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Don't Break the Bank When Buying Textbooks

Here are a few suggestions for saving some money when stocking up on textbooks for college.

Katie Bradley, a recent high-school graduate, just received the required textbook list for the fall semester of her freshman year. The cost of the books totaled almost $700.

“My parents are thrilled that one book costs over $300,” Bradley said sarcastically. “I’ll have to do some research.” 

College students are not immune to the economic downturn, and many who work part-time jobs or are paying their own way through school can hardly afford to spend more than a thousand dollars a year buying textbooks.

Here at Norristown Patch, we empathize. We were all college students ourselves, once. (Insert Ramen Noodles joke here.)

So before you head to the campus bookstore and plunk down your life savings for books that will be worth 19 percent of their current value in just four months, check out these suggestions for finding textbook deals and discounts.


Check the edition

Check with your professor to see if he or she requires a particular edition. Many textbooks are reprinted every year or so, with only slight modifications or updates (such as cover art). You can save a bundle by purchasing an older edition, but only if it will be compatible in your class.

Compare prices

Use the ISBN number to make a comparison search engine do the heavy lifting. Try Froogle or PriceGrabber. Don’t forget to factor shipping into your calculation.

Buy used

Sites like Amazon and Half.com connect buyers with independent sellers who set their own prices for new and used books, keeping the market competitive. (Keep these sites in mind at the end of the semester. You may be able to sell back your textbooks to other students, for considerably more than you’d earn at the school bookstore.)

Rent

For a fraction of the cost of buying a textbook, some websites will rent it to you for a specified length of time, usually from a few weeks to a semester. Many, including Textbooks.com and Chegg, also offer free return shipping, so you’re free of the hassle of selling back your books.

e = $

Consider an eBook, a digital textbook you download right to your computer or eReader. In addition to costing less than a hard copy, digital textbooks don’t get lost or damaged, or weigh down your backpack. They’re also available instantly, so no waiting on shipping. Amazon recently announced a textbook rental program that includes “tens of thousands” of electronic textbooks that can be read with Amazon’s Kindle reader or its free Kindle software.

Get a coupon

Before you check out, see if you can find a promo code online. Retail Me Not and Coupon Cabin are good places to find discount codes for savings or free shipping.

Newsletter? Check yes

Nobody wants an inbox flooded with junk mail, but signing up for news and offers from some websites may give you access to future savings, like 10 percent off or free shipping on your next order. If it turns out not to be worth the trouble, you can always unsubscribe.

Extra savings

Consider signing up for an additional savings program, like Ebates or FatWallet. These sites pay you back for purchases you’re going to make anyway. For example, earn 6.5 percent cash back from Ebates when you shop at Chegg. These sites often also carry coupons or special savings for members.

Amil Tolia August 12, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Hi You can get passed the professor maybe using the textbooks they recommended once or twice by renting the textbooks by chapter. Our firm (Reference Tree) (http://www.reference-tree.com) does just that and with the UK prices far lower than the US (including the exchange rate) it could be a great way to save money. Any thoughts on Reference Tree send me a note info [at] reference-tree.com Thanks Amil
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