700+ faculty surveyed on textbook costs and adoption incentives

July 1, 2019 | FlatWorld

FlatWorld, a publisher of award-winning college learning materials that are both affordable and high quality, today announced the results from its second annual survey of university faculty members’ attitudes towards textbook costs. The survey highlights faculty members’ concerns about textbook affordability, as well as the pervasive culture of publisher incentives that is contributing to high textbook prices.

“Despite the world’s biggest publishers claiming they are taking textbook affordability seriously, the results from this year’s survey clearly show that instructors and administrators still view textbook prices as a significant issue on their campuses,” said Alastair Adam, co-CEO of FlatWorld. “Professors are also wary of the nature of some publishers’ efforts to encourage faculty to adopt their textbooks, and are saying loud and clear that they do not want those publishers to continue with a number of incentivization practices that they — and we — view as unacceptable.”

FlatWorld received responses from 786 faculty members at two- and four-year institutions across the country. FlatWorld used SurveyMonkey’s platform to conduct the survey, and fielded responses from its proprietary database of university faculty between May 16–29, 2019.

Key findings included:

  • A gap exists between faculty’s concerns about textbook affordability, and university programs to address textbook affordability: 90% of respondents reported that textbook affordability is an issue on their campus. Yet only 41% of respondents are aware of their school having a program focused on reducing textbook costs.
  • Faculty are uncomfortable with publishers offering payment or travel incentives to promote textbook adoption: When asked about 10 different ways that publishers incentivize faculty to adopt textbooks, respondents viewed a number of practices as “generally unacceptable” or “totally unacceptable.” For instance, 75% of respondents viewed publishers funding department grants in exchange for textbook adoption as either “generally unacceptable” or “totally unacceptable,” and 70% of respondents reported the same view in regards to publishers funding student programs in exchange for textbook adoption. The majority of respondents (71%) also felt that publishers hosting instructors at a “vacation location” to provide feedback on a textbook was either “generally unacceptable” or “totally unacceptable.”
  • Faculty are wary of inclusive access programs: The majority of respondents (64%) viewed the practice of “publishers providing a discount to the list price of a textbook, in return for a commitment from the school to an inclusive access program,” as either “generally not acceptable” or “totally unacceptable.”
  • There is a pervasive culture of textbook adoption incentives that faculty views as unacceptable: Despite the majority of respondents viewing a number of publisher incentives as either “generally unacceptable” or “totally unacceptable,” they also noted that many of these practices occur at their institutions. For instance, 17% of respondents reported publishers providing their university or department a discount in exchange for an inclusive access program. 8% of respondents reported that publishers agreed to host professors at their institutions at a vacation location in exchange for reviewing their textbook. And 5% of respondents observed more direct payments from publishers, in the form of funding department grants or existing student programs in exchange for textbook adoption.

Added Adam, “When publishers incentivize professors to adopt their textbook through working trips to vacation destinations, or kickbacks such as funding department grants, the costs of these incentives ultimately contribute to the high price of their textbooks. Even in cases where publishers get universities to agree to digital-only inclusive access deals, they are effectively limiting students’ choice in shopping for a used book or other affordable alternatives.”

A full copy of FlatWorld’s report can be downloaded here: FlatWorld Textbook Affordability Study.

About FlatWorld
FlatWorld publishes the most affordable, high-quality learning materials, including both digital and print textbooks, and a robust online homework platform. FlatWorld’s rapidly growing catalog features more than 135 titles across more than 20 academic subjects, and FlatWorld’s textbooks cost between $24.95 and $39.95 for digital access. Thousands of faculty members at universities across the U.S., Canada, and around the world have adopted a FlatWorld textbook. Learn more at www.flatworld.com.