The average four-year public university charges around $8,000 per year for in-state students in tuition and fees, and that’s after you factor in financial aid. But if you’re considering a private school, the price rises to a jaw-dropping $28,000. To avoid racking up student loans, or worse, credit card debt, you’ll want to save as much money as possible. And one of the first places to look is textbooks. From 1986 to 2004, the cost of textbooks increased threefold. Since then, they’re still on the rise, but at a more modest 6% per year. However, with just a little research and planning, you can significantly decrease these costs.
1. Never Buy New
There’s just no need for it. You’re going to use a textbook for a few months at best, and you’ll get a relative pittance back even if you sell it online when you’re done. There are simply too many other easy, low-cost options available.
2. Buy Used
If you know what books are required for the upcoming semester, research them on the Internet to find the best used price. Good places to look are eBay and Amazon, but there are literally hundreds of places online to find affordable used textbooks. And if you’re buying last-minute, the cost to add expedited shipping is still probably much cheaper than what you’d pay new.
Better yet, you can also rent textbooks online and save even more. You decide how long you need the book – for the quarter, semester, or an even shorter period of time. In fact, there are plenty of websites where you can rent textbooks. And when you’re finished, you can typically print a label provided by the vendor and return it without paying for shipping.
4. Buy eTextbooks
You can save even more than renting if you purchase a digital version of a print textbook. And there may be a few added conveniences. Depending upon where you buy, you may have high-speed search or electronic note-taking options available. And books are usually accessible for an entire year. Although they’re not as readily available as other options, if you can find one, this may be the best route to go.
5. Open Source Books
This is probably the least viable option, but still worth looking into. Open source textbooks are published under a Creative Commons open license which means they’re fully available to the public and free, depending on the format. If you find a textbook you need through an open source website like Flat World Knowledge, you can view it for free online. With this and similar websites, you can self-print the book in a PDF file for a small fee, or even request a black and white version of the book at a reduced cost. Most sites also offer audio versions of these books as well.
If you choose to purchase physical copies of your textbooks, don’t just let them collect dust on a shelf when the semester is over. Set up an account on eBay or Amazon and resell them to get some of your money back. Just be sure to describe the condition of the book accurately, package it with care, and ship promptly. The last thing you want to deal with is a return or an angry customer.
What other ways can you think of to save on college textbooks?