Beyond the bookstore…

Looking for textbooks?

The price tags on books can lead to some serious sticker shock. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that college textbook prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation. Yikes!

But don’t decide to give up heat or food or recreation just to save enough to purchase all of your books for the semester. The following tips can give you some ideas for beating the system this semester.

Beat the crowds. This is still a great time to look for books at the book store in the Student center. For simplicity, it can’t be beat, it is the simplest and fastest route for finding the books you need, but it also can be the most expensive. Right now, early in the semester, there are still stacks of used copies of the books you need that can be head for pretty cheap, all things considered. And sometimes, believe it or not, if the book is rather obscure, the physical bookstore can still be the cheapest option.

  • Use ISBN numbers to comparison shop. Write down ISBN numbers and prices for both new and used books, and then use that information to shop around online. Check prices on the Web sites of, Barnes & Noble, eBay, and To save time, comparison shopping sites such as or SwoopThat can be incredibly helpful. is great because it focuses so specifically on textbooks in all formats, and SwoopThat is convenient because it quickly allows you to compare prices for the books you’ll need based on the courses you’re taking. Another good comparison shopping site is Just make sure the book you are looking at is the right one, you can’t go wrong with the ISBN.
  • Give print media the ditch.. Yes, print is nice — but e-books are just so much cheaper a large majority of the time. Would you rather have the satisfaction of a worn out book in your hands, or cold, hard, cash? At several of the sites mentioned in tip up above, you’ll be given the option of choosing from print, digital or audio forms of the textbooks you need. In many cases you can highlight areas of e-books and make notes in the margins as you read your books online. Another option: allows you to buy single book chapters for as little as $1.99. This is especially nice if you don’t actually need the whole book.
  • Rent your textbooks via Kindle. announced the launch of Kindle Textbook Rental last month. You don’t have to own a Kindle to read the rented books; once you rent them, they can be accessed using free Kindle Reading Apps for PC, Mac and mobile devices. Here’s an excerpt about rental rates from an article by writer Anika Anand : “For example, the full price listing of Psychology in Action published by John Wiley & Sons is about $154. A used hardcover copy on Amazon starts at $62, or the Kindle edition can be rented for about $29 for 30 days. If you want to rent the book for 60 days, it would be about $36; for 90 days, about $43; and for 120 days, the length of a typical semester, about $46. Assuming a student does purchase the course materials for the duration of the class, he or she would save about $16 plus potential shipping costs over the price of the cheapest available used version.”
  • Find a different way to rent. and are there to rent textbooks rather than buy them. You can save a ton of money versus buying new. But be carefule going this route! You need to be careful to return your books on time so your rentals don’t get converted to purchases. This can be difficult at the end of the semester when finals looms large in your mind.
  • Free downloads are your friends. Many classics of literature and a wide array of other books can be downloaded for free at Web sites such as Project Gutenberg. Just another benefit of being a Philosophy major; Aristotle has been dead a long, long time and no one is collecting royalties anymore.
  • The library is free. Depending on the class copies of textbooks may be on hold at the library, where they can be used for free. Your city or county library may even have copies of certain textbooks. Just be aware that this approach can backfire on you if the books you’re seeking aren’t available when you need them, so plan accordingly.
  • Don’t forget to check older editions. If a new edition has just been released for one of the textbooks on your list, compare it carefully with the last edition. In many cases, the changes may be so minor and insignificant that you really won’t need to pay top dollar for the newer version. Do you really care if the illustration is on page 121 or 123?
  • Study Table Books. This is a great reason to come to study tables. Not only do you get a quiet place to study and access to tutors, we also have books for some of the most common classes. Take a look at this list; if you see your class, we have the book! Plus, we have a fund devoted to purchasing new books, so if you don’t see the book you need, there is the possibility we can get it for study tables. How’s that for personal service?



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