The cost of books varies greatly by your choice of major and can run from $500 to 1,500 per year – if you buy everything new. The estimate that each school includes in their published Cost of Attendance are usually what they consider typical or average figures for freshman. The good news is that students who are organized can save hundreds of dollars on books each year.
1. Stay out of the campus bookstore.
The first rule of spending less money on books is to avoid buying books (new or used) in the campus bookstore. This won’t always be possible, but it often will if you plan ahead.
It is easier than you may think to plan ahead since at many colleges, students register for their classes months before the semester begins. Newly admitted freshman will often register for their fist semester over the summer and many returning students will have registered for their fall classes during the spring. Likewise, registration for spring classes is often in November. So, the proactive student has plenty of time to shop for bargains.
2. Buy used books.
Buying used books can save you a fortune, and often, the books are in good condition. Although most college bookstores sell used books as well as new ones, you can often find better prices online.
When shopping online for used books it is helpful to have the ISBN numbers. These numbers are specific, so you’ll get the exact book and edition your class is using. The ISBN number is found next to the bar code on the book. When you are on campus the easiest way to obtain it is to go to the campus bookstore, find the assigned book and snap a photo with your phone.
Websites such as Amazon, eBay and book.ly are great places to look for used books.
3. Review ebook options.
Many required books are now available in ebook format. This is especially true in Humanities classes that require historical texts, fiction, biographies, poetry and essays.
Buying or renting books in this format is usually cheaper than buying hard copies as long as you have a compatible ereader.
4. Consider renting books.
Renting books is becoming a more popular option and can be a good way to save. Rentals are especially popular for the most expensive books, like math and science texts that most students have no interest in keeping. There are now quite a few book rental services you can find with the simple internet search “renting college textbooks.”
After searching online for the best rental price, compare it to the cost of renting from the campus bookstore. This is one case that makes sense to do so since it is more convenient to pick up and return your rental on campus rather than dealing with mail order..
Make sure you understand the terms of the rental. You may need to take extra care of rental books so you don’t lose money when you return them. And take time to see how much a used version of the book would sell for, as it might make more sense financially to buy the book and then resell it later. Finally, be aware that renting is not always the cheapest option, particularly when you factor in the resale value of a textbook you buy.
5. Older Editions
Ask your professor if it is ok to use an older edition. Often the previous edition is nearly identical to the new one and therefor perfectly acceptable to use. One small downside is that the page numbers might differ making it more difficult. But if the professor teaches chapter by chapter as many do, then it is no problem at all.