The College Board estimates the average cost of books and materials at $1,200 annually at a four-year public college, a full 812% increase from thirty years ago. That means the price of textbooks is increasing faster than inflation, housing, healthcare, even tuition (and you thought nothing was increasing as fast as tuition).
This trend of outrageous increases in pricing is clearly unsustainable, setting the stage for a future "textbook bubble" burst. The good news is, you don't have to wait for the inevitable price correction to get a good deal on your textbooks today.
Follow this textbook savings guide to save big bucks on your required reading and pocket the leftovers for more important things- like beer (just kidding… kind of).
- Get All The Information. Before you begin your search for affordable textbook alternatives, make sure you have all the details for each book on your reading list- the full title, the name of the author(s), the edition, the year the book was published, and the International Standard Book Number (ISBN). Once you have all this information, you'll be able to do some comparison shopping, rather than getting saddled with the sticker shock price at your schools' bookstore.
- Ask What's Required. Before spending a fortune on books, be sure to find out what texts are required and which are optional. If it's not clearly listed on the reading list, try contacting the professor or students who have taken the course before. You also might want to ask about the necessity of having the latest edition of your text. If the professor OKs a previous edition, you may be able to find some sweet deals on those older versions.
- Buy Used. Most college bookstores have a used section where you can buy used textbooks at a significant discount. You can also get in touch with students who took the course last semester and see if they'd be willing to sell you their books for less.
- Comparison Shop. Do an online search to check textbook prices at different retailers. The online market has a ton of texts, new and used, at steep discounts. Check out Amazon, eBay, eCampus, and Half.com for great deals. Just make sure you factor shipping into the cost when comparing prices.
- Sell Your Books Back. Your campus bookstore may be willing to buy back some of your textbooks at the end of the semester if you keep them in good condition. If the bookstore won't accept them, try selling to future students at school or by listing your used textbooks online.
- Rent. Rather than going through the process of searching for a good deal on a textbook and trying to sell it back a few months later, consider renting instead. Using textbook rental sites like textbookrental.com and bookrenter.com, you can save up to 80% on standard textbook prices.
- Use The Library. If you can check out all your required reading for the semester at the library before anyone else, you may be able to skip on textbook costs altogether.