Cutting expenses on textbooks
Although students often spend $1,000 or more on textbooks each year, an increasing number of websites dedicated to finding the lowest prices on materials allow students to start searching for the best deals before they arrive on campus.
In response to the inflation of textbook prices over the past 20 years, a new federal rule enacted in July states that publishers cannot bundle textbooks and workbooks, or other materials, without selling them separately. Additionally, colleges are now required to list assigned books during registration so that students will have access to the cost of materials before deciding whether to enroll in a course.
While picking up materials at the campus bookstore allows students to see the quality of the used books firsthand, pay in cash and avoid shipping costs, students can often find less expensive alternatives on sites like Amazon.com, CampusBooks.com, Bookfinder.com or Half.com.
Discount book options are many and varied, however. A comparative-shopping site, Bigwords.com, has an iPhone app to allow users to search online for the best prices on used books. While most students would rather buy used than new, websites may not always be reliable and often require students to wait a few weeks for the books to arrive.
Another option for textbooks-one that is quickly gaining popularity-is renting. A few online sites offer the option of renting, in intervals of weeks or months, for approximately half of the full purchase price. Chegg.com sends books in good condition, shipping prices start at $3.99 and free return shipping. The site also extends a 30-day "any reason" guarantee policy to its customers, so students are not penalized if they end up changing courses. Bookrenter.com and CampusBookRentals.com, while not as well-known as Chegg, offer free shipping both ways.
When selling back used books to the bookstore at the end of the year, students often receive only a fraction of the cash they paid in September. However, students can get more money back by either bargaining with other students, or selling back online.
Another popular method to save money is buying used textbooks from students on the Hill who advertise in the General Announcements. Look for e-mails at the beginning and end of each semester, as several students are willing to sell their used materials for less than the bookstore sticker price, as sell-back prices are often significantly lower than the market prices in the bookstore.
However, the bookstore has introduced a new dollar-saving offer this year. Students are able to rent books for sometimes 50 to 60 dollars less than purchasing the book itself. The only caveat is that students must return the book on the last day of the semester, or the bookstore will charge late fees. "Textbook rentals offer people a large benefit as long as students comply with the return date,""ˆbookstore employee Dash Wasserman '12 said.
Ecampus.com lets users sell their textbooks online. Most big-name online used booksellers, such as Amazon.com and Half.com, also have opportunities to sell used books. Those looking to donate money to a good cause can sell or donate their books to BetterWorldBooks.com, which raises money for literacy initiatives.
Students willing to do a little extra online research before heading straight to the bookstore might just find themselves with all of the assigned materials and a nice chunk of change still in their pockets.