Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday Feature: How to Save Money on Textbooks

As a college instructor and parent of a college freshman, I have a love-hate relationship with textbooks. Well-constructed, reasonably priced textbooks can be a wonderful addition to a course, providing the basic material students need and allowing the instructor to go beyond the text and explore topics in greater depth.

Unfortunately, these kinds of textbooks seem to be difficult to come by. Too often, students are plunking down upwards of $200 for one textbook which may or may not meet the above criteria.

Is it any wonder that students often choose to go without?

I hate to see kids skip textbooks. Rather, I'm a fan of finding the cheapest possible options, so I was pleased to find this common-sense article, albeit from an unlikely source. Who'd expect one of the biggest suppliers of college textbooks to offer information on ways to save money on a product that's their lifeblood? And yet, the National Association of College Stores has done just that.

Here, as with any other major purchase, "let the buyer beware" is good advice. Making sure you're informed about all the options before handing over your credit card is the best way to stretch your textbook budget without bursting it like an overinflated balloon. A quick online search allows you to compare prices among the major players (your college bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Chegg are the ones that come to mind for me) as well as investigating the available formats (hardcover, paperback, e-book, loose leaf) and the ever-popular new vs. used.

And who knows? If they offer a price match, the college bookstore might turn out to be the best option after all.

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