5 Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks

The textbook industry is a 14 billion dollar a year industry, and professors and colleges push that number as high as they can through a variety of means. These can include: slightly “updating” popular, expensive textbooks every few years, inflating prices of both new and used books, and conveniently “running out” of used books. The newest thing is renting – why sell a student a book when you can rent it to him/her for basically the same price. After the class is over, the bookstore gets the book back for free.

#1 Buy Older Versions Online

Perhaps the most lucrative way to save money is by purchasing the previous version of a particular textbook – often for a fraction of the price of the latest version. You’ll need to ask your professor if this is okay, but I know from experience that it usually is. Don’t buy one that’s four or five versions back – try to get the most recent discontinued version. Professors “update” these books just to make more money – rarely because there’s new content.

#2 Don’t Rent, Unless the Price is Right

Renting anything is usually a bad idea, whether it’s houses, cars, or textbooks. The bookstores often don’t rent you a book for much less than you can buy a used one online – then you have to just give it back to them at the end of the semester. You can’t sell it to make some of your money back. Campus bookstores would not be renting textbooks unless it was equally or more profitable than selling them.

Students often get caught in the rain while walking to class, and textbooks in backpacks often get wet. It’s happened to me more than once. Bookstores may charge you a “damage fee” when you bring it back at the end of the semester – just because they can.

#3 Buy and Sell to Other Students First

At the University of Georgia, I did my best to sell my used textbooks to other students who were taking my current classes next semester. The trouble here is obvious – you have to know lots of students in your classes, which can be hard at a big school. Here’s a tip: as the semester goes by, start thinking about who might need your books and who might have books that you need.
This is always the best route because you can sell a book for more and buy it for less by cutting out the middle man – simple economics.

#4 Do Your Deals Online

Amazon is eating campus bookstores for breakfast – as are many other online retailers that offer better prices, prompt shipment, and amazing buyback prices. The campus bookstores can’t compete.
Most of these companies will ship your book for free, whether you are buying a copy for selling them a copy. They do their best to make the process as seamless and convenient as possible, and they are not trying to price gouge any one person – volume is the name of their game.

#5 Use Price Comparison Sites

Sometimes purchase and buyback prices can differ by significant amounts, and there are many services out there that will do a quick search of all of them and let you know where you can get the best price. It can be over a fifty dollar difference sometimes – it’s all about supply and demand. All you have to do is enter the ISBN-10 or ISBN-13. Just do a Google search for “textbook buyback”, and you’ll see a plethora of results.

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