Is It Time To Stop Buying Textbooks?

Each semester thousands of students enroll at a university, choose their courses, and head over to the campus bookstore to get everything they need for their upcoming semester. What they don’t know is that they are often paying up to 200% of the price of their textbook. Campus bookstores stay in business by charging students a high price for books, then buying them back at a fraction of their value, only to repeat the cycle next semester.

Every student should know by now that buying textbooks at the campus bookstore is a last resort. I know, it’s so convenient and they have everything that you need all in one place, but there are better options.

Start Early, Shop Often

To get the best prices on textbooks, the best thing you can do is start shopping early. Many suppliers of books have a limited number of a particular textbook based on the earlier year’s sales. By starting early, you may be able to use coupons, sales that a store or online retailer is having, or choose a used book over a new book.

Go Directly to the Source (www.coursesmart.com)

In our technological age, no shortage of informed consumers exist – that goes for college students too. College textbook publishers know that, and will offer special discounts through their websites. One such example is CourseSmart. CourseSmart is a major publisher of thousands of college textbooks.  On their website, students can buy electronic copies of their textbooks for 60% off! Personally, I prefer having reference books in digital format because they are easier to search, their highlighting and note features make it easier to find relevant information, and of course, they are usually cheaper.

Other reputable e-textbook retailers:

  • Barnes and Noble – for more on Barnes and Noble see below!
  • Textbooks.com – They do one thing, and one thing well – always check prices against textbooks.com.
  • Amazon.com – Often has the lowest price along with the ability to rent some textbooks.

Barnes and Noble (www.barnesandnoble.com)

Did you know that Barnes and Noble owns hundreds university bookstores? Because of their volume, they can offer textbooks at a better rate than the textbook publishers. Case in point: I went to Pearson Online and looked for books on marketing. Pearson, like CourseSmart, is a textbook manufacturer. I chose Marketing: An Introduction, 10th Edition. If I were to buy this book directly from Pearson, I would pay $196.00. I can get the same book from Barnes and Noble for $23.33! That’s nearly 90% off!!

Rent Your Textbooks

In the last few years, companies have responded to the ridiculous prices of college textbooks by offering to rent textbooks instead of buying them. Is this a good option? It depends. My advice is for books that are central to your major, and are utilized exclusively or heavily in a class – it’s probably a good idea to buy them. While in college, I often referred back to textbooks from previous courses as a reference. Even though they are expensive, they do come in handy  now and then! For books that are required or recommended by an instructor, but play only a small role in the overall course, renting might be a good option. Experiment with renting some textbooks from the websites above – it could save you a lot of money!

Buy Used Textbooks

For years, college bookstores have been selling used textbooks. Because of their discounted price, it is a good option for most students. However, once inventory of used textbooks are gone, they are gone and your only option is to buy new. Textbooks.com exclusively sells used textbooks at a discounted price. I was able to find some textbooks for as low as 5 dollars!

Sell Your Textbooks (www.campusbookrentals.com)

While this post is about buying textbooks, a good way to offset the cost of new textbooks is by selling books back. I’m not talking about the typical “I-spend-190-dollars-and-the-university-buys-it-back-for-3-dollars” scheme. CampusBookRentals provides a new service where you get paid each time your book is rented, providing you with a potentially continuous income. I am a huge fan of passive income, so this business model intrigues me. As we speak, I am looking for my own textbooks to enlist in this program! After clicking on the campusbookrental link, at the top of the page click the “Rent Back” tab and take a look around.

Don’t Forget the Little Guy

I have chosen to self-publish my book to keep the price reasonable for students. I recently searched ebay.com to see what other retailers charge for my book. I was shocked to see some bookstores charging over 12 dollars for the same book I sell for 7.99 on my website. With the rise of self-publishing online, don’t forget to look out for an author’s website. If they are like me, they will sell you their book for cheaper than you can find it on Amazon.com.

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