DS1 at Richmond College had to buy his text books (or rather we had to buy them), but DS2 at Esher College was supplied with the text books, although I think (if I remember correctly) we may have paid out some sort of fee to cover these text books when he started.
I don't know - here there is an allowance to help families on low incomes, but a real problem with recycling textbooks. And I suppose there is an argument that post-16 education isn't currently a legal requirement. Personally I think education is not free if parents have to subsidise basics like books - when I was at school everything was provided - exercise books and all textbooks. My problem with paying for them is (1) we have already paid huge taxes and (2) once again this impacts more on poorer families who may well find themselves having to make impossible choices.
But don't even get me started on doctors and dentists...
At DS school it seems to be a bit of a mixture. The school provide the text books, but I think we paid @ £20 per subject for the books. At the end, some needed to be returned to the school, and others were ours to keep. I remember being a bit surprised at the time, but it worked out at very good value as in maths/FM, DS went through 12 text books over the 2 years.
There are copies in the library at college, but yes, we were expected to pay for copies of the textbooks. In addition to all the notebooks and files. Try and find someone who has just finished and see if they've got second-hand copies. DD donated almost all of hers to up and coming students.
Yep, it's normal - my bookshop stocks 6th form textbooks as standard. IMO, it's a good way to get used to the amount of reading they'll do at University - if they're going of course! If you're struggling with the cost, eBay and students who are leaving are a good way of keeping costs down (as long as the publishers haven't updated the editions or the curriculum hasn't changed wildly)