Saving on textbooks

When I was in college, I thought textbooks were insanely expensive. Most of my college textbooks were $70-90 new. But that was about ten years ago. Now that I am behind the podium, I think it was a deal back then. Many college textbooks run $150-200 a book now. When my students told me this, I couldn’t believe it. Then I started looking at the price of the textbooks that were required for my classes. I teach intro classes so I was always told which book to use. Last spring I was lucky enough to help pick the book for my course I teach. It was nice to see how cost conscious everyone in my department was. I guess when you get a bunch of accountants in a room, that’s what you get.

If you are looking for an alternative to the bookstore, here are some ideas:

1. Get all of the information you can off your college bookstore’s website. Get the ISBN, title, authors (try to get all of them since many authors write multiple books with different groups of people), the edition and a list of any items that are packaged with the book. Many colleges now create custom editions of a textbook with a custom ISBN which will be difficult to find on most websites. A custom book is generally one with a soft cover, instead of a hard cover or with chapters removed to make the book less expensive.

2. Contact your professor. Your professor can answer any questions you have regarding the book, what is required to be purchased with the book and possible other purchase options. Make sure to include your class and section number when contacting the professor as s/he maybe teaching more than one course.

3. Contact the publisher. Some of the publishers are offering amazing deals to students who purchase the book directly from their website. Call the publisher to see if there is such a deal on your book.

There are lots of sites out there that sell used textbooks. Some things to consider if you are going to purchase your textbook from a source other than the college bookstore:

  • Make sure you purchase the correct edition of the book. I have had a number of students purchase earlier editions, only to learn that the material or the homework problems in that edition are different than the ones in the edition we are using. I’ve had cases where problems assigned did not exist in earlier editions.
  • Make sure that the book you purchase has all software or online licenses you need for the course. If you purchase a used book for $50 but the online piece you need for the course is $45, it would have been less expensive to purchase the book from the publisher with the online component for $80.
  • Purchase your book early. My classes start on the first day of class and I expect my students to have the book on the first day. You may be trying to save money by purchasing books online, but you may lose credit for assignments due the first week of class.
Many college bookstores will also let you rent textbooks. This option is typically about the same cost as purchasing the book less the amount you would get if you sold the book back. It’s a good idea to check the publish date of the book. Most textbooks get revised every two to three years. If the edition is older, it might be better to rent the book because it will have no resale value when you try to sell it back.

Photo in the post taken by Patrick.

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