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Textbook Adoptions and Sales

  • Responsible Office: Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost
  • Current Approved Version: 03/09/2020
  • Policy Type: Administrative

Policy Statement and Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to ensure university compliance with state (e.g., Code of Virginia § 23.1-1308), federal (e.g., Higher Education Opportunities Act, sec. 133; Americans with Disabilities Act) and institutional requirements for the adoption and sales of textbooks and other course materials.

Section 133 of the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA), which requires compliance by institutions of higher education receiving federal financial assistance, was enacted “to ensure that students have access to affordable course materials by decreasing costs to students and enhancing transparency and disclosure with respect to the selection, purchase, sale, and use of course materials” (sec. 133.a.).

Moreover, the Code of Virginia § 23.1-1308, as amended and re-enacted, requires public institutions of higher education and their governing boards to implement policies and procedures for the adoption and sales of textbooks and other course materials or educational resources. These include, but are not limited to:

1. Procedures for making available to students in a central location and in a standard format on the relevant institutional websites listings of textbooks required or assigned for particular courses at the institution.

2. Policies, procedures and guidelines that encourage efforts to minimize the cost of textbooks for students while maintaining the quality of education and academic freedom.

3. Guidelines for the adoption and use of low-cost and no-cost open educational resources (OER) in courses offered at such institution.

4. Provisions that address the availability of required textbooks to students otherwise unable to afford the cost.

5. A procedure by which the registrar or another appropriate employee shall identify conspicuously in the online course catalogue or registration system, as soon as practicable after the necessary information becomes available, each course for which the instructor exclusively uses no-cost course materials or low-cost course materials.

All course materials in use at VCU must comply with standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Noncompliance with this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. VCU supports an environment free from retaliation. Retaliation against any employee who brings forth a good faith concern, asks a clarifying question, or participates in an investigation is prohibited.

Who Should Know This Policy

All university members who are involved in textbook selections, adoptions and sales are responsible for knowing this policy and familiarizing themselves with its contents and provisions.


Course Materials

Instructor-assigned resources needed to complete course requirements. Course materials are inclusive of textbooks and other educational resources.

Direct Sale

Any instance whereby faculty require course materials they have authored, edited, curated and/or customized, and either (1) receive direct payment (physical or electronic) from students, or (2) mandate purchase through a third party source that does not first facilitate a traditional independent or blind peer review and provides royalties that are higher than the norm of a traditional academic press. 

Educational Resources

Instructor-assigned resources needed to complete course requirements. Educational resources are inclusive of textbooks and other instructor-assigned course materials.


International Standard Book Number


Textbooks, course materials and educational resources offered for sale at an inexpensive cost to students relative to the standard market rate for textbooks, course materials and educational resources of equal quality and rigor.


Textbooks, course materials and educational resources available to students at no cost beyond standard course fees.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Educational Resources are no-cost textbooks, course materials and educational resources that also carry legal permission for open use.


A book, software application and/or media bundle designed to be used in a course to introduce students to a subject or continue basic instruction at the intermediate or advanced levels of a subject. Commonly, although not always, textbooks include study questions, discussion topics, study guides or exercises at the end of each chapter and may be published in subsequent editions in order to update information in previous editions. Textbooks may be designed for use in undergraduate courses, graduate courses, or for use in professional programs. Textbooks are inclusive of course materials and other instructor-assigned educational resources.

University Bookstore

University operated retail units that sell textbooks and other course materials on the Monroe Park and MCV Campuses. 


Office of the Provost officially interprets this policy. The Office of the Provost is responsible for obtaining approval for any revisions as required by the policy Creating and Maintaining Policies and Procedures through the appropriate governance structures. Please direct policy questions to the Office of the Provost, senior vice provost for academic affairs.

Policy Specifics and Procedures

Specifics for Adoptions and Sales

As provided in this policy, generally textbooks are selected by the individual faculty member, though in some cases a departmental committee or a committee composed of faculty teaching a course may select texts. 

Responsibilities of faculty:

a. To ensure textbook adoptions are made with sufficient lead time to confirm availability and, where possible, to ensure maximum availability of used textbooks and licensed library alternatives, the faculty shall submit textbook and course material adoption information to the respective university bookstore on the following schedule:

● Fall semester adoptions by April 1

● Spring semester adoptions by October 15

● Summer session adoptions by March 1

● As soon as practical upon the late appointment of the course instructor

b. Faculty members shall affirmatively acknowledge the quoted retail price of the selected textbook through the textbook adoption process provided by the university bookstores. By placing a textbook and course materials adoption, the faculty member affirmatively acknowledges personal awareness of the current quoted retail price of the textbook selected for each course. Faculty members are encouraged to confirm the quoted current retail price with the publisher or through a web search prior to adopting the textbook.

