As college costs spiral ever upward, cash-strapped students have to be resourceful. Often overlooked in calculating annual expenses is the price of textbooks, yet it can add up to more than $500 per semester. Planning ahead combined with some shopping savvy will go a long way in saving a bundle of money.
Free is Better than Cheap
Before walking to the bookstore, see if you can get the material from another source. Virtual libraries offer study materials and literature at no cost. While you might not find the latest books online, there are thousands of texts with expired copyrights available all over the Internet.
For example, the Internet Public Library provides links to thousands of free textbooks, journals and magazines. Bartleby.com offers thousands of electronic books and other literature at no cost. As a reader, you can download these free books and view them on your desktop, handheld device or print them.
You can access and download up to 16,000 free eBooks at Project Gutenberg. There is an ever-increasing database of eBooks and academic literature all for free at Google Scholar. Visit these online resource centers before spending thousands of dollars on overpriced packets of photocopied literature.
Shop for Discounts
CampusBooks offers a comparative shopping engine, as well as textbook rental. The site claims discounts up to 95%
Ensure that you get the best deal for books that you can't access for free. You can always get a book for less than the suggested retail price. A good starting point is Text Surf and BigWords.com, two comparison shopping sites. Type in the title, author, subject or ISBN number of the book you want and get a list of online bookstores and what they charge.
eBay.com may also be a good choice for cheap books if you have time to wait until the end of an auction. At Half.com, which is owned by eBay, you get a wide variety of used books without having to wait for an auction's end date.
Check out Alibris.com to search hundreds of independent booksellers that offer competitive pricing on new and used books.
Textbooks.com stocks new and used books, as well as eBooks, also at competitive prices.
Finally, don't overlook Amazon.com for discounts on a vast selection of new books.
Don't Buy, Rent
An increasingly popular alternative to buying your own books is renting them for the semester. Rental offers a number of benefits:
- Significantly reduced cost.
- You don't have to sell back any books at the end of the semester.
- Book renting will spare you from long lines at the college bookstore.
Some factors to consider when renting include:
- You need to do some shopping around before placing an order because prices vary from site to site.
- Avoid rental companies that charge membership fees.
- Rent books from companies that provide guarantees on CD-ROMs and other supporting materials.
- Pay attention to the shipping cost, as some companies charge to send you books.
- Always ensure that you return rented books on time to avoid paying additional fees.
- Try not to damage the books or you will have to pay to replace it.
Here are a few sites to consider:
- Chegg.com, which provides a full refund within 30 days should you decide to drop a course.
- CampusBookRentals.com offers a 15-day grace period and provides a postage-paid shipping envelope, making returns easy.
- Amazon and Bares & Noble both offer textbook rental programs.
Getting a free or discounted book requires some time and energy, but think of what you can do with all that extra money, like paying for tuition.