Squint hard enough, and textbook publishers will look a lot like drug makers. How many times have you purchased that supplemental CD-ROM and workbook, only to have it remain in the box and never be used? Remember that Macroeconomics book you paid $125.00 for at the college bookstore, only to find out its resale value is equivalent to how much you'll pay for lunch that day?
According to official statistics, the average college student spends $900 per year on college textbooks alone. Factor in tuition and supplies, and for many students, we're paying money we don't have on things that aren't always necessary. While there's not much that can be done about the skyrocketing cost of tuition, there is one thing we can control: how much we pay for textbooks.
The solution? Many! Long gone are the days where we are forced to resort to the college bookstore for our textbooks. Here are a few suggestions:
Rent your books: After all, how many of us really use the book after the semester is done? Exactly. I decided that since my books would total a very pleasant $670.00 this semester at the bookstore (assuming I managed to find USED copies), I would find some other avenue for my books. The answer to my call was found in Chegg.com, an online book rental service for college students. Students have the choice of renting the books for either: a semester (125 days), quarter (85 days), or a summer rental (60 days). Students have two options to choose when shipping: standard or expedited (at an extra cost). The average Chegg.com customers save anywhere between 65 to 85 percent on their books by renting. Sending the books back is just as easy. Simply print the prepaid UPS postage, place the books in a box, and drop it off at the nearest UPS location. Nothing beats paying $12.50 for a $90 textbook!
Lose the Bundled Packages: The extra CD-ROMs and workbooks may seem like a save for students, but in reality they drive up the price of books between 10 and 20 percent. Inquire with the instructor if you actually will use these supplements before making your purchase. Chances are the bookstore won't buy your books back without all the extra frills that came with them.
Book Swap: CampusBookSwap.org is a website for students by students that allows us to sell and buy used books. It works like a bulletin board where students post their books for sale and are then contacted by buyers. The only drawback is lack of organization and guarantee when buying; however, as a seller, you have very little to lose.
The Library: Most colleges set aside copies of textbooks at the library, where they can be checked out for free. The local libraries are also worth a try. The catch? The book's due date may come right in the middle of midterms or finals, or the book may already be checked out.
Older Editions: As soon as the new edition of a book is published, the price of its predecessor drops substantially. However, the changes could be so minor and insignificant that you really won't need to pay top dollar for the newer version. Alternatively, you can speak to the instructor about basing the class syllabus on the older edition also.
eBay/Amazon/Half.com: All of these websites are there to help students find their books and at great low prices. Knowing the book's ISBN is key to being able to compare the prices at various companies and websites. Search around – even if someone has to ship the book to you, it could still be cheaper than buying the used copy at the college bookstore. Remember to check the seller's rating; otherwise, you may not get the book until the semester is done.
E-Books: Students who don't mind studying a computer screen instead of a paper-and-print book have several free or low-cost options. iChapters.com is the leader in this market. Students are offered four choices: print books, e-textbooks, single chapters, and audio books. The rundown is this: E-textbooks are always 50 percent off the regular price and can be saved on your desktop. They also come in a flat PDF file. Single chapters are a very enticing offer, only $1.99 for a chapter! This way we can only purchase the assigned chapters. Audiobooks also begin at just $1.99. Additionally, print orders generally arrive with 3-5 business days.
Added Bonus: If you decide to rent from Chegg, or buy from CourseSmart or Half.com among others, you can get even more savings! Check out www.bigwords.com and enter the ISBN of the book. It will compare the price among dozens of companies and then lists all the deals you can get. Most of these deals are coupons and range from 5 to 37 percent off your order.