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Automatic Textbook Billing Contract Library

Open Education

Explore the fine print…

SPARC created the Automatic Textbook Billing Contract Library as a resource for advocates and institutions to understand the legal agreements behind automatic textbook billing. Known by brand names like “Inclusive Access” and “First Day,” these programs charge the cost of digital course materials directly to each student’s tuition and fee bill, often without confirming their consent. While vendors say this model provides access, many students think it limits their options. Colleges and universities have a responsibility to prioritize the needs of students—not vendors—and that starts with reading the fine print.







Automatic Textbook Billing Contracts

What is the Automatic Textbook Billing Contract Library?

SPARC’s Automatic Textbook Billing Contract Library can be used to compare, contrast and download the full text of legal agreements with major vendors including Cengage, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Follett, Barnes & Noble, and VitalSource. The spreadsheet breaks down each contract based on data points such as price caps, resale rates, and discount structures. Contracts can also be filtered and sorted by state, vendor, and institution. Access Library >>

How did SPARC obtain automatic textbook billing contracts?

The Automatic Textbook Billing Contract Library contains public copies of legal agreements between higher education institutions and vendors. All of the documents were obtained through open records requests pursuant to U.S. state or federal freedom of information laws, or through other legally permissible means. Many of the contracts were originally published by U.S. PIRG through its automatic billing investigation. Read Disclaimers >> 

Where can I learn more about automatic textbook billing programs?

For more information and recommendations about automatic textbook billing contracts, read U.S. PIRG’s report Automatic Textbook Billing: An offer students can’t refuse? For more information on how to make automatic textbook billing inclusive of all students, visit the Free the Textbook Campaign. SPARC will be releasing more resources and continuing to update the contract library as more information becomes available. View Background >>

What's in the fine print?

SPARC’s Automatic Textbook Billing Contract Library helps institutions and advocates examine the fine print behind automatic textbook billing programs. Our downloadable spreadsheet offers a structured analysis of more than 70 publicly-available contracts with major vendors from 37 institutions in 24 states.


SPARC would like to acknowledge the community members who collaborated to build the foundations of this resource as part of a 2020 working group on automatic billing. This includes Marilyn Billings, Cheryl A Cuillier, Kristina DeVoe, Carrie Gits, Regina Gong, Hillary Miller, Richard Sebastian, Kaitlyn Vitez, and Megan Wacha.

Many of the contracts contained in the Contracts Library were obtained and published by U.S. PIRG, whose report Automatic Textbook Billing: An offer students can’t refuse? provides extensive information and analysis about these agreements and what they mean for students.   


All of the information provided in the Automatic Textbook Billing Contracts Library was obtained by SPARC through legally permissible means. Most documents were obtained by SPARC through open records requests pursuant to state and federal freedom of information laws, which require public institutions to disclose information about their operations to the public upon request. Other documents are reproductions of public records that have been obtained and published online by others, which SPARC has verified it is legally permissible to republish.

While SPARC takes every precaution to ensure that the information included in the Contracts Library is being provided in full compliance with all laws, regulations, and contractual obligations, SPARC relies on the institutions that have provided these documents to be aware of and comply with their legal obligations when providing that information to SPARC or otherwise publishing it online, including redacting any and all protected information. If you believe that any information included on this site may have been provided to SPARC improperly, you may notify project manager Winni Zhang ([email protected]). Please specify the document in question and include an explanation for why you believe the publication of this information is inappropriate, so that we may investigate the matter. 

The Automatic Textbook Billing Contracts Library is a living resource. Information will be added and updated on an ongoing basis. If you choose to download a copy of the summary spreadsheet, please keep that in mind. The most current copy is available at sparcopen.org.

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