You thought tuition prices were sky-high compared with what they used to be a few years ago? Take a close look at the rise in college textbook prices. The American Enterprise Institute reports that college textbooks costs 812 percent more than they did in 1978, but tuition prices have increased "only" 559 percent over about the same period of time. Saving money on college textbooks has never been more important for students. So how can you keep more money in your pocket this semester to add a few Ramen packets to your stash?
Go used. Your college textbook store, Amazon, and many other textbook retailers sell used books in addition to new ones. You can save a significant amount of money if you don't mind a few highlighted pages or notes in the margin. Chances are, someone else has already highlighted the important information in the book so you don't have to read as much.
Compare prices. Due diligence is required when you search for your classes' textbooks if you want to save money. Research prices with local bookstores as well as online. You may need to get the books fast for your classes and can't wait for online purchase shipments, but a few phone calls to area bookstores can save you some cash.
Share. If you have a friend taking the same class one semester as you, see if you can share the book. Maybe she gets the book a few days a week to do the required reading, and then you get it the rest of the week. That friend may also take notes that you can borrow so that you don't even have to read the entire chapter for the week. Make her dinner in either situation. Before you share, notes Robert Berger of USNews.com, make sure your professor doesn't require students to have their own books available during class.
Borrow. If you have a nice friend who just took the same class you're taking last semester, chances are that the syllabus won't require different textbooks. If you compare your friend's syllabus with your own, you may find that the textbook requirements are the same. Ask you friend if you can borrow the book for the term if the books needed are identical.
Rent. Several bookstore retailers, like Cheggs, BookRenter, and Amazon, offer book rental services. Keep the book just for the semester, and you may be able to save some money. Compare the price of renting with buying a used book and reselling it later, though, as the used option might be cheaper.
Visit the library. Your college's library may have multiple copies of a book that you will need for a literature or history class. If the university library doesn't have the book you need, or all the copies are checked out, try the public library. Don't forget interlibrary loan systems if there is a waitlist for a particular title.
Get the older edition. Check with your professor to see if getting an older edition of a particular book is possible. The page numbers won't line up exactly with what's in the syllabus, most likely, but the content may be very close to being the same between editions.
Get the ebook. You can likely find an online or ebook version of essays, poetry, fiction, biographies, etc. of some books. This option is usually cheaper than the physical version of a book. Berger suggests, however, that students pay attention to how easily they can navigate an ebook because sometimes it's more difficult to find a particular page using an ebook, which can be frustrating when participating in a seminar that involves jumping around by page number."
Even though the average college student will spend nearly $1,200 per year on textbooks, according to the College Board, you can save money by doing a bit of research, acting as soon as you get your syllabi to avoid bookstore prices, and thinking outside the box. Start researching where to purchase, rent, borrow, or share your books as soon as you receive your syllabi. The faster you act the more money and time you save. That way, you're prepared the first day of class with your book or ebook in hand.