Textbooks on the cheap

If seeing your tuition costs in breakdown format gave you a little thrill of shell shock, we imagine that sticker shock at the cost of many of your class’s textbooks were enough to send your heart into palpitations. Well, before you go hating your professors, know that while the professor may be the deciding purchaser of the textbook you are using, the publishing company is the one who decides the price. But thankfully, new legislation passed in July that no longer allows Publishers to bundle their textbooks with accompanying materials (such as workbooks). Though the workbooks are still made availabe, colleges are now required to provide students with a list of the assigned textbooks during course registration, leaving the student with the option to purchase the additional publisher suggested materials or not. Publishers are also required to reveal the price of the textbook to professors prior to the professor choosing to purchase the text.

But advancements in technology have also become a source of aid for the student on a budget by helping to offer textbooks in alternate format and/or purchasing methods.

Amazon Kindle

The Amazon Kindle. Image via Google search.

First, who doesn’t like a FREE book — or a FREE anything for that matter. Google Books has scanned many of the very same texts you’ll be using into its database. Now, you may not have access to the full text, but Google guarantees you’ll have access to at least every 10th page. Also with this service, not every book in tarnation is available so the text you need may not be available at all. Still, for free, it doesn’t hurt to spare a few moments to give Google a try. However, Project Gutenberg is a scholarly project and were the first producers of free electronic books (eBooks). Housing over 33,000 eBooks, the Gutenberg Project has taken out-of-copywrite books in the public domain and digitized them. The eBooks can be easily downloaded to read on your PC, iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader,iPhone, Android, or other portable devices.

Apple iPad

The Apple iPad. Image via Google search

ETextbooks are also available for purchase and download through sites like CourseSmart.com, which is a consortium of major textbook publishers that provide eTextbooks. While printing is limited to just 10 pages at a time, eTextbooks do allow students to highlight and take notes electronically. But don’t think of this as a limitation, think of this as a forced method of organization. You’ll never loose a loose note with this option, and all your thoughts and interests regarding a passage can be easily found right there on your device. ETextbooks usually sell for about half the cost of the full retail price.

But if reading on an electronic device isn’t your cup of tea — and neither is paying full price for a textbook — renting may be more your speed. Resources like Chegg.com work much the same as Netflix, but with books. Shipping starts at $3.99, and return shipping is free. Other online book renting companies include: CampusBookRentals.com, which provide free shipping both ways; ECampus.com rents, sells, and buys back textbooks; and other suggested companies are Textbookrentals.com and Collegebookrenter.com.

Buying textbooks online is an oldy but a goody. But other than the usual Amazon.com and online retail distributors from major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, you may want to try Campusbooks.com and Bigwords.com. Both use search engines to scour the internet for the best prices on buying new or used books.

Also, don’t forget to be a couponer (yes, that’s possible even on the internet). Sites like PromotionalCodes.com, CouponWinner.com, and PromoCodes.com offer an entire category of discount codes for textbooks and eBooks for various book providers and renters.

campus book swap

Image via Google search

And one of the best good ole fashioned ways of getting textbooks on the cheap is helping out a fellow student. For every new semester there are students that need to get rid of their textbooks from the semester past. Check campus bulletin boards located around the campus (in the cafeteria, in SAB, and in the Success Center, for example) for flyers from students trying to sell their last semester texts. Students have also listed books they are selling on sites such as Facebook and even Craigslist so be sure to search the listings and your friends profiles (even the profiles of your friends’ friends). Student PIRGs, a statewide student organization dedicated to solving the world’s problems one student organization at a time, also has its own swapping website, www.CampusBookSwap.org, which allows students to look up their school and post the books they have available, or search the site for the books they need. Another student-to-student swapping website you may want to try is textbookrevolt.com.

For more information on making textbooks affordable, visit Student PIRGs page Make Textbooks Affordable page. The page has several suggestions as well as information on how the option works and its potential pros and cons.

Also, if you happen to be interesting in the ins and outs of the complex world of the textbook, you may find this article from Disruptive Library Technology Jester interesting. The article details the life cycle of the textbooks from its publishing conception to its life with students and its eventual publication death.

Related:
Siegel Bernard, Tara. “How to Find Cheaper College Textbooks.” NYTimes.com. 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 11 Aug. 2010. http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/03/how-to-find-cheaper-college-textbooks/.

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