A study from the Open and Staffordshire universities shows that the number of pupils having to do without books they need for homework or having to share them in class has risen since 1997.
Yet there is a link between increased funding for books and improved standards.
The report revealed that spending on books accounts for just 0.4 per cent of the total school budget while technology accounts for 1.4 per cent. At current levels of expenditure, schools can only afford to buy one book per student each year.
A second study of 9,000 pupils, carried out by Keele University, reveals that up to half of all key stage 3 pupils share books in class, and two-thirds do not have the books they need for their homework.
The figures have worsened steadily since Labour came to power, the report concluded.
The research was revealed by the Educational Publishers Council at a reception attended by David Miliband, school standards minister.
The council's own survey found that spending per head on books in 2002-3 was down by 6 per cent on the previous year in English primaries, but up 4 per cent in secondaries.
In Welsh primaries, the figure dropped 3 per cent but it rose by 23 per cent in secondaries.