Buying a new textbook from the college bookstore is passe, largely because it’s so pricey. I made the mistake of justifying many new textbook purchases by telling myself I would sell them come finals. But publishers release more updates than Apple, so my $139 Organic Chemistry tome? Still in the attic. Here are six alternatives to paying full price on college textbooks.
Slugbooks – A site that compares textbook prices across four major sellers, Amazon, Chegg, BookRenter, and Half.com. Plus, Slugbooks partners with more than 100 schools across the country to list
price comparisons for required texts. If your school is listed, you’ll see prices for books at the above four sources, plus your college bookstore. You can search by ISBN, title, author, or find your course textbook requirements by college, department and course. For example, I searched CA –> CSU Long Beach –> Anthropology –> Anthro 120: Intro to Cultural Anthropology – > and two books came up. One book was $39.49 for a semester rental from Chegg or $97.05 at the campus bookstore for a new copy. That’s a HUGE price range! More on Slugbooks.
The bottom line: Very useful site, especially if your school is listed.
Digital textbooks – Etextbooks are getting a lot of hype, but in reality fewer than 15% of textbooks are in digital format, DealNews found. Bummer. Fiction titles are your best bet in digital format. Look for them at your local public library, copies of which are free on the Nook! There are also many websites dedicated to sharing free digital copies of books, like Project Gutenberg. The free iPhone app Stanza has more than 100,000 free books and magazines, so it’s worth a check to see if any of your required reading is available.
The bottom line: You’ll have a hard time find true textbooks in digital format.
Book swaps – Sites that facilitate the swapping of books are free to join and you only pay postage on the books you are willing to pass onto other members. My Dad swears by BookMooch, but I like PaperBackSwap’s interface better.
The bottom line: Give yourself time to swap out books to earn credits to receive books you want in return.
Trade – Amazon’s textbook trade-in program buys your texts and gives you a gift card in exchange. Great if you plan to buy next semester’s books on Amazon! Video games, movies, and electronics are also accepted. Items cannot be damaged and must include all the original parts (like a CD-ROM) or cables. Shipping your items into Amazon is free.
The bottom line: Compare prices and trade in values on Slugbooks first. The simplicity of using Amazon’s textbook trade in program may make up for slightly lower trade-in values (just a hunch).
Buy used – Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Amazon to name a few sellers. Amazon offers students free Amazon Prime membership, which comes with free 2-day shipping. A Prime membership usually costs $79 so this is a nice savings.
The bottom line: Chasing down new textbooks on these sites may lead you on a wild goose chase but the Amazon Prime deal is definitely worth taking advantage of.
Kindle it – Amazon’s Kindle textbook rental offers flexibility and claims to offer discounts up to 80% off, but I have not done a price comparison. You can rent for 30 or 365 days, and extend your rental day by day, if you want to. Libraries are expected to get books on Kindle at the end of this year. In the meantime, here are six ways to get free Kindle books.
The bottom line: Remember to factor in the cost of a Kindle if you do not already have one.