We all know just how expensive collegiate textbooks can be—and how many courses require more than one!
The textbooks for one semester can easily exceed $500 if purchased directly through the bookstore on campus. Plus, at the end of the semester, the bookstore buys them back for pennies on the dollar.
One way to mitigate this cost is through early action and a little bit of comparison shopping.
How do I know what books I need?
This is a very typical question. Most students are not aware of the books they need before the first day of class when professors pass out the syllabus, making online shopping almost a non-option due to shipping delays. Well, professors must inform the bookstore of what course materials are required so they can be ordered and stocked before school starts. Have your student pull up his or her course schedule (found on WebAdvisor) write down the course number. The course number is usually in the form of “ABC-1233-01″ with “ABC” being the Department, “1233″ being the Course Number, and “01″ being the Section Number—all of these components are necessary to ensure that you have the correct course selected!
Once your student has written down all of the information (or printed the screen on WebAdvisor, if a printer is handy), then go to the Bookstore Website. Click the link for “Books” in the top left-hand corner, then select “Textbooks”. For each course, put in the information and record the books that are needed (printing the screen for each course is usually the easiest way to do this). Now you know what books and materials are needed for each course.
OK, I know what I need, now where do I comparison shop?
There are many different websites that sell textbooks, which can be daunting, especially when you don’t know which ones are trustworthy. Below is a list of websites that I have personally used to purchase textbooks.
- Half.com (an Ebay site)
- Barnes & Noble
- Textbook Assault (Comparison website that partners with Half.com, Amazon, Chegg, Bookbyte and B&N)
Of course there are many more textbook websites out there, but these are the major ones. Encourage your student to ask others about their experiences with buying textbooks online.
Electronic versions of textbooks can be a great option to save money, but there are professors who do not like the use of electronic devices in class. Many times, if the professor is opposed to laptops, an e-reader is considered acceptable as long as the student is using the device purely for class purposes. Encourage your student to email the professor to see his or her policy on devices in class.
The international version of a textbook can also be a huge money saver, and it usually is identical to the US textbook. This is a case where it is important to do a little bit of research and if you feel uncomfortable with it, seek the next cheapest option.
Renting books can really save money, even compared to international and electronic versions, but it is important that the student picks an appropriate rental period, does not order the book too far in advance (part of the saving is being able to rent for the shortest time possible), and keeps the book in the best condition possible. Many sites that offer rentals include paid shipping, all the student has to do is get packing materials and drop it off at the correct shipping location. The bookstore also has a rental option on many materials.
Questions? Comments? Send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: Another option for saving some money on textbooks is by purchasing the book from a student who has already completed the course. If your student has friends who have taken this course, encourage them to ask about purchasing or borrowing the book—you will save money and the other student will get more back for the book than the bookstore will pay. Don’t know anyone who has already taken the course? Some students email the professor to contact last semester’s students about purchasing a book.