c. In the textbook adoption process, faculty members shall affirmatively confirm the use of all items ordered in the textbook bundle package. By placing an adoption for a bundled package, the faculty member affirmatively confirms their intent to use each item in the bundled package. If the faculty member does not intend to use all items in the bundle, they shall notify the university bookstore of the items required, and the university bookstore shall order the individualized items when the store’s procurement is cost effective for both the institution and students and such items are made available by the publisher.

d. Faculty members may require course materials with content they have authored, edited, curated or customized, provided the requirement does not constitute a direct sale, and contingent upon the approval of the department chair (or equivalent, if chair position does not exist). (Note: If the faculty member is the chair or equivalent, approval of the dean is required.) Faculty must provide a written justification to the department chair or equivalent, and the chair must keep a copy of the justification in the departmental files along with the chair’s decision. If a department chair of equivalent disagrees with the justification, the chair and faculty member should discuss the rationale. Where possible, additional input should be sought from other academically qualified VCU faculty via an ad hoc or standing committee (e.g., curriculum or textbook committee) at the departmental level. If necessary, the faculty member and chair may bring the matter to the dean for a final decision. In lieu of the above process, a dean may establish a college/school faculty committee with the authority to review and approve all faculty justifications.

VCU faculty members adopting each other’s texts must also follow the approval process outlined above.

Responsibilities of the university bookstores:

a. Centralized listings of textbooks required or assigned for particular courses shall be available from the university bookstores’ websites after the relevant instructor notifies the university bookstores.

b. The university bookstores shall post the listings of textbooks required or assigned for particular courses in a central location on its website within 15 days of the faculty due dates referenced above.

c. Adoptions received after the original due date will be posted within a reasonable period of time after receipt.

d. The listings shall be in a standard format and include the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), when applicable, along with other relevant information received from the faculty.

e. The university bookstores shall provide a convenient textbook and course materials adoption process, including a web-based method, to expedite the textbook order process.

f. In order to support the faculty, the university bookstores shall:

i. Provide training support to the faculty about the textbook adoption process. Questions may be directed to the textbook manager at each campus university bookstore.

ii. Make reasonable efforts to provide the maximum number of used books available.

iii. Work with faculty to discount any old editions non-returnable to the publisher.

iv. Work with faculty to discount remainder textbooks (a book that remains in the store’s inventory after sales have fallen off for a course) when practical.

v. Make reasonable efforts to make current textbook retail prices available as part of the web-based adoption process.

Specifics for Low-Cost and No-Cost Course Materials

When selecting textbooks and course materials, the university strongly encourages faculty members, to the greatest extent possible, to choose OER and other resources that are free of charge to students. Faculty are not required to adopt low-cost or no-cost course materials, although they are encouraged to do so when academically appropriate and feasible. 

At least once per academic year, each academic unit will closely review the course materials assigned within its respective degree program(s) and courses. Department chairs (or equivalent, if no chair position exists) will encourage, but not require, the incorporation of high quality low-cost and no-cost course materials where possible.

Courses for which the instructor has chosen to use low-cost or no-cost course materials must be conspicuously identified in the online course catalog or registration system. Deans will require departments to maintain an accurate list of such courses. Departments will include the information in course section updates to the registrar. The registrar will ensure the information is entered into the registration system in a prominent location easily visible to users (e.g., students, advisors, faculty). Academic units must report to the registrar whether they want courses marked at the course or section level.

VCU Libraries shall provide guidance and resources to assist in identifying appropriate low-cost and no-cost materials. 

Specifics on Compensation from Sales

No employee at VCU shall demand or receive any payment, loan, subscription, advance, deposit of money, services or anything, present or promised, as an inducement for requiring students to purchase a specific textbook required for coursework or instruction; with the exception that the employee may receive (i) sample copies, instructor's copies, or instructional material, not to be sold; and (ii) royalties or other compensation from sales of textbooks that include such instructor's own writing or work.

Faculty may not engage in direct sale of instructional materials (physical or digital) to students. 

All compensation from sales must take into account the prohibition of direct sales, cost to the student and the spirit of this policy, which is to reduce or eliminate costs of course materials in support of student success.

Specifics for Financial Aid

Textbooks and related class supplies shall be part of the financial aid Cost of Attendance budget used to award students’ financial aid. 

No funds provided for financial aid from university bookstore revenue shall be counted in the calculation for state appropriations for student financial aid.


