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Don't Break the Bank on Textbooks

There are lots of ways to save money on textbooks for college, if you do some looking and think outside the bookstore.

Katie Bradley, a recent Boyertown High School graduate, received the required textbook list for the fall semester of her freshman year: The cost of the books totaled almost $700.

“My parents are thrilled that one book costs over $300,” Bradley said sarcastically. “I’ll have to do some research.”

students are not immune to the economic downturn, and many, who work part-time jobs or who are paying their own ways through school, can hardly afford to spend more than a thousand dollars a year buying textbooks.

Here at Patch, we empathize. We were all college students ourselves, once. (Insert ramen noodles joke here.)

So before you head to the campus bookstore and plunk down your life savings for books that will be worth 19 percent of their current value in just four months, check out these suggestions for finding textbook deals and discounts.

  • First edition? Check with your professor to see if he or she requires a particular edition. Many textbooks are reprinted every year or so, with only slight modifications or updates (such as cover art). You can save a bundle by purchasing an older edition, but only if it will be compatible in your class.
  • Compare prices. Use the ISBN number to make a comparison search engine do the heavy lifting. Try Froogle or PriceGrabber. Don’t forget to factor shipping into your calculation.
  • Buy used. Many sites, such as Amazon and Half.com, connect buyers with independent sellers, who set their own prices for new and used books, keeping the market competitive. (Keep these sites in mind, too, at the end of the semester. You may be able to sell back your textbooks to other students, for considerably more than you’d earn at the school bookstore.)
  • Rent. For a fraction of the cost of buying a textbook, some websites will rent it to you for a specified length of time, usually from a few weeks to a semester. Many, including Textbooks.com and Chegg also offer free return shipping, so you’re free of the hassle of selling back your books.
  • e = $. Consider an eBook, a digital textbook you download right to your computer or eReader. In addition to costing less than a hard copy, digital textbooks don’t get lost or damaged, or weigh down your backpack. They’re also available instantly, so no waiting on shipping. Amazon recently announced a textbook rental program that includes “tens of thousands” of electronic textbooks that can be read with Amazon’s Kindle reader or its free Kindle software.
  • Get a coupon. Before you check out, see if you can find a promo code online. Retail Me Not and Coupon Cabin are good places to find discount codes for savings or free shipping.
  • Newsletter? Check yes. Nobody wants an inbox flooded with junk mail, but signing up for news and offers from some websites may give you access to future savings, like 10 percent off or free shipping on your next order. If it turns out not to be worth the trouble, you can always unsubscribe.
  • Extra savings. Consider signing up for an additional savings program, like Ebates or FatWallet. These sites pay you back for purchases you’re going to make anyway. For example, earn 6.5 percent cash back from Ebates when you shop at Chegg. These sites often also carry coupons or special savings for members.
Charmaine Ng August 25, 2011 at 07:56 PM
Ugh, books are way too expensive! Thanks for these ideas :) I've never used Ebates before. Another great site/option is BookRenter. They offer free shipping BOTH ways, and you can also sell your books back to them. They're always offering promotions and discounts, so I save even more on my books! I'm not knocking on the other sites or anything, but I prefer BooKRenter.
Morris Bayberry September 23, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Fight back. Avoid the campus bookstore. Go online if you want cheaper textbooks. As long as some people are still paying retail prices the publishers are not going to be compelled to end their monopoly on student's wallets. Go online and search for used books, international editions, older editions, rentals, and even e-books to combat the high prices. The only problem with this solution is that there are so many places online promising cheaper books. That's why I use http://www.bigwords.com They are a textbook price comparison search engine that searches all the online retailers and rental site to find you the best prices, no matter which format you are seeking.

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