I know several people who survived their entire college career and barely cracked a book. However, unless you have a similar strategy for saving money on textbooks, you’re going to have to shell out a lot of cash over the course of your college education.
I was fortunate enough to have the cost of renting textbooks included in my tuition fees. Although I’m sure I was still paying dearly for them, there was no extra fees to worry about and I was assured to have a intimidatingly tall pile of books waiting for me at the resource center at the beginning of every semester.
However, I have friends and siblings who were forced to endure the … of purchasing college textbooks and am a frequent buyer of books to feed my own personal interests. In my experience, the Internet is the best source for discounted books of any kind, including textbooks. It is not uncommon to save over 50% of the retail price when shopping on Amazon.com, Ebay and Half.com. I would recommend them to any student as the first place to look when shopping for textbooks. Compare the different sites to find the best deal. Even if you don’t end up buying a book online, you will have an idea of what is a bargain price when you hit the bookstores.
Your next stop should be the college bookstore, where you can purchases used books for considerably discounted prices. Most of the books will still be in more than adequate condition and can save you a significant amount of money. However, shop early and shop often as bargain priced books won’t last long. Finally, befriend upperclassman in your course of study who will sell you their used books.
Always double-check your list of required books to be sure that you are purchasing the correct edition. While you should try to purchase your books as soon as possible, avoid shopping too early, as professors may update their required book lists as often as every semester.
There are obviously some benefits to owning your textbooks. For example, some books are very good resources that you will refer to again and again over the course of your education or possibly even your career. You can scribble notes in the margins and if you spill your coffee while craming for an all-nighter, you aren’t going to owe any extra fees. However, more often than not, you probably won’t have any use for your books after the class has concluded and they will need to be in good condition if you intend to sell them.
Thus, it seems that borrowing is more advantageous. Renting your books directly from the school is virtually hassle-free; all you have to do is pick them up (although, depending on the quantity and size, this can be a feat in itself).
Out of all of the books that my various courses required, there were only a handful that I actually felt would be essential additions to my own little library. These I purchased online or from bookstores when I had a little extra cash. Many of the others were outdated or covered topics that I had no real interest in. In many courses, the books that were “required” were never referenced and I never read past the front cover. If I had been required to buy these books on my own I would have been very frustrated at their non-use.