Let us show you how to beat rising textbook prices (last year the average textbook cost
WHAT YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY
Federal laws that went into effect in 2010 ensure that colleges provide a list of required materials before registration so students have time to search for the best prices. Armed with course book titles and ISBN numbers long before they hit campus, students can save hundreds. But in some cases, you might not need to spend at all. Before you buy anything, scour your syllabus. Some professors' class profiles may list "required" textbooks simply to fulfill a university mandate -- even if they have no intention of ever using the books in class. Other course materials, such as novels, while available at the campus bookstore and other retailers, can be borrowed free from libraries, either on campus or in your college town.
Students can now buy or license many textbooks electronically -- from online retailers such as CourseSmart, Inkling, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble -- downloading them to an e-reader app to read the books online or offline on a tablet or laptop computer or even a mobile phone. These apps allow students to search within their books, make notes, bookmark pages, highlight and copy text, and watch related videos. Some sites sell or license textbooks by chapter.
If you license your e-textbooks, your access to them will expire at the end of your rental term. Some e-book licenses are more expensive than renting a physical copy of the book, but you get additional note-taking functionality and related videos and tools.
Some professors may save you money by relying on free sites that publish peer-reviewed, open-source e-books. Professors can edit and customize the online material as needed for their classes. The open-source e-books are especially popular for basic subjects that don't require frequent new editions, such as math, which "hasn't changed in hundreds of years," says
DON'T SETTLE FOR THE CAMPUS STORE
For everything else you need, snoop online for the best deal on hard-copy books, then compare those prices against campus bookstores. Save on the cost of new books by buying used or renting. For example, Campbell Biology (10th Edition), a popular intro-level textbook, costs as much as
Indeed, used books often have the "lowest cost of ownership," says
Turn to sites such as CampusBooks.com, DealOz.com and bigwords.com to compare prices of new, used, rental, international and e-book versions of books at a variety of online retailers. We've found the best rental prices on Chegg.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Bigwords.com and SellBackYourBook.com also show you a list of retailers who will buy the book back from you.
The best time to sell back your books is at the end of the term, when college stores are restocking and will give the best prices, says Schlichenmayer.
While international editions are often cheaper (Campbell Biology's international edition costs only about
For a quick read on how much you can save with different approaches and sites, take a look at our price comparison, as of