Saving Money on College Textbooks

Paying for college tuition is tricky enough, but rising textbook costs can make getting through college even more financially challenging. A 2005 study revealed college textbook prices increased at twice the rate of inflation over the past 20 years, according to a recent article by the Associated Press. The article also highlighted more recent data showing that textbook costs rose a whopping 14 percent from the 2006-07 to 2008-09 school year. So what can a student do to save money on college textbooks?

One way of saving a little money is to buy your textbooks used. This option is easiest because there are often a wide variety of used textbooks available at your local college bookstores on and near campus and buying used doesn’t usually require any Internet deal shuffling. The only problem with buying used is that with some subjects, there may not be enough used textbooks to go around, or your professor could choose a textbook that is only available in its newest edition.

Another option is to repeatedly check out your textbook from the library. There are usually one or two copies of all the textbooks commonly used by professors at your university’s library and the good news is this option won’t cost you anything. The risk you take, however, is that another student (or a handful of students) gets the same idea and you get left in the lurch when you desperately need to study and the book is already checked out.

Some students split the cost of a textbook with someone from class and share the textbook evenly, either taking turns using it on different nights or studying together when the rubber hits the road. This is an excellent option if you happen to find a like-minded, responsible student, but may not work so well if you are sharing the book with someone who tends to hog the book or disappear with it for a weekend when you really need to study.

Something else students are doing to save money on textbooks is renting them instead of buying them new or used. A variety of well-known websites offer these services, and to stay competitive, even physical bookstores are beginning to offer textbook rentals. By renting, students can sometimes cut back their textbook costs by more than half and many rental sites have no problem with students doing a little gentle highlighting and dog-earing on textbook pages. The disadvantage is that they do not have the option of selling the books back to recoup some of the costs, and they take the risk of paying full price if they damage the book’s spine or subject it to water damage.

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