tips for saving money on college textbooks
Posted : August 12, 2009
Last Updated : December 23, 2014
Tired of shelling out hundreds of dollars on books each semester? Use these tips to save money on college textbooks.
Note: Before you use any of the tips listed below, make sure you have the textbook's ISBN number. Always use this number when searching for a book. Searching by title or author's name can lead to confusion and result in the purchase of similar but incorrect material needed for your classes.
Use a Student Advantage Discount Card. The Student Advantage Discount Card is the nation's most widely accepted student discount program. Cardholders get discounts at thousands of locations around campuses nationwide and online. So not only can you save money on your textbooks, but you can also save money with popular businesses, such as Amtrak, Greyhound, Target.com and more. The Student Advantage Discount Card costs $20 a year, so you need to research the businesses that participate in the program to see if the price is worth it in regards to your spending habits. Most likely, you will recoup that upfront fee the first few times you use the card allowing you to save money on the rest of your purchases throughout the school year.
Compare prices. The college bookstore isn't your only option for purchasing textbooks. Many online vendors, such as half.com, amazon.com, and phatcampus.com, offer textbooks 50-90% cheaper than many campus bookstores. To find the best deal available, check out textbook price-comparison engines, such as cheapesttextbooks.com. Textbooks.com actually guarantees cash back on some textbooks when you return them at the end of the semester and pays the shipping both ways. Shopping at local community bookstores, such as Barnes and Noble, will also save you money on shipping.
Buy used. Help save the environment and your money by purchasing used textbooks. Used copies are always cheaper than new editions. For some classes, new books come out every semester, making it difficult to buy used. In these cases, speak with your professor to see if an older edition of the book will suffice. Professors know how expensive books can be, so they are usually pretty lenient regarding textbooks. Most of the textbook content changes are usually minor anyway, especially from one semester to the following semester. eCampus.com offers a large selection of new and used textbooks.
Rent. Using a textbook rental service, you could pay as little as a third of a book's price to borrow it for a semester. Check out sites such as textbooks.com and campusbookrentals.com to rent books. Renting a book is a great alternative to buying if you worry that the resale value of the book you need will be low or nonexistent. Just remember to keep the rented book in good condition, or you could be charged the full purchase price.
Go digital. Electronic books can sometimes cost as much as 60% less than print versions. Check with your campus bookstore to see if they offer eBooks or research sites that sell subscriptions to electronic books such as ebooks.com. You won't be able to resell your eBook at the end of the semester; however, for books that have a low resale value, this could be a viable option.
Share with a friend. Got a friend that is taking one or more of the same classes as you? Go in together on the cost of the books and set up a schedule on how to share the books. Split the resale earnings at the end of the semester.
Trade. Dealing with other students is almost always cheaper and easier then dealing with bookstores. Check around campus with other students in your major to see if they would be interested in swapping books after each semester. You can also check out StudentBookTrades.com to trade, sell, or buy college textbooks from other students. The process is easy:
Register for a free account.
List the current textbooks you currently own for sale or trade.
Add the textbooks you need for your next course in the wish list.
Automatically match with other students so you can trade textbooks.
Negotiate trade terms or payment with the matched student.
Use the campus library. Sometimes college libraries will have copies of textbooks on reserve. Find out if your needed book or books are on reserve and start doing your textbook assignments and readings in the library. Not only will you get to use the book for free, but you will have a quiet atmosphere to study.
Pay nothing. It's actually legal to download textbooks for free. Yep, legal and FREE. Check out textbookrevolution.org and textbooksfree.org for free textbook downloads. Most of these free eBook sites don't offer a huge selection, but it's definitely worth a look to see if a needed textbook is available.
When it's time to purchase textbooks, make sure to shop around and find the best deal. Always check free sources (i.e. the library, free download sites, etc.) before you decide to spend money on books. If free textbooks aren't available, weigh the costs of buying vs. renting and try to find out the possible resale value of the book before you decide on either option. You may save the most money by dealing directly with other students. Best of luck on your textbook shopping endeavors!