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Textbooks are a substantial expense to participants in the Union Education Trust. A recent government study estimated the average cost of books and supplies for a full-time student at $900. Many books are well over $100. Unfortunately, the price of textbooks has been increasing at twice the rate of inflation – 6 percent per year!
There are several factors to consider when it’s time to purchase your books for class: convenience, timeliness, and price. For some students, the convenience of shopping at the campus bookstore is the best solution: Books are easy to find, guaranteed to be the right edition, and you have them in your hands as you walk out the door.
But that may not be the most affordable solution. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to do some homework before class begins in earnest. Many schools have online bookstores, so you can search for the textbooks you’ll need by course and section. That will give you the title, author, edition, and bookstore price.
Armed with that information, do some Internet research. You might want to see if the textbook is available through an auction site such as eBay or Half.com. Search online bookstores like Amazon. Another useful site is bestbookbuys.com, which will help you do comparison shopping between those vendors and other stores.
When you are buying over the Internet, consider shipping costs (how much are they?), shipping speed (will you have the book in time for class?), reliability of the seller (check their rating and reviews by other buyers), and book description. It may not matter to you if some of the text is highlighted or the book binding is torn, but is there a missing CD? The price might be the cheapest, but what is the seller’s rating? An unreliable seller could leave you without a textbook, even if your money is refunded. As with any Internet shopping, use caution: Only shop secure sites and use reliable payment methods such as Paypal or Billmelater.
Also, it may or may not matter that you are buying the current edition of the book. There are cost savings to buying an older edition, but if your copy has pages numbered differently or is missing text and information, you may be causing yourself some hassles. Your instructor can advise you on whether a current edition is essential or not.
Another cost savings may be in purchasing an international edition of a textbook, rather than the U.S. version. Often the versions are the same, but the international one may be half the price.
You can buy from a union-organized online bookstore affiliated with AFSCME Advantage at www.powells.com.
Technology can help you save money on textbooks as well. Is your textbook available as an eBook? Many Ohio schools’ bookstores link to efollett.com’s eBook sales site.
For a select few books, the purchase price can be as low as free. At freeloadpress.com, textbooks with advertising are available free to students. It may be worth a quick look through the booklist.
Put as much time and effort into purchasing your textbook as you did when you looked through the course catalog and selected which class to take. It may save you money.