When it comes to getting textbooks for school at decent prices, most students know that the college bookstore is going to cost them more than most other places. They also know the basics on where they can find textbooks at better prices: eBay, half.com, using textbook price comparison engines and the like. The following are some lesser known or not widely used ways that you can drastically cut the cost of your textbooks:
1. Purchase The International Edition: One of the least known secrets of the college textbook industry is that the International edition of a textbook will usually be significantly cheaper than the US edition. While there may be a slight difference between an international edition and a US edition, the differences are usually cosmetic and the content remains almost identical. For example, an International edition may have a soft cover rather than a hard cover, or be entirely in black-and-white rather than having color images on the pages. You can search for International editions at places such as abebooks.com
2. View Advertising For Free Textbooks: There is a company called Freeload Press which may be able to provide you with some of your textbooks at no charge if you are willing to put up with a bit of advertising. Before you download the textbook, you fill out a short survey and then advertisements are placed within the textbook and these advertisements pay for the cost. The publishers still get paid and you get your textbook at no cost. The company is still fairly new and the current selection of textbooks is limited, but it’s worth checking out to see if any of your required textbooks are available this way.
3. Borrow A Sample Copy: Professors usually receive a number of textbook sample copies from textbook publishers and sales representatives. One of two things usually happens to these copies: they are donated to the library or the sit in the professor’s office until someone gets around to throwing them out. There is a decent chance that the professor for your class has a sample copy lying somewhere in his office. If he doesn’t, ask other professors in the department as they likely received the same complimentary sample. While the success of this method will depend greatly on the professors in question, it costs nothing to ask to borrow a sample copy and could mean saving several hundred dollars in books each semester.
4. Purchase Electronic Textbooks: If you do most of your work on a laptop and don’t mind your textbooks in electronic form, purchasing them as downloads in place of a buying a traditional hardback textbook could cut your costs by 50%. Electronic versions of textbooks are available from sites such as iChapters.
In the same light, if your taking classes that require the purchase of classic literature books, you may not need to pay for these at all. If their copyright has expired, you can download them from sites like Bartleby for free.
5. Use the Library: OK, you probably knew of this way, but chances are that you have never tried it. Most students don’t because they see it as a hassle not to have the textbook 24 hours a day. The fact is, using the library textbooks can make you much more efficient with your time as you will be forced to do your work before the last minute. Most libraries have multiple copies of textbooks available and many times you must use the books in-library. This means you must focus on what needs to be done and be efficient during library hours. While many of the students who use the library books do so for financial reasons, many continue even when they don’t have to because how much more effectively they use their time over when they have their own copy.
Bonus: Find Out Which Books Your Really Need: While this seems obvious, most students rarely question the required book list passed out for the class. Once you’ve been a student for a year, however, you also know there are times that professors place books on their lists that are rarely, if ever, used. It is worthwhile to take the time to find out what books are really needed for the class by contacting former students or TAs who can tell you exactly what textbooks you will need. This is especially true for material that is listed as “optional” on the class material list.
Use these textbook cost reducing tactics with the tried and true methods that you already know and use and your will be leaving a lot more money in your own pockets rather than at the college bookstore.