A textbook with CD (Image credit: blair_25

When textbooks as we know them were first published decades ago, they were always produced in an individual manner so that there was nothing included with the actual textbook. However, this practice changed in recent years, and the term “textbook bundle” was introduced into our vocabulary and should have its own definition in the dictionary. In basic terms, a textbook bundle is a package, often held together by shrink-wrap or some kind of plastic material. These bundles generally include a textbook along with supplemental items, such as CD-ROMs, DVDs, special cards or pages with passwords for access to online content, workbooks, reference manuals, and a variety of other items. These materials are intended to enhance the textbook itself as well as the overall learning process within the course for which students must purchase the book.

The following are examples of college textbook bundles:

AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors: Special Online Bundle Package by JAMA and Archives Journals (2009 – Oxford University Press)

BUNDLE: Soriano, Conducting Needs Assessments: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Second Edition + Kettner, Designing and Managing Programs: An Effectiveness-Based Approach [Third Edition] by Fernando I. Soriano and Peter M. Kettner (2011 – Sage Publications, Inc.)

Political Communication Bundle: An Introduction to Political Communication (Communication and Society) by Brian McNair (2011 – Routledge)

There has been some criticism about publishing companies selling textbook bundles. According to the Student PIRGs website, textbook bundles generally cost anywhere from 10-50% more than standalone textbooks. In addition, a survey on the website found that about 65% of college professors try to avoid using textbook bundles for their classes because of the significant price increase that students would have to pay. Bundling has also hindered students from selling their textbooks to both bookstores and other students. If a CD is lost or a password has already been used, the bundle will be incomplete, and the student who buys it used will not be getting the entire original package. Some bookstores also have rules that prohibit students from selling back textbook bundles if certain elements in them are used or if they are incomplete in any way.

Some governmental legislation has been passed to attempt to limit the production of textbook bundles and to offer all elements of a bundle for purchase separately. The 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act had a provision specifically on this. Some states have also tried to enforce similar laws on publishers. However, in spite of these efforts by lawmakers to help students, many publishers continue to sell textbook bundles and still do not sell certain items separately depending on the specific book.