The price of college textbooks has increased by 812 percent since 1978 – more than housing, medical care, and even college tuition. In fact, the average four-year college student can now expect to spend nearly $1,200 on textbooks; and some students might be required to spend that much in a single semester. Once you factor in the cost of living, how are students supposed to pay for their educations, much less enjoy the occasional well-deserved slice of pizza?
With the overhead costs of what some have dubbed the “textbook cartel” looming over their heads, it's no wonder students are seeking ways to save big money on textbooks. Fortunately, with a bit of research savvy, you can save as much as 90 percent off textbooks. The following ten secrets for saving big on textbooks detail how.
1. Buy used textbooks
This is the most obvious way to save money on textbooks, yet many students still purchase their textbooks new from campus bookstores. Buying used textbooks allows you enjoy heavy discounts on cover prices that can exceed $200 for new editions. Use a free textbook price comparison tool to instantly find the lowest prices on new and used textbooks from reputable sellers.
2. Check for an older edition
Older editions often contain content that is nearly identical to their newer counterparts, yet are considered outdated and can be available for steep discounted prices. Sometimes, only a few sentences are added to a new edition; and those sentences are non-essential to your coursework. Check with your professor first to make sure an older edition will adequately cover the course material. You can compare prices on older editions by searching for your textbook on Direct Textbook, then clicking the “More Editions” link.
3. Rent textbooks
Another way to save money is to rent your textbooks. Several textbook rental services exist to ease the financial burden of your education, and your campus bookstore might have its own in-house rental program. However, be sure to weigh the cost of rental against the resell value of a used textbook; in many cases, you'll fare better by taking advantage of a textbook “buy back” program or simply selling your textbooks on your own once the semester is over.
4. Get free shipping
Textbooks aren't cheap to ship, especially if you're buying an entire semester's worth at once. Get free shipping whenever possible; and if you're buying from Amazon, sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime to get free two-day shipping. Not only will you get your textbooks delivered for free, you'll get them before the semester begins.
5. Set price alerts
Textbook prices for the same book can vary by as much as $50 or more – especially when a seller is trying to sell a book fast and lists it on Ebay, Half, or Amazon at a much lower price than other sellers. Look ahead to what textbooks you'll need for next semester, then set a price alert on Direct Textbook. You'll be notified by email when a cheaper copy becomes available so you can get the lowest possible price.
6. Share with others
Another way to minimize your textbook costs is to share textbooks with another student. If you're taking the same class, you can split the price of the textbook and share it to complete coursework. Be forewarned of the drawbacks of textbook sharing, however; it can be difficult to share when cramming for an exam!
7. Take advantage of cash back programs and coupons
Sign up for the Direct Textbook Cash Back Program to receive up to 10% cash back from participating textbook sellers, which is an easy way to save money on your textbook purchases. In addition, check Direct Textbook for current coupons, which can additionally help you save up to 12% on your textbook purchases. Cash back programs and coupons can result in significant savings each semester, and really add up over the course of a four-year education.
8. Buy international or paperback editions
Often, international editions and paperback editions of textbooks are available at steep discounts. In many cases, international editions contain identical content. They're purchased overseas, and resold in the U.S. at prices far below those of new textbook editions. Each individual textbook page on Direct Textbook displays all available international editions, which can ultimately save you an additional 20 to 40 percent off the new textbook price.
9. Buy textbooks at the end of the semester
A lot of students try to sell their textbooks at the end of the semester, which creates a buyer's market: there are a lot of textbooks for sale, but not many buyers. That means the end of the semester is the time to buy, since prices are low. It's basic supply and demand.
10. Sell textbooks just before the semester begins
Similarly, you should sell your textbooks a few weeks before the start of a new semester – when there are a lot of buyers and fewer textbooks on the market. You'll be able to sell your textbooks at comparatively higher prices, which you can then use to invest in the textbooks you need. For both textbook buying and selling, it pays to think ahead and anticipate what textbooks you'll need so you can buy and sell at the most advantageous times.
New textbooks are expensive, but that doesn't mean you have to break the bank to afford your college education. By employing the aforementioned tips and tricks, you can save big on textbooks and keep more of your hard-earned money for the important aspects of college live. Like pizza.