The Complete Guide to Saving Money on Textbooks
With student loan debt at an all-time high, the high costs of
This post was originally published in 2013. We're resurfacing it now to help you get ready for back to
When buying textbooks, you have about four options: buy new, buy used, rent, or copy. Some methods obviously save you more money than others, but reach comes with its own set of sacrifices. You may also need to combine a few methods to get what you want. While they all seem straightforward, the details lead to the savings. In this post, we'll look at how to get the most for your money regardless of the direction you take.
Get Discounts on New Textbooks
You probably already know the best strategy if you want to pay the most money when buying a new textbook: go to your campus bookstore. Unless you can't find what you need anywhere else-and we'll offer a lot of options in this post-you should stay away. When it comes to new books, you'll have a hard time finding any other store that will charge you more money.
Big retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble , or even a local bookstore, should offer better deals all-around. Whether you're ordering online or in person, keep an eye out for coupons and deals to save a little extra. If you want to find the best deals across many textbook sites, check out BIGWORDS . It'll provide comparisons for used books, too, and several ways to find what you need.
If you do end up buying a brand new textbook and you want to make some of that money back, places offer buyback programs. You
Buy Used Textbooks
If you want to own your textbooks but don't mind a little wear and tear, buy used. With so many options online, you need to pay attention to sites that have quality ratings or let you inquire about the quality of the textbook. While a mildly beat up
Also, check the store's return policy for those special occasions where you do, indeed, end up with a spineless, genital-ridden textbook in need of replacement. Most used textbook retailer take great care in the used books they purchase for resale, but once in awhile something will slip through the cracks. A Google search will turn up a nearly endless supply of used textbook retailers, sorting through them all is a bit of a chore and not all have a great reputation. Here's a good list of starting points:
- BIGWORDS (comparison site)
- CampusBooks (comparison site)
Regardless of how you're buying you're going to want to find the cheapest price. Searching a bunch of sites individually can be a pain. CampusBooks and BIGWORDS show you everything in a nice, organized list as well as help you determine buyback value so you can factor that into your decision.
Rent Your Textbooks
You don't have to buy anymore. Textbook rental gives you the books you need for the time you need them without the burden of ownership. We like
for this purpose. On
Some colleges have started renting textbooks directly and will buy the book for renting purposes if they don't have it in stock. Check with your school to find out if that's an option and plan ahead so they can order the book for you if necessary.
If you're going digital and want a rental option as well, check out CourseSmart . It'll let you read online or via a copy-protected PDF. You can also access their content through mobile apps for iOS and Android . Kindle owners or apps users can also rent text books from Amazon in a similar fashion .
If you plan to sell your books at the end of the course, you may as well rent. Just avoid marking up them up or degrading their quality as much as possible. If you do, you could end up paying a fee. Renting will save you money if you can take good care of the books, but since they'll inevitably find a new home once you've finished you will need to keep them in the best shape possible.
Photocopy Only What You Need
Things get tricky when you want to make photocopies of a textbook. While you can potentially get free content by copying or scanning the pages you need from your school library (or a friend), it takes a lot of work. If you have a day to get the job done (and you have free access to a photocopier or scanner), or you only need to copy pages from a few books (like the ones getting mild use in a particular class), you should consider this option as it'll save you the most money.
First things first, invest in a large three-ring binder so you can store all your textbook content in one place. You'll want to contact your professors before classes begin to find out what chapters they'll cover so you can avoid copying more pages than you need. This can help you consolidate your reading material into a simple, smaller, and lighter solution. If you really want to be svelte and keep the weight out of your backpack, leave textbook pages at home and swap them in as needed.
If you'd like to avoid the paper altogether and go digital, you can scan textbooks and create PDF files that you can put on your laptop, ebook reader, or iPad. You can also sync those files with your
account for free optical character recognition (OCR). For more information on digitizing books, check out our
guide to digitizing your life
Ensure You Get the Correct Books
If you don't pay close attention, you might purchase the wrong edition of a textbook. New editions generally reconfigure the chapters even if they add very little new content, so while you might not need the latest version you could have trouble finding the same information that your classmates have.
You also need to pay attention to the volume(s) you order. Each volume contains different chapters and you can easily end up missing the material you need if you don't check carefully. Ask your professors for the ISBN number of the books you need prior to ordering so you know you'll get the right one. If you can't get that information before classes begin, don't order anything. You can always get the book later and photocopy the one in your campus library while you wait.