10 Ways to Keep Textbook Prices Low for Your College Student: Thinking Outside the Campus Bookstore

It’s that time of year for the older kids – back to college to continue their education. While high school students are most worried about a fresh new “first day of school outfit,” many college students (and especially parents) are a ton more concerned about the rising price of textbooks each semester.

college textbooks

In this day in age, a class textbook is easily upwards of $200, and that’s only for one class (among the average six or seven classes per full-time semester). With this kind of estimate, a single semester could scoop out $1,200 or so from a tight college fund.

How can students and their parents avoid the expense? There are a number of ways:

1) Be the early bird: Students should email their professor before the start of class. Since students typically only receive their textbook list on the first day of school, included within the syllabi of each class, emailing the professor ahead of time makes it easier to search for textbooks before that first class assignment. Obviously, textbooks are more available in the early stages and the cheap ones will sell quickly.

2) Ask the professor if an older edition of the same textbook will work. Often times when textbooks are updated, very few things change, such as the page numbers and little bits of content. By springing for an older edition, students are able to save sometimes $50 or more on an outdated textbook, while still obtaining the very same educational benefits. They may just need to leaf through different parts of the book than the rest of the class in order to follow along.

3) Go “old-school” and visit the university library. Seems obvious, right? These libraries are home to thousands of books, waiting to be read. What can’t be found right there on the shelves could potentially be requested through interlibrary loan agreements. Students should check the school library’s online catalog as soon as possible upon receiving the syllabi, due to limited availability of library books. Professors often place required textbooks on reserve at the library, which are available for short-term loans in order to give a number of students their chance to complete assigned readings.

4) Go digital. Boundless is a startup that strives to supply free, openly licensed educational content to students. The resources students receive are free, and include interactive features. The Boundless team collects open-source materials from the Open Educational Resources community to create a customized textbook for students. Also, see if Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library has the textbook. This program allows members to check out e-books for free; while students would have a hard time finding a standard geology textbook within this option, they can find books such as The Hunger Games for pop culture literature classes, etc.

5) I can’t stress this one enough, but: Avoid the campus bookstore, at all costs (pun intended). Textbook prices at the local campus bookstore are going to be, at the very least, $30 more expensive than if the student were to look in other bookstores or online, which brings us to our next one…

6) If the student wants to buy the book, visit Half.com to buy used. Step one: Grab the ISBN of the textbooks and plug it in on this website. Step two: Watch the cheap used textbook prices magically fill the screen.

7) Rent textbooks. Chegg, a socially and environmentally-conscious company, offers textbook rentals in which the price is up to 80 percent off the normal textbook price. Chegg has planted over 5 million trees through the company’s partnership with American Forests Global ReLeaf program, and has financially supported student philanthropists that are leading the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Students can also rent, sell or buy textbooks at ValoreBooks online, with a 30-day money back guarantee, no questions asked. Amazon offers the rent/sell/buy option, as well.

8) Join a book swap, or share with a friend. There are a ton of book swap programs available to students through the internet, including different groups on Facebook, etc. – but some schools offer a book swap program through the university itself. Students should contact academic advisors and get some tips from residence hall staff, etc. when searching for a good book swap program.

Tuition, room and board are expensive enough – save money on textbooks by following one (or more) of those eight options. Less money spent on textbooks, more coffee money for students. And trust me, they’ll need it.

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