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Key Points

  • Before you buy the book, make sure you really need it.  If you need it for the class but don't need it later, consider renting.  If you don't need the book at all, consider forgoing that purchase.
  • See if you can use or get the book for free from resources such as the library or family members who have taken the same class.
  • Shop around and compare prices everywhere you can before you make the purchase.

Buying Textbooks

According to the National Association of College Stores, with an average of four years to complete college, the cost of purchasing textbooks adds up to $2,600, but books are one of the easiest ways to cut college costs because there are numerous alternatives to buying full-price, brand new editions.

  1. Do you really need that book? Some classes have required books as well as optional books. Unless you are intensely interested in the subject, forgo the optional books. Even then, you might find you don’t really need the required books. Some professors require certain books but don’t test on the material contained in them; they act more as a reference tool.
  2. Checkout from the library. The cheapest option is to get the book for free from your school or local library, but you’ll likely run into a few obstacles along this avenue.  For example, you might find yourself fighting against the interest of other students also seeking to check out the same book. Or, your library might not even have the book on its shelf.
  3. Book Exchange. Some colleges have a system where students can sell their old textbooks directly to other students. The BYU Book Exchange allows students to post books they no longer need and to find books that they do need.
  4. Used stores. College towns are usually peppered with a few used books stores where students can both sell and purchase, such as Boomerang Books. Used stores often won’t purchase every book from you, but many offer recycling services for the books they won’t take and that you no longer wish to hold onto. There are also used textbook stores online, such as ThriftBooks.
  5. Ordering books online allows students to find a variety of prices on the books they need. They can also choose between new or used. Just be sure to order your books a few weeks in advance so they get to you as classes start.
  6. Editions. Textbook companies like to put out new textbook editions as a means of making more money and updating a few details. This causes earlier editions to drop in price. Often students can get by with the old edition. Before purchasing your books, perhaps email your professor to see if it is requisite for you to have the freshest edition.
  7. Rent. Many college bookstores provide the option of renting books. More and more students are also renting books online through sites such as AmazonBarnes & NobleChegg Books, and ValoreBooks. Also, be sure to take good care of your rentals to avoid getting fined when you return them.
  8. Electronic books certainly take the weight off your back that print books provide, and they usually come at a fraction of the cost as well. However, not all your books will be available in electronic copy, and they obviously can’t be sold to anyone else.
  9. Sell-back. Bookstores offer textbook sell back at the end of each term. Note that it is wise to be at the front of the line when sell back day comes around because bookstores usually have a cap on how many of each type of book they’ll take back.

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