Finding an appropriate textbook for a course is a difficult and important task. Content is always the most important factor; however, price is becoming an increasingly necessary consideration--students cannot use a book they cannot afford--and textbook prices have skyrocketed to over $200-$400 (or more) in some subject areas.
Accessibility for students with learning and/or other disabilities is another factor that is becoming prominent. Central Penn's ADA Coordinator and the librarians are happy to help in this area.
As most faculty know, there are several major textbook publishers with vast catalogs covering almost every subject and topic, including Cengage, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Wiley--these are the homes to most of the $200-$400 books. However, there are a number of smaller publishers, including publishers which produce both textbooks and other types of books and publishers which focus on smaller subject areas, which often have lower-priced textbooks compared to the larger publishers. Almost all publishers, even the small ones, will send faculty examination copies free of charge (some will only provide e-books for this purpose).
Textbooks listed in these repositories are available in digital form for free, with no access restrictions, so students will have full access to the content from day one. Please see the OER guide for more information on Open Textbooks and related resources.
Ebook Central contains over 100,000 ebook titles, and many of those could be used as a course textbook. Some of the books are designed as textbooks (i.e. include pedagogical aids such as chapter summaries and review questions), while others are academic and/or professional discussions of topics.
Chapters from a number of different books could be used as course readings, either in place of a textbook or where a textbook is not necessary.
Anything found in Ebook Central is free for Central Penn students to access. (Some titles do have limits on the number of simultaneous users.) Students are obviously able to purchase print copies if they wish to, and we are able to offer print versions of the Ebook Central titles in the school's online bookstore (for students to use their Financial Aid).
Several courses are currently using Ebook Central content (or have used it in the past), including business, communications, history, legal studies, and IT courses.
In response to demands from faculty, students, and other stakeholders for lower-cost materials, some commercial publishers have started and/or expanded lines of less-expensive textbooks. Many of these books come with the expected publisher-provided ancillaries, but the retail prices for the books are almost always less than $100.
Many of these publishers also produce general interest titles and/or publish journals, so the prices of their textbooks tend to be closer to $100 (and are often less). Several of these publishers also produce both hardbound and paperback versions of their textbooks--where the paperback versions are less than $100. Some of the textbooks will have ancillaries, but some will not.