When you’re figuring out your back-to-school budget, you’ll definitely remember the big things: tuition, housing fees, maybe a meal plan. But many students forget to account for another huge expense: their textbook costs. Even though publishers now must clearly state to professors just how much their books cost and sell pricey bundled materials separately, the books you’ll need for class will still cost you a pretty penny: The average student spends a whopping $700 to $1,000 on books each year!
Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to buying textbooks at retail price. We’ll walk you through them, so you can find the best deals for your books and start your school year with savings rather than sticker shock.
Before you buy your books, here are a few tips that will get you started.
1. Get the List
If you want your books for the first day of class, get your classes' syllabi as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to email your professor and ask for the reading list early. Be sure to not only get the texts’ titles, but also their ISBN and editions, so you can make sure you’re getting the right copy.
2. Compare Costs
There are a lot of places to buy discounted textbooks—it’s just a matter of finding the cheapest and most convenient options. Search for your readings on Textbookprices.com, CampusBooks.com or DealOz, which list prices for new, used, rental and electronic books, and figure out which will work best for you.
3. Hunt for Coupons
Once you find cheaper books, you can lower the price even further with coupons and discount codes. Try PromoCodes.com, RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin; all three websites list deals from textbook retail and renting websites.
Get Your Books
You have the syllabus, you compared prices, you found coupons. Now that you’re prepared, don’t go to the bookstore—take your pick from these budget-saving alternatives.
|Free books||Google Books||Searchable digitized textbooks||Free||Limited: Not all texts can be fully viewed||Computer|
|Project Gutenberg||Out-of-copyright books from the public domain||Free||Limited||Computer|
|eBooks||ManyBooks||Books available for download in different formats||Free||Limited||Your choice of eReader|
|CourseSmart||eTextbooks, with highlighting and annotating capabilities||As low as 60% of retail price||Good: More than 7,000 eTexts, available for limited period of time||Computer or handheld device. eReader, tablet, iPod or mp3 player, phone.|
|CafeScribe||eTextbooks, as well as a "Try Now, Buy Later" program if you're not yet sure if you'll like using an eBook||Free to try for 3 days; eBooks to buy are about 50% of retail price||Very good: More than 10,000 eTexts, available even after semester is over||Computer or handheld device|
|Rent||Rent-A-Text||Rental textbooks available in college bookstores||50% of retail price||All of your books, if you're on one of the 800+ campuses that it services||Computer|
|Chegg.com||Rental textbooks sent in bright orange sleeves||Much less than retail: Shipping starts at 3.99, but return shipping is free||Very good: NYT calls it the "Netflix of book rental companies"; boasts an impressive library of texts||Computer|
|Buy||Amazon.com||New and used books||Less than retail for new and used: Save up to 30% on new and 70% on used. Sign up for Amazon Student to get free 2-day shipping!||Very good: Almost every text will be listed on Amazon, but not all will be in stock or at discounted prices||Computer|
|Barnes & Noble||New, used and rental books; eTextbooks||Less than retail for new and used: Save up to 30% on new, 90% on used. Fast and free delivery for orders over $25||Very good: Like Amazon, offers a large inventory of new and used books||Computer|
|Borrow||Craigslist, Facebook||Other students' used books||Depends, but at least you cut out the middleman||Depends on what your friends and other students have||Word of mouth, computer|