How many required textbooks approximately does a student need every semester? How much do they cost? Does a student read every chapter in the required textbook(s)? Does the instructor discuss with students the importance of every assigned reading from required textbook(s) and how it applies to other course content? If the answer for the last two questions is "YES", I think it is definitely worth spending money purchasing required textbook(s) because students do learn facts and concepts by reading them and understand how to apply what they learn in the real world. However, most of time the answer for the last two questions is "NO"!
Reading the article "New Digital Tools Let Professors Tailor Their Own Textbooks for Under $20" written by Alex Campbell reminds me of the research on exploring why so few students complete their reading assignments conducted by Associate Professor Amit Sharma in the School of Hospitality Management. Data collected from focus groups indicated that students prefer relevant and applicable readings, such as case studies and journal articles, instead of dated textbooks. Also, many students complained about the price of textbooks especially when those textbooks are seldom used.
Although there are different opinions about customized textbooks, I think it may be a good idea to think about using this new tool. I think that the instructor creates a customized textbook which covers fundamental concepts, case studies, updated information, and other important materials can not only help students save some money, but also increase students' interest and motivation to read assigned readings and learn.
The article is here: