Students carry a sizable chunk of the soaring cost of a college education in their backpacks.
account for up to three-quarters of the cost of attending community
college and about one-fourth the cost at universities, says Nicole
Allen, director of the Make Textbooks Affordable campaign, a coalition
of Student Public Interest Research Groups and student government
associations in 14 states. The biggest cost driver has been the
bundling of textbooks with CD-ROMs and other supplemental materials,
according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
If you dread getting the bookstore bill almost as much as writing the tuition check, these ideas may help cut the cost.
Shun the campus bookstore
- Shop online
- Buy used books
- Rent books
- Download digital resources
retailers often sell the same textbooks at the campus bookstore at much
lower prices. The Amazon and Barnes & Noble Web sites, for
example, offer discounts as high as 30 percent on new textbooks. Other
possibilities include Campusbooks.com and the eBay affiliate Half.com.
To ensure that you're buying exactly the text the professor assigned,
check the International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, which
is different for every book sold in the world.
comparison search engines such as Bigwords.com, BookFinder.com,
CheapBooks.com and CheapestTextbooks.com can help you home in on the
sellers offering the best deals for the books on your list.
offers a trademarked service called Multi-Item Price Optimization. You
can search for an entire list of books, and the site will calculate for
you the best combination of booksellers on the Internet to yield the
"It takes into account the price of shipping
and certain coupon codes ... that you probably wouldn't know about
otherwise," says John Bates, Bigwords.com spokesman and strategic
Shopping overseas via the Internet is another
option. Web sites such as Amazon.co.uk sell many American textbooks at
a substantial discount, according to the Make Textbooks Affordable
campaign. Some U.S.-based online textbook retailers, including
Campusbooks.com and AbeBooks.com, also list international editions. Of
course, you'll have to factor in international shipping charges when
doing a cost comparison (some sites automatically do it for you) and
allow additional time for shipping.
Buy used booksIf
you can find them in good condition, used books can be a huge bargain.
A new, soft-cover copy of "Essentials of Sociology" by James Henslin
lists for $99.60 on the Barnes & Noble Web site, where a recent
search revealed that used copies of the same book sold for $18.89. At
Amazon.com, the paperback second edition of "Introduction to
Environmental Geology" by Edward A. Keller sells for $101.35 new, but
used versions cost as little as 58 cents during a recent search.
sources include used-book groups on Facebook and other social
networking sites, student government associations and such
student-to-student sites as Campusbookswap.org, a project run by the
Public Interest Research Groups. Campus Book Swap operates as a sort of
national online bulletin board where students advertise books they wish
to sell and buyers can search for the books they need.
the site filled a major void when it was first set up several years
ago, Allen says she and others involved now put more focus on
establishing local book swaps through student government associations.
November 2008, a group of entrepreneurial students at Loyola University
of New Orleans started their own online swap meet, Loomagoo.com, which
now has about two dozen participating schools located primarily in the
South and Midwest. The idea to launch the site was fueled by economic
necessity, according to co-founder Andy Beal.
"We spent a lot of
money when we evacuated for Hurricane Gustav in September, and when we
came back we didn't have any money to buy books," says Beal, who
graduated from Loyola in May 2009 with plans to attend law school there
in the fall.
that the bookstore's inventory of used books was usually limited to
those for which no new edition had recently been published and that the
stores set buyback and resale prices, Beal and his partners sought to
offer more choice and flexibility. "We decided to create an online
marketplace so that students could buy (used books) directly from
students," he says.
Beal says a few similar student-run book
exchange sites, many of them regional, have come across his radar since
Loomagoo.com went live.