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University of Utah Library Guides

How to Choose a Textbook and Negotiate its Price: Home

Use this guide to get tips on negotiating the price University of Utah students pay for an assigned commercial textbook.

Choosing a Textbook

You've been assigned a course. Now what? Maybe you're getting ready to meet with Teaching and Learning Technologies or the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence on designing course objectives. Or maybe you want to figure out what textbook or course material you should use before you meet with TLT and CTLE. It's kind of a chicken and egg issue: you will want to choose a textbook or set of course material that aligns with your course objectives, but you'll need to have a general idea of your course objectives first. The following discovery tools can help get you started in thinking about course goals and textbooks:

  • Read the course description in the U of U catalog 
  • Check your department or previous U of U Class Schedules for past syllabi 
  • Look at similar courses across the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE)
  • Talk to other teachers. Find out what book they use, why, and what price they negotiated (from Renee Dawson, Biology)

While looking at how other people have described or taught the class, jot down a couple of keywords and use them to consult library and information resources to find content to fit your course: 

Information on Pricing

You've got a textbook in mind for your course. Do you know how much it will cost for your students to get access? The average textbook price a student at the University of Utah pays for an individual course is $90.

If the textbook you've selected falls above this average, try negotiating the price down with the textbook publisher. This guide spells out a number of tips used by U of U librarians and professors to negotiate licenses. 

Basic Negotiation Principles

  • Everything is negotiable. You never lose anything by contacting a publisher and saying you want to negotiate
  • You control access to a subset of the publisher's marketplace for the textbook you've selected
  • Assess the strength of your negotiating position (use the specific tips below)

Specific Negotiation Tips

  • Know the average enrollment numbers for your course or program of courses
    • The higher the enrollment numbers, the better your chances for bringing the price down
  • Use a price ceiling. Be aware of your own comfort level about how much a student should be expected to pay for a textbook and talk it down from there
  • Let the textbook publisher rep know that you are looking around for other options. Ask the U of U library faculty and staff listed on this guide for help. We can help you find what other textbooks the publisher competes with. The library can negotiate campus-wide pricing, access and, most importantly, less restrictive digital rights management (DRM).
  • Ask for a short term or trial run of the textbook at a reduced rate in order to let students work and learn with it
  • Always ask what else the publisher can provide like custom editions.

Get Help with Choosing a Textbook or Negotiating its Price

Allyson Mower, Associate Librarian

Steve Bannister, Assistant Professor (Lecturer), Economics

Mark England, Associate Librarian

Rick Anderson, Associate Dean

Mary Ann James, Electronic Resources Manager

Shane Girton, Campus Store

Steve Beck, Print & Mail Services

Renee Dawson, Biology, also contributed to the list of negotiating tips. 

Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library