Textbooks Initiative

Textbooks on reserves

The UW-Madison Libraries are dedicated to contributing to the teaching and learning activities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by making available books, textbooks and audio-visual materials assigned in both undergraduate and graduate-level courses. Materials to be placed on reserve are generally borrowed or purchased, while in other instances libraries work to obtain copies from departments or instructors.
In addition, as a response to the increase in the cost of textbooks, the UW-Madison Libraries have developed a program to purchase additional copies of high-cost textbooks for large undergraduate enrollment classes.

If you have questions or would like to submit a request, please contact us using this form.

High-Cost Textbooks Initiative

The UW-Madison Libraries are committed to supporting the educational needs of students. By purchasing a limited number of copies of required textbooks, the libraries hope to relieve some of the financial burden students assume while attending UW-Madison. The budget for this program is provided by gift funds and is available to all UW-Madison libraries who meet the program’s criteria and other considerations. Library staff will work with instructors to determine the optimum number of copies that will be needed to meet student demand for convenient access to the texts.


  • Large enrollment classes: over 100 students
  • Cost of the textbook exceeds $100

Other Considerations:

  • Level of the course (sometimes determines likelihood of students preferring to purchase)
  • Student access to used books
  • Use of the same textbook across multiple classes/re-use of textbook across multiple semesters
  • Demand on reserves
  • Other book buyback/rental programs administered by other campus units

The High Cost of Textbooks: Options and Alternatives for Students

This brochure is the product of a task force charged with preparing a study of the impact of the rising costs of textbooks on UW–Madison students. The committee consists of students, faculty, and academic staff, with representatives from Associated Students of Madison, the Libraries, Business Services, and Student Affairs. June 2008.

Read more about the High Cost of Textbooks…

United States. Department of Education. Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA). Turn the Page: Making College Textbooks More Affordable. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, 2007
The full site, Study on the Affordability of College Textbooks also includes links to various ACSFA documents regarding their study on the high cost of textbooks and summaries of the regional hearings that informed the final report.

United States. Government Accountability Office (GAO). College textbooks: enhanced offerings appear to drive recent price increases. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2005
GAO report on what has been the change in textbook prices, what factors have contributed to changes in textbook prices, and what factors explain why a given U.S. textbook may retail outside the United States for a different price.

Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups). Make Textbooks Affordable campaign and textbook cost reports.
Several reports have been published regarding the cost of textbooks.