Digital learning components (the “Access Code”): facts and strategies
  • New textbook packages sometimes include an Access Code, enabling entry to digital learning portals created by the textbook publisher.
  • Digital learning portals offer additional resources to the student, sometimes including quizzes and sample tests, but are seldom used by instructors for student assessment or grading.
  • Access Codes, often including the digital textbook, may also be sold separately.

“Requiring” the Access Code

When Faculty adopt a textbook that will include an Access Code they must clearly communicate to the BookStore and the student whether work performed within the digital learning portal will count towards student grades:

  • If “yes”, the Access Code should be considered “required”.
  • If “no”, the Access Code should be considered “optional”, which enables moneysaving options including used book and textbook rental options for your students.

The following scenario illustrates the most common textbook purchase options for students, with prices based on actual examples:

A New Textbook package (w/Access Code & Ebook) ISBN 978xxxxxxx001 $150.00
B New Textbook alone ISBN 978xxxxxxx002 $100.00
C Access Code (w/Ebook) alone ISBN 978xxxxxxx003 $90.00
D Used textbook: ISBN 978xxxxxxx004 $75.00


Access Code required enables options A or C; (C for students comfortable working solely with the digital version of the textbook).

Access Code optional enables options A through D.


Five Facts About E-Textbooks

  • E-textbook options are most common in Science, Health, Management, and Financial disciplines.
  • E-textbook prices are generally 60% to 75% of the printed textbook price.
  • E-textbooks are actually ‘rentals’, as digital rights limitations (DRM) render the E-textbook inaccessible to the user, usually 180 days after purchase.
  • E-textbook options are not always available from the Publisher to University bookstores.
  • E-textbook sales account for less than 1.5% of overall textbook unit sales at the U of M.