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Textbook Tips: Buying & Saving

It’s time to end the textbook torments!

Laura Magerkurth

August 28, 2014

Textbook Tips: Buying & Saving
It’s the time of year dreaded by every student and their bank account: textbook buying season. Somehow, it’s so much easier to cough up for tuition and room and board than each hundred-dollar-or-more behemoth that often professors only use once or twice over the course of the semester. Hopefully, though, I can help make your purchasing experience a little less painful, leaving you with more money to spend on important things.

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It’s time to end the textbook torments! Follow these tips to say goodbye to the agony of negative textbook purchasing experiences for good:

Start early

This may seem obvious, but it’s true: starting your textbook shopping journey earlier will give you more options when it comes to pricing and renting versus buying. Generally, more people want to rent their textbooks, so if you’re on the ball, you’ll get the books you need at a lower price and you won’t have to keep them unless you’re inclined to do so.

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All you need to do is keep them in decent condition (many schools even allow renters to highlight in their rented books) and bring them back on or before the due date, and you’re all set.
If you don't want to rent your textbooks, you can also look online for competitive textbook pricing. There are so many resources for textbooks and you're able to compare prices. Make sure you check online for free shipping codes for students, too!

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Search for a discount shop in your area

Local businesses know that college students are always on the prowl for a good deal, and it seems that every college town has a bookstore where cash-strapped buyers can get the books they need for a lower price than at the official university bookstore. Usually this is a good place to shop for apparel, too!

Take advantage of your tablet or e-reader

It may seem like it’ll be a challenge to stay focused if you’re reading on your iPad, but I've found that if you’re diligent (and willing to set a timer to keep yourself reading for, say, thirty minutes), tablets and e-readers can be a great, cost-effective alternative to paper-and-ink texts. There are even renting options for e-books online! On many sites, they’ll automatically “disappear” at the end of the semester, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to return them. Whenever you need to bring your tablet to class, remember to charge it before you leave your dorm so you don’t have to worry about sitting somewhere close to a pesky outlet. Bonus tip: Just in case you didn't know, you can download the Amazon Kindle app to your iPad for free and purchase or rent books that way—you don’t need the actual Kindle e-reader to get Kindle books!

When in doubt, ask!

Professors are usually more than happy to answer questions about how to get textbooks at a fraction of the cost—and sometimes they have even done research into where students can read the book free online. Send a quick email at the beginning of the semester to introduce yourself (side note: professors always appreciate getting to know their students) and ask if they know of any alternatives to purchasing textbooks or if buying the textbook is even necessary. Oftentimes, professors will keep course books on reserve at the library so students can access them without purchasing them. This way, you’ll be able to make photocopies of the pages you need, and you’ll spend a fraction of the money you would have spent on buying the book. The most compassionate professors will actually do the photocopying themselves and post what students will need online so that everyone is able to access. One of my strategies for getting books that I need for lit classes is to check each one out from the local library when it’s time to start reading. That way I don’t have to buy books that are often available for free! Of course, if you’re going to need to read most of or an entire book for class, it’s to your advantage to get the whole enchilada somewhere. What’s your favorite strategy for getting the books you need without shelling out a fortune?

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