As college students head back to class, technology will save them money. There’s no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks. Back in the day, we had no choice. There were few options other than buying used books and selling them back at the end of the year. We battled long lines for books, and hundreds of dollars in expenses. Now, students can’t buy all their books before they ever leave home.
1. Rent books
Many colleges offer to rent books. This is a great way to save money on the price of a new book. You lose out on resale at the end of the semester, but typically you make only a fraction of the cost of the book so renting is a good option.
2. Price comparison shopping
You can also buy the books from numerous retailers so do some price comparison shopping. Bookfinder makes it easy to compare prices. Consider it the Kayak or Expedia of the textbook world. You can save up to 90-percent by searching up to 100,000 sellers. You can search by ISBN, title, or author. Textsurf is another price comparison tool.
I picked a random book from a college course — C# Programming 5th edition (Author: Doyle ISBN 9781285856872).The bookstore prices:
Rent New $161.12
Rent Used $102.74
A quick search in an aggregator, and you can find the same book new for $100 cheaper on Amazon. It ranges from $133-150, depending on the retailer. There is a small $3.99 fee for some of the Amazon sellers, but it’s still significantly cheaper than the bookstore’s new, used, and new rental prices.
TextSurf is a little cleaner interface with the search results, but both aggregators produce comparable results.
If you don’t want to purchase the book new, the aggregator sites can even help you save on renting. In this case, the bookstore price is 50% more than prices found online for renting. Just make sure you read the fine print so you know when the book must be returned to avoid penalties, and if you can mark up the book with your highlighter without any additional fees.
3. Price match
Instead of buying one book from one retailer and another book somewhere else, buy them all in one place. Some college bookstores price match. It’s worth asking if they do. Palm Beach State College price matches Booksmart, Barnes & Noble, Chegg, and Amazon. You can even cash in on the savings AFTER you purchase your books from the bookstore. When you find the cheaper price at one of those other stores, you’ll get the difference on a gift card if it’s within 7 days of your original transaction.
4. Free books
Open books are rising in popularity and worth a check back often to see if your book is listed. Click here for 200 free books.
OhioLink is a searchable database of 46 million books that students can use to find free textbooks. 93 colleges and universities across the state offer the books for free to students on a checkout basis. You get the book for a set amount of time, but can renew it. The big catch is that you could lose the book midway through the semester if another student recalls the book. Students I spoke to at John Carroll University told me they’ve used OhioLink with no recall problems.
If you don’t need a printed book, try learning online with an ebook. This is an electronic version of your book. It’s much cheaper, but there may be limitations to how many pages you can print for free.
Ask a fried or classmate about sharing the textbook. This may not be the most convenient option, but it’s cheap if you’re on a strict budget.
What’s your go-to method for saving on textbooks?
Here’s a story I did several years ago showing how easy it is to save $90 on just one textbook.