate monographs if they accomplish the same teaching goals. 
  • Check the availability of used texts. The bookstore has signed up as an affiliate with several used book dealers to provide a one-stop site for students to find the best price. The price is the same for students whether they go directly to Amazon or through the bookstore. If used texts are comparable and available – point your students in that direction.
  • Make book chapters or excerpts available on your Blackboard site if you are not planning to use the whole book. To do this, however, the sections you use must be within the parameters of the “educational use” provisions of copyright law. CMU’s copyright policy is on the library website.
  • Provide students with a list of required texts/materials. Send students an email or post your required texts on your course Blackboard site as soon as a class roster is available. Alternatively, post your book information on a departmental website if students are in the habit of checking it. Early notification will give students time to find course materials at the lowest price.
  • Keep an extra desk copy or two of each book to lend out in case a student cannot obtain one of the texts, for financial or other reasons. Having extra copies on hand can also be helpful in case a student adds the class late and does not have time to buy a book you are using early in the semester.
  • Put a hard copy of your books on reserve in the library so that students have the option of reading or copying them without buying them. Alternatively, put the first few chapters of every book on electronic reserve or on your Blackboard site. This provides a cushion of time for students to find an affordable copy of the book without falling behind in their reading. (Remember, you need to give the library one month to process electronic reserves.)
  • Facilitate book sharing. Unless there’s a reason students need their own copy of a text (for example, to use in class discussions), encourage them to share. You can also provide them with a little time in class to coordinate a sharing arrangement with classmates who live near one another or have corresponding schedules.