Textbooks are an essential part of the college experience, but paying hundreds of dollars for each book is not always feasible or necessary. We have compiled a list of options that will help provide a few different choices for current and potential students. During the average collegiate experience students will spend approximately $1,100 a year. Finding cheap textbooks can make a huge difference!
Do not wait until the day before your first class to buy your books. Visit your college bookstore as soon as possible in order to get your hands on a used copy of the books you need. They are often five to ten used copies for every book, depending on how big the class size is, and you will have to be an early buyer to take advantage of those low priced versions.
If you are a sophomore or junior, you should be able to plan ahead your next semester’s course load months before the first class comes around. When you register for next semester’s classes, ask your friends and classmates if any of them are currently taking those classes. You may be able to get a few books for free, while getting heavy discounts on the others. Friends and classmates will happily sell to each other, because it is a lot less hassle than trying to sell a book online.
Take down the ISBN number of the books you need for your classes and try to find cheap versions online. Websites such as Barnes and Noble, eBay, and Amazon Reseller have great deals on books, especially ones that are a few years old. Sometimes the prices online are a 50% to 75% discount on what you would pay at the counter of your college bookstore.
Paper books are still preferred by more than 75% of students, but they are a lot more expensive than getting eBook editions. If you have a Kindle, iPad or tablet PC, you can buy eBook editions of your textbooks and access them through your portable device.
Whenever you want the print version of a particular page or chapter, you can print them out using one of the printers at your campus library.
In addition to offering rental options on regular books, Amazon Kindle also has rental programs for college textbooks. Many students discover that textbooks that might normally cost $150 to $200 are available for a semester’s rental at a third or quarter of the price. These rented textbooks can be accessed through the official Kindle app, which works on PC, Mac, iPod touch, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Android devices.
Semester returns are great for 90% of situations, but there are also 30 day and 60 day rental options for books that you may only be using for a portion of the semester. These rentals are usually $5 to $10 cheaper than a full semester’s rental.
It is also possible to rent hard copies of college textbooks from websites such as BookRenter or Chegg. These sites offer rental options on new, like new and used books. If you are happy to use a slightly worn out version of a book, your rental will be cheaper than getting a new edition of the book. The only thing to keep in mind with physical rentals is that you cannot be late with your returns. Most websites will automatically convert late rentals into purchases, charging your credit card for the full amount of the book.
Book companies are always looking for creative ways to make more money. In addition to having college bookstores with crazy prices, they will insist on publishing new editions for books every two to three years. This ensures that students are coaxed into getting a new edition for $150 or $200, instead of finding the old edition online or through a friend.
However, many new editions of textbooks have insignificant changes that make little to no impact on your education. For example, a new edition might have a few different pictures, or chapters in slightly different order. If you want to save money on books, but do not want an eBook, try getting the previous edition of a book online or through your college’s library.
This ensures that you are only paying a fraction of the cost, or nothing at all, while getting the same educational experience. Differences in editions are easy to spot, and can be discovered by borrowing a classmate’s book for a few minutes.
When you are trying to come up with a budget for next semester’s books, be sure to try and sell all of your current books online. Treat them with care during the semester, do not write on them while studying, and sell them through Amazon or eBay. Instead of getting a fraction of the price from your college bookstore’s sell back option, sell them online for 60% or 70% of the price you paid. Alternatively, if you managed to get a book for a very low price online, you may be able to sell it back to your college bookstore for a small profit. For example, you may have found a $200 math textbook for $80 or $90 online, while your college bookstore is buying it back at 50% of their listed price because the class is being taught next semester.
Five major textbook publishers have signed up for CourseSmart, a website that provides huge discounts on eBook versions of popular textbooks. New books are being added to this site every day, while the website claims that 90% of the textbooks used in North American colleges are available to their customers.
Most college libraries will keep a few copies of every major textbook available for rental. If you do not want to pay for a certain textbook, you can try renting it from the library every time you need it. For example, some students only use textbooks while studying for midterm and final exams, which means they can rent the book from their college library for a few weeks buying it or renting it online. Just remember to rent the book well in advance of exam time, because there are probably other students who want to use the same trick.