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How to save money on textbooks


Monday, August 25, 2014

College living can get expensive. Once moving and school supplies are factored in, the cost of college goes far beyond tuition and room and board. Textbooks can take up a large portion of a student's budget, and some risk failing classes simply because they don't want to spend money on books that are often only used for a few months out of the year. Follow these tips to make sure your books enhance, rather than harm, your educational experience.

Buy used
While a glossy, brand new book can help make reading it seem more appealing, it could also significantly increase the price of what you should be spending on it. The Economist noted that last year, Americans were given the right to buy and resell books, as long as they were "obtained legally." Take advantage of this ability by opting for a slightly used book, which can severely cut your expenses without sacrificing content. Sometimes, previous owners will even mark up the textbook with helpful notes that could enhance what you learn while in the classroom. 

Shop for books online
Many times, you can end up paying more when you purchase books at your school's bookstore. Since buying books on campus is convenient, schools can charge more money for what they keep in stock. Instead of shopping at a college store, go to Web sites like Amazon or eBay, which house textbooks that are being sold by their current owners. Not only could you save money when purchasing items, but also when you're reselling them at the end of the semester. Students could even make money by taking advantage of the Web sites' periodic specials for those selling items, Vinnie Thomas, a recent graduate who started his own textbooks Web site, told Forbes. Before purchasing, be sure to check the ratings of the seller, as they could help prevent you from making any risky purchases. Often, you can find the same textbook offered at varying prices, depending on the seller and the book's condition.

Share a book with a classmate
Certain college majors, like biology and chemistry, tend to require more expensive textbooks. Sharing one of these with a classmate or two could significantly cut costs and make one book that originally would cost upwards of $200 just a fraction of the price. Be sure to choose other students who are responsible and have similar scheduling requirements, since you'll need to meet outside of class in order to complete homework assignments. Not only could sharing be a financial perk, but it could also help give you a consistent study partner or two so you're more likely to understand what you're reading.

Visit the library
While most textbooks aren't available at school libraries, classic literary pieces will most likely be there. This could be especially beneficial for English majors and other students whose classes require readings from the classics. Talk with your librarian to make sure you're checking out books properly and returning them on time. If done correctly, renting out these books instead of purchasing them elsewhere could save you substantial money.

Turn to open-source
Forbes recommended asking the professor to switch to open-source books, which provide online content for students that is free or available at reduced fees. According to the news source, Flat World Knowledge was started by two former Pearson employees who wanted to make textbooks more easily attainable for those who needed them. Not only does the method reduce the student's financial burden, but it also helps the environment by reducing the number of copies printed. The books are predominantly accessed online, but also come with the option to be printed in hard copy form for an additional fee if the student prefers. 

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