How Online Students can Save Money on Textbooks

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January 30th, 2011

Even though the majority of your time will be spent glue to a computer screen, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be required to purchase hard-copies of textbooks. And to make sure that the additional costs of books don’t deplete all your funds (a single textbook can cost up to $150) learn some simple ways on how to save money on textbooks.

The first thing you want to do is look through your course syllabus to see what textbooks are required for the class and write down the ISBN. An ISBN is the cluster of numbers on the barcode of a textbook that universally identifies its edition. You will need this number to make sure that you purchase the right book. One way to save money on textbooks is to scour Web sites using the ISBN to compare prices from different bookstores. It might take some time to find the best deal, but if you use Web sites like chances are you can find your textbook for pretty cheap. And while used textbooks may be offered at the fraction of the original cost, it’s important that you are aware that there is a risk that comes with this option: since you can not see the condition of the book, you may end up purchasing a textbook with missing pages or pages that have writing or highlighting on them. If you choose to order your textbook online and request that it be delivered to you via mail, make sure that you do this before classes start. Some deliveries take up to two full-weeks and you don’t want to be without your studying materials once class is in session— you can fall behind.

Another way to save on textbooks is to physically go to a discounted bookstore such as Half Priced Books to see if your textbook is in stock. Although the textbooks are used, this option is much better since you can flip through the pages to check the condition it is in. These types of bookstores generally have many different locations throughout different cities and carry different books. So if you go to one location and your textbook is not there, do not be discouraged. Make a few phone calls to other discounted bookstores in the area and confirm over the phone whether the textbook is carried at that particular store.

You might also consider renting your textbook from Web sites such as For a small fee you can acquire the necessary textbook for a semester with the promise that you will return it by a certain date. Another cheap alternative is to see if a digital version of your textbook is available. E-books are typically more than half the cost of the hard-copy, the trick is unless you have a Kindle, iPad or carry your laptop around at all times, it could be somewhat troublesome.

Lastly, you can always check with your local public library to see if you can locate the textbook there. If your library has strict rules about the amount of time you can check-out a book for, then you might want to consider scanning the syllabus to get the exact reading assignments and then making a photocopy of the appropriate pages.

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