Since the beginning of students buying their own books, the price of textbooks has been a constant complaint. One of the things that on-line universities have in common with brick-and-mortar schools is the price of textbooks. They are too high — always have been, and always will be. And even then, the cost continues to rise each and every year.
Is there anything that can be done?
The real answer is NO, there isn’t. Text books have small print runs, and are updated and revised regularly, making the super-cheap older edition available on Amazon for fifty cents good only as a paperweight. They are highly specialized, hard to get, and rarely if ever come with a reasonable price tag.
That said, there are a lot of ways to keep costs down. It won’t ever be dirt cheap, but saving an extra few dollars here and there can really add up in the long run. So here are a few things to look for to help manage your book-buying budget.
Scour the second-hand market – This is the big one. Even five years ago students didn’t have the power to buy and sell their books like we have today. It has opened up the market in a way like never before, cutting out the middle man and allowing people to sell directly to one another. The huge super-sites like Amazon and Ebay (even Barnes & Noble) sell books both new and used, from retailers and private sellers, and every student should check both sites for each and every book for a price comparison.
But there are a lot more sites out there to help students buy books. Textbooks.org, Textbooks.com, Campusbooks.com, Bigwords.com, Phatcampus.com, and Bkstr.com are just a handful of the sites out there specifically designed for text books. No one site is ever the answer, mind you, but doing the legwork on multiple sites prior to purchase is the frugal way to proceed before spending any money.
Rent textbooks – The advent of Netflix has changed the way e-commerce is done. They were the first company to send you a product with a return envelope, so you could mail it back when finished. Since then other companies have gotten into the practice, including some text book sites. A rental fee will buy you a text book for a finite amount of time, at which point you send the book back in the packaging provided by the company. It’s a good concept, and could help students better afford their books, however this is a relatively new practice and I couldn’t find customer satisfaction rating to prove this was a worthy endeavor.
E-Textbooks – Why bother shipping anything, ever? Why not just pay the fee, download the book to your hard drive and be done with it? More and more, this is a viable option. It’s the fastest way to get the book, and usually a digital copy is somewhat cheaper than a hard copy. Eventually, I feel most books will be purchased this way, but right now the field is still growing. Still, it’s a good option with a lot of up side that should be considered.