Press Center > Study finds majority of college students delay purchasing textbooks due to cost

July 31, 2018

Study finds majority of college students delay purchasing textbooks due to cost


August 1, 2018

BOSTON (August 1, 2018) - The high cost of textbooks is forcing an overwhelming majority of college students to delay or avoid purchasing required postsecondary course materials.

According to a new study conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of VitalSource®, 85 percent of U.S. college students admit they have either postponed buying required materials or chosen not to buy them at all. Almost all (92%) the students who delayed or skipped buying textbooks cited costs as the reason for their decision.

“The results of this study are enormously troubling,” said Dr. Michael Hale, Vice President of Education for VitalSource. “Students need all of their required course materials in order to succeed in the classroom. At a time when tuition is on the rise and student debt continues to break records, we need to remove extra cost burdens on students - and curbing the cost of course materials is a commonsense starting point.”

The Wakefield study also found 70 percent of students surveyed consult at least three sources when shopping for course materials and textbooks, a time-consuming and confusing process that can further contribute to the delay in acquiring materials. These materials are produced by a wide range of publishers and learning solutions companies, and the availability of openly developed resources (OER) continues to grow.   

Other key findings include:

  • Only one in ten students (11%) consult just one source when purchasing course materials.
  • The average student consults four sources when shopping for course materials.
  • Most students (86%) believe they would get better grades if they had access to interactive e-textbooks and digital tools, rather than traditional textbooks.
  • Seven in 10 students say they would have better grades if they had access to required textbooks and course materials before the first day of classes.
  • Majority of students (73%) would be interested in paying for course materials as part of tuition.

“Students and faculty need course materials from a wide range of content providers, but they need them at affordable price points, on the first day of class. That’s why we’re seeing growing demand for digital course materials across all college campuses nationwide. In fact, this past spring VitalSource provided students access to course materials from hundreds of publishers at over 65% savings through Inclusive Access programs at more than 350 institutions. Overall, student purchases of digital textbooks at VitalSource has more than doubled so far this year,” said Pep Carrera, President of VitalSource.

Dr. Hale added, “As a former college professor, I know how important it is for students to have access to critical materials on the very first day of class - they shouldn’t have to waste time shopping at multiple stores and websites just to try to save a few dollars. Inclusive Access programs use materials that are produced by a wide range of publishers, digital learning companies as well as a growing catalog of open educational resources (OER), allowing our partner institutions and campus stores to embrace digital course materials while deploying smart strategies to raise postsecondary outcomes, promote success, and save time and money for students.”


About VitalSource |

VitalSource Technologies LLC, part of Ingram Content Group, is improving the learning experience by making it easier to create and deliver effective and affordable content. The preferred choice among educational institutions and companies for digital learning materials, VitalSource® helps over 1,000 educational content providers create and deliver seamless interactive learning experiences through its exclusive Bookshelf® platform to millions of learners at 7,000 institutions. Bookshelf users opened more than 20 million digital textbooks last year and read more than 3.4 billion pages. Follow VitalSource on Twitter at @VitalSource.


Media Contacts:

Erin McCarthy, VitalSource

Media Contact

Erin McCarthy, VitalSource