It's no secret that college can be a financial strain for many seeking a higher education. Tuition costs continually increase year over year, and with that, the costs of textbooks do as well. It has long been argued that publishers should make the required textbooks more affordable; one way of doing so would be to print fewer new editions or even sell advertising in the books.
It's unlikely that those solutions will be made anytime soon. So it's up to frugal students to fight back by seeking the most cost-effective shopping options possible.
Here are a few suggestions for reducing college expenses, while still having all of the required textbooks necessary to succeed.
Share with Friends. It's a simple concept taught to us in kindergarden that can many big savings in college. Odds are you're not the only one strapped for cash at the bookstore. Split your book bill in half by sharing the books with a friend or classmate. You can take turns outlining the chapters and get together for homework and study sessions. Odds are you'd end up studying together anyway, so it's probably not necessary for both of you to haul around identical books.
Buy from Students. Post a note on a bulletin board in the halls, at your Greek house, in the dorm, or on a student message board, or simply put the word out amongst friends that you're shopping for a Chemistry 101 book. Students completing a course stand to make more money by selling to another student at a discount than they do at the bargain buy-back rates at the bookstore, and you're able to buy the book for far less than the cover price. Plus, they might have scribbled some great notes in the margins.
Buy Used Textbooks. Every college bookstore has a sticker they place on the spine of used books. These are often for sale at a fraction of the cost of brand new books. Some have more damage and markings than other, so be sure to flip through the pages to make sure you're getting your money's worth.
Buy Textbooks Online. You might miss out on the back to school tradition of standing in lengthy lines and grabbing the newest school logo T-shirts, but your book purchase will be faster and more affordable. Online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Ebay have well-stocked textbook stores with prices marked far less than the campus bookstore. You'll also be able to sort from new or used textbooks.
Rent Textbooks. If you want to save money and have no interest in holding on to your textbooks, then consider renting. There are several online retailers who rent textbooks and make the process seamless. While terms will vary by retailer, you are generally able to rent a new or good condition book for a pre-determined period (i.e. semester, quarter, summer) and then return the book by the given date in similar condition. Chegg advertises savings of 65-85%, free return shipping, and they'll plant a tree for each rented book. CampusBookRentals.com advertises savings of 50-85%. Skoobit advertises that they'll save you up to 85% with free shipping both ways. Campus bookstore chain Follett recently started renting textbooks in store and online. Inquire at your campus bookstore for the same deal.
Sell Your Books. Once you're finished with the semester, don't just use your books to prop up a wobbly table leg, make some money. Advertise on campus and sell your books to other students, or use Ebay or Amazon to sell them and set your own price. Make cash at your bookstore buy back event; although they often pay about 1% of what you paid. Barnes & Noble also has a buy back programs with high payouts and they'll even pay the shipping.
Comparison Shop. Don't assume the first book you find is the best deal. In fact, assume it's not and keep shopping around until you find the book that will cost you the least amount of money. A quick way to accomplish this is with TextbookPricing.com. Think of it as a Kayak for textbooks. Enter the book title or ISBN number and then it will return a listing of everywhere online that the books is available, and will include its conditions, details about the book and the price including shipping. You'll complete your transaction the respective site.
To make some of these bargain ideas work for you, you might have to do your homework and start early. Books being shipped will obviously require more time than walking to the bookstore the day before class; although most offer expedited shipping services. You'll also need to identify which books are required for your courses; visit the bookstore over the summer or reach out to your professors to learn not only the titles but which edition or the ISBN number.
While new technology, like the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad, is making us less dependent on printed textbooks, it's not likely they are going away anytime soon. Stretch your college dollar further with these tips for finding affordable college textbooks.