Textbooks can often be a huge expense for college students that isn’t included in tuition. Colleges usually have a large bookstore on or near campus that can be pricey. Different majors require different equipment, books, and supplies so it can be very tricky to plan that into your budget. My books generally ranged up to $200 per semester, but my brother who was an accounting major had to pay close to $700 every semester for books! Follow my guidelines to find the least expensive textbooks to help your college dollar stretch further.
Online retailers often have great prices for textbooks, particularly if you don’t have to have the newest edition textbook. People who used the textbooks previously will put their books online at very reduced rates. If you have books that aren’t textbooks, like novels, its very inexpensive to pick up a used copy. I used Amazon.com for many of my books in college and found great results. Half.com also has a wide selection of textbooks that are delivered right to your door.
Make sure you read all the details of the product and double check the ISBN number with your textbook list. Also check the listed condition, and make sure its in condition that you find acceptable. If you don’t highlight your own books, it may bother you to have a book with highlighting. You also want to make sure that you order the book with plenty of time to get to you before school starts. As soon as I got my textbook list, I hopped online and ordered them.
The newest way to get your textbooks for college is through textbook rental. Some colleges, like my brother’s, offer rental through their own bookstore. This can be convenient and you may be able to reserve them online to be sure you get a rental copy. An online company, Chegg, offers textbook rentals at a reduced rate. They ship them to you with a return label, and you send them back at the end of your term. Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com also offer textbook rental.
One thing to note is you need to make sure that you check the return date with your final day of class. You will want to make sure you send the book back on time or you may get charged. If you are leaving for a holiday break, you should plan to mail them back before you leave. Be sure the company you are renting from is reputable and check for any fraud complaints. Another downside is many times you need to keep the book in very good condition in order to not be charged extra money. So watch out with your coffee cups when you’re pulling an all nighter!
Many colleges are going more digital, and offer textbooks that come with an online format. Three of my college courses had online textbooks, so I opted to download them rather than purchase or rent a hard copy. This is typically the cheapest option, and you can take your books on the go with you via a laptop, tablet or even smartphone and not have to lug around heavy books. Coursesmart is a website that has thousands of eTextbooks you can download. Amazon.com, Chegg, Apple, Barnes and Noble also all have eTextbooks available.
The biggest downside of an eTextbook for some is that reading from a screen can be harder to do than from a book. You will also probably need to download an app to read the textbooks, which means you will have to have some sort of smart device with you any time you want to access the textbook. You also may have trouble taking notes in the available space for notation within the eTextbook app. Many do not have the option to print pages, so if you are better with a hard copy, I would stay away from eTextbooks.
A fourth option would be to use an on-campus library edition of the book. Typically a professor will put one or two books on reserve that you can read in the library, but you can’t take home. This is good for a student who wants to spend zero on textbooks and has the time to spend studying only at the library. I have used reserve books a few times for very expensive books.
Following these simple guidelines could save you a lot of money when your school year rolls around. I recommend a mixed approach of rental, purchasing and eTexbooks your first semester to see what you’re most comfortable with and adjust for following semesters. Most importantly, make good use of those textbooks and study hard!