The shortage of suitable textbooks is felt at all levels of education, especially in primary schools, and is a serious impediment to educational progress. In some developing countries there are few teachers who are qualified to write textbooks even though they are experienced in teaching their own subjects. In addition, there are difficulties arising from the shortage of paper and up-to-date printing facilities. In some cases, textbooks are expensive and parents cannot afford to buy them. Lack of adequate planning has been a major contributor to some of these problems. Government policies in certain matters (for example, the language of instruction in schools; copyright; taxes and duty on imports of paper, printing materials, printing equipment and books; export controls; internal trade; bank loans; operations within the country of foreign publishers and printers) are vitally important to the planning and operations of textbook publishing organizations (TPOs). In cases where such policy matters have not been taken fully into account in the planning and operation of TPOs, changes to assist in the success of textbook publishing, for which there were pressing needs, have often not been made, or sometimes apparently not even considered, by governments.
In 1980 a random survey of 15 rural primary schools in a small, anglophone African country established that the average availability of textbooks for the pupils in grades one through six was 11 textbooks per 1,000 students.
The experience of ministries around the world suggests that an improved supply of textbooks can raise children's achievements by more per dollar spent than any other improvement. In a comparative study of the availability of textbooks in the classroom, the researchers found that improvements in availability led to better (tested) performance in 83% of cases. Studies were of the primary systems of eleven countries - three African, four Asian and four in Latin America - over a wide range of conditions.