Campus Initiatives

The high and ever-increasing cost of textbooks is a significant concern for Berkeley students. Textbook prices have risen 88% in the past decade, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, and many textbooks cost upwards of $200. Print course-pack costs further compound student financial burdens.

The campus and the Library are dedicated to addressing and improving this situation.


Campus Efforts

In 2017, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education established a new task force to identify strategies to educate the campus about the cost of course content, and encourage practices that lower costs for students.

“While the campus has long been investigating the issue of course content affordability and has made progress, much work still needs to be done,” explains Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Cathy Koshland. “We must further reduce course content costs and utilize accessible digital library resources to provide an equitable and engaging learning environment for our students.”

Starting in Spring 2017 and working through the end of Spring 2018, the task force will:

  • Review data related to textbook and reader usage and pricing to better understand the complex issues surrounding affordability;
  • Identify strategies to educate faculty about the cost of textbooks and readers to encourage practices that lower these costs for students;
  • Outline how best to utilize online resources;
  • Identify strategies to educate faculty about accessibility issues related to textbooks and digital course materials.

The Library is actively engaged in the campus-wide task force, and simultaneously advancing similar efforts described below.


Library Pilot Programs

In cooperation with the Center for Teaching & LearningAssociated Students of the University of California, and Educational Technology Services, the Library launched a working group in Fall 2016 to explore how we might reduce student costs for assigned course materials.

The working group obtained a charter for two pilot programs that will run in Fall 2017. The Library received financial support for our participation in the pilot programs from The Arcadia Fund.

Affordable Course Content Pilot Program Image

Course Pack Pilot

If students are assigned a print course pack for purchase, the course pack pilot can help reduce that cost. With the first piloted service, the Library will process participating instructors’ syllabi to locate Library-licensed, open, or free copies that otherwise students would have had to purchase as print course packs.

  • If Library-licensed, open, or free versions are available, we will provide links or accessible PDFs to post to bCourses at no cost to students, reducing any remaining readings that a student would have purchased as part of a print course pack.

  • We will also provide guidance to instructors for making fair use decisions–further reducing the cost of course packs, because we can help tailor instances in which a third party copy center would need to secure copyright clearance for assigned readings.

eTextbook Pilot

With the second service, the Library and the Center for Teaching & Learning will offer grants and programmatic support to instructors to enable them to switch to Library-licensed eBooks, or adopt or create open textbooks and materials (often called "open educational resources" or OERs), thereby reducing student expenditures.

  • The grants range in value from $500 (e.g. for switching one required print book to a Library-licensed electronic book that can be linked to in bCourses) all the way up to $5,000 (to receive programmatic support to design your own open & electronic course materials).

  • The Center for Teaching & Learning and the Library can also help instructors find campus support to update any other attendant PowerPoints, assignments, or materials that need alteration following a change in assigned books or textbooks.


Interested in participating in the Fall 2017 pilots? Please complete this brief form before August 4, 2017 and we will get back to you with participation details and confirmation.



Open Textbook Network

The UC Berkeley Library has also strengthened its commitment to making course materials more affordable for students by joining the Open Textbook Network, which supports access to freely available and openly licensed textbooks and course content.

Berkeley will work with the Open Textbook Network to advance the use of open practices on campus by offering resources and workshops to explain and expand adoption of open textbooks. Not only do open educational resources reduce student costs, but also they have a positive impact on student success by providing access to assigned course materials from the very start of class.

The Open Textbook Network also maintains the Open Textbook Library, a premiere resource for peer-reviewed academic textbooks. All Open Textbook Library textbooks are free and openly licensed for use, adaption or modification.


What's special about open textbooks?

Wondering why there's a particular emphasis on open textbooks or OERs? 

OERs include resources, tools and practices that are free of legal, financial and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared and adapted in the digital environment. This means that, not only they are free of cost to students, but also they are licensed in a way that allows instructors to continually build upon, improve, and develop outstanding educational materials.

Generally, right or permission is granted by use of an open license (for example, Creative Commons licenses) which allows anyone to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute these educational materials.

For more on the licensing rights applied to OERs, check out this video from


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