An American University study found students aren’t interested in paying for textbooks outside of their major, even as a rental. They will purchase course materials in their major, as long as they don’t cost more than $50.
At the same time, reports suggest the amount of time students spend studying has dropped to about 15 hours a week, compared to about 24 hours a week in the 1960s.
The challenge for faculty is to find a balance between reading assignments and what students will realistically do, according to Naomi S. Baron, executive director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning at American University, in an essay for Inside Higher Education.
“There is a pressing need for meaningful collaboration between faculty members and the publishing industry to find ways of producing materials designed to foster learning that reaches beyond the test—and that students can be reasonably expected to procure and use,” Baron wrote.
To Baron, students see books as a value proposition with an eye toward getting a better grade. Faculty needs to understand that and decide if the reading assignments provide long-term value. Publishers should understand that if students aren’t willing to pay for new editions and high-priced, color-laden textbooks, they probably aren’t reading them.
Finally, students must know that if they aren’t reading their assignments, they probably aren't going to get a better grade.