Don’t Let Books Eat You Alive!

By Jeffrey Bridgman

As any college student knows, the price of textbooks is absurd. One semester, my entire scholarship just barely covered the cost of my books! It’s not uncommon for one book to cost over $100. Sometimes they cover multiple classes – such as Physics I and II – but that doesn’t help much if the professor changes editions on you between semesters. Even when you are able to sell books back, what you get back is a pittance compared to what you spent. There are some books that you might not want to sell back, like those you want to keep for reference. Here are some resources and ideas on how to save money on money-hungry college textbooks.
• Price check: The quickest way to save money is to look around to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Check multiple places like the campus bookstore, used bookstores in the communities, off-campus textbook stores – for instance, at my university there’s one right across the street from the campus. Don’t wait. You should start looking early, because used textbooks disappear fast.
• Check online: Don’t forget you can also get used textbooks online. If you find out what textbooks are required for your classes, you can use their ISBN number to search and make sure you have the right textbook. The ISBN number is a unique number used to identify books, which is usually printed on the back or inside the front cover. I usually check half.com or amazon.com. E-books might also be an option. One of my classes had us buy the e-book, which was $100 cheaper that the print edition. It had the added advantage of being searchable!
• Rentals: Renting textbooks is an increasingly popular option. The campus bookstore may have a rental program; if not, there are some online options. I tried using chegg.com this last semester.
Here’s how the process works with online rental books. First, you order your textbook online, and then when you receive it, make sure you keep the box. After you are finished with the book, you go back online and print off a shipping label, tape it onto the box, and drop off the box at UPS. It’s a simple and cheap option for textbooks.
• Buy different editions: Depending on the class, the professor may be happy to let you use an older edition. If necessary, you can compare with the newer version to see if there are any differences. Or, if you really want to keep the textbook as a reference, consider selling back the new edition and buying a used copy of an older edition online as a reference. Once a new edition comes out, the older edition is almost worthless, so you can definitely find a cheap copy to hold onto and save yourself some bucks. Also, look for international editions. They are often the exact same inside, but just bear a different cover, and cost a fraction of what the U.S. editions cost! Book-pooling: Another option is to “book-pool”. If you can share the same car, why not the same textbook? If you are taking a class with a friend, you may be able to buy one book and share the cost. Of course, this may require some additional planning and communication to make sure you both get your assignments done on time, but it can be well worth it.

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