Cutting School Book Costs

I’ve mentioned that my son attends a parochial high school. That means that right about this time every summer, we receive a list of his classes and directions to visit the school’s on-line book store. I love books, but it is always with a bit of trepidation that I make my preliminary on-line visit to the store in order to assess his books for the coming year. Even though I worked for many years in educational publishing, I still do not really understand why school books cost so much.

Fortunately, as compared to when I was in college and bought everything new at the college book store, I am now older and wiser. After checking on the cost of my son’s books at his school b


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10 Responses to Cutting School Book Costs

  1. Sarah says:

    I have been a college stufent for 3 years now and I have found that the best website to purchase books is It seaches which online source has the best deal for the book you are looking for. I used to be paranoid about purchasing the right book, so to alleviate any anxiety I visit my bookstore to find the books I need and then write down there ISBN’s. I LOVE this site!

  2. Ann says:

    I am soooo glad those days of textbooks are gone for me! :-)

    However, I do enjoy buying reference books for sculptures — animals, marine life, fantasy research — and have become a strong believer in used books. Have managed to acquire some fabulous reference books for soooo much less by buying used… and a number of them are ex-library books. LOL

  3. t says:

    I use (book search engine) and evreward (cashback). I spent a ton of money on books while working on my degrees. I didn’t really do this but…. If you befriend people who are going to sell their books to the book store you can save a ton of money buying from them because typically the bookstore doesn’t pay much. I recall buying an English Literature book for around $85 dollars the book store only wanted to give me $4 (their resale was ~75).

  4. spicoli says:

    I always buy used. I will go to a class on the last day of the semester and buy books from the outgoing students. They are happy to get cash in hand and there is always someone who will sell a book cheaply!

  5. persephone says:

    My children have relied on all of the paperback classics in our home library — many were books that my husband and I purchased when we were in college, but The Great Gatsby is the Great Gatsby, even if the pages are yellowed with age!

  6. Jason H says:

    Some might question the ethics of this, but when you are paying your way through college it helped me.

    If a prof required a rather small book I would calculate the cost (at 10-cents a page) of copying the entire book at the library versus the cost of the book. If it was cheaper I would buy a used copy of the book, devote an hour or 2 to copying the book, then return it to the bookstore for a full refund.

    I wouldn’t do this with a new book, since the author actually gets a cut of that sale, but since the bookstore was just pocketing the value of the used book I didn’t have a problem with it.

    Additionally, when I was teaching at the university I encouraged my students to go to their class first to make sure they really needed the book before they bought it (sadly for them they always needed mine).

  7. David G. Mitchell says:

    Jason — What you suggest presents more than an ethical issue. It is a copyright violation and carries stiff penalties. Books should never be photocopied!

  8. Jay Gatsby says:

    Consider whether the books your child/teenager/college student needs are on (The Gutenberg Project). It may not be the same “edition” or from the same publisher, but I highly doubt that Shakespeare has changed all that much in 450 years.

    As for textbooks, some publishers offer a lower price if you order an electronic version. They save printing and distribution costs, while your child can simply print when needed.

  9. Chris K says:

    I always either talked to the professor beforehand or waited until after the first day of class to buy the books. 50-75% of the time, they would outright say that we only needed one of the three “required” books. Plus, with scheduling, you can probably score a “used” copy because people tend to drop a lot in the first few days.

  10. eleaza says:

    I agree with spicoli. I do buy used books every end of the semester. They

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