1. VCU Bookstore Textbook Adoption Request 

Related Documents

1. Code of Virginia § 23.1-1308, as amended and reenacted, Chapter 752 Approved April 4, 2018 (

2. Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), sec. 133 (

3. VCU Checklist for ADA-Compliant Open Educational Resources (OER) [checklist in development]

Revision History

This policy updates, supersedes and consolidates the following archived policies:

Approval/Revision DateTitle
February, 2007 Textbook Adoptions Guidelines and Procedures
February, 2007 Textbook Sales Policy
January, 2009 Textbook Adoptions Guidelines and Procedures
December 5, 2013 Textbook Adoptions
December 5, 2013 Text Book Sales


1. Is further guidance available regarding what constitutes “low-cost?”

Federal and state regulations do not define a dollar amount for low-cost per course. At VCU, a course or course section is considered “low-cost” if the total cost of all course materials is $40 or less. This figure is in alignment with state and national trends. The cost for each course material is derived from the pre-tax price at the university bookstores of the least expensive purchase option—whether new, used or rental—for which the university bookstores are able to obtain sufficient stock for all enrollments. 

2. Am I, as a faculty member, obligated to utilize no cost or low cost course materials?

No. Although the use of no-cost or low-cost course materials is a recommended best practice, you are not obligated to use them. If you do choose to use them, this policy dictates that the university must inform students in the registration system.

3. Are department chairs expected to set or meet a minimum percentage of no-cost or low-cost course materials within their degree programs or courses?

No. VCU is not setting a minimum percentage. However, chairs should review course materials on an annual basis in an effort to provide continuous monitoring and, where appropriate, modify practice.

4. What are some ways faculty can partner with the VCU Libraries to provide students access to textbooks and other course materials?

Faculty are encouraged to utilize the VCU Libraries’ print collection and electronic books, book chapters, electronic journal articles, image databases, audio and video materials, and other digital materials provided through the web by the VCU Libraries for supplemental and core reading in support of classroom work.

Faculty are encouraged to provide sample copies, instructor's copies, and/or complementary instructional materials for student use through the respective departments and/or the VCU Libraries course reserves so that all students in the class may benefit from access to these resources.

5. What are some additional actions faculty can take to assist with affordability and access of course materials?

Faculty members are encouraged to select course materials that allow for resale and reuse.

Faculty members are encouraged to limit their use of new edition textbooks when previous editions do not significantly differ in a substantive way, as determined by the appropriate faculty, and the university bookstores can ensure adequate supply of the older edition. 

6. Are the VCU Libraries equipped to assist me in locating high quality OER, no-cost or low-cost course materials?

Yes. The VCU Libraries are prepared to provide in-depth consultations and ongoing assistance upon request.

7. My self-authored supplemental course materials currently require a fee from students either to purchase or to gain access through a subscription. Is this allowable?

Faculty should strive to create course materials that students can access for free. Faculty are strongly encouraged to incorporate materials directly into the university’s learning management system, whenever possible, if electronic resources are used. The sale of self-authored supplemental course materials is subject to VCU’s prohibition of direct sales.

8. What royalty percentage do traditional publishers typically offer?

Traditional publishers typically offer royalties of 7.5-15%. Co-authors or co-editors typically split the standard royalty, meaning a royalty of 8% would yield two co-authors royalties of 4% each. Faculty using non-traditional publishers should ensure their royalties fall within these standard parameters. Royalties in excess of the industry norm could violate the prohibition on direct sales, and could trigger additional conflicts of interest or other ethical or legal consequences. The VCU Integrity and Compliance Office can advise faculty or academic units on a case-by-case basis.

9. How does this textbook adoptions and sales policy support VCU’s values of diversity, equity and inclusivity (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, learning styles, abilities, income, culture, etc.)?

This textbook adoptions and sales policy addresses a significant, widespread issue of college affordability. Standard course materials are cost prohibitive to many students, affecting most those students who can afford them least. As a result, growing numbers of students are attempting courses without the required materials. Low-cost and no-cost course materials flatten at least one playing field for VCU’s economically diverse student body.

Moreover, standard textbooks necessarily limit readers to a select few authors’ voices. These voices represent perspectives that can leave untouched essential content and arguments. Incorporating no-cost course materials enables faculty to maintain quality and rigor while introducing a greater number of expert viewpoints to the class discussion. The result is a more diverse and inclusive set of course materials that better represents VCU’s student body.

10. For my courses, I want to curate high quality low-cost and no-cost course materials that also advance VCU’s values of diversity, equity and inclusivity (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, learning styles, abilities, income, culture, etc.). Where can I go for assistance?

VCU’s Division for Inclusive Excellence is prepared to assist all faculty interested in locating and incorporating diverse, equitable and inclusive course materials into their classes.

11. Where can I go for assistance to ensure my course materials comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

VCU’s Office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity is prepared to assist all faculty to ensure compliance with this federal mandate in service to all VCU students.