Ah, college textbooks, the fine print on your college bill. It literally sickens me thinking about the literally thousands of dollars I’ve spent on college textbooks during my college, ahem, journey. Everywhere I’ve gone, students always complain about the high costs of textbooks and the low (if any) re-sale value. It seems colleges are listening to students complaints, as two deans at Harvard University are asking Harvard professors to either digitize their course content (which would require textbook manufacturer’s doing so first, more on this later) or confirm what textbooks they’ll be using for upcoming semesters sooner (Cut costs of books at Harvard, deans urge, via Boston.com), thus ensuring stores will buy back textbooks. A noble start, but the focus needs to go on textbook manufacturers to lower their costs, and thus pass on the savings to students.
Besides, Harvard’s announcement is neither unique nor the best solution. The UNC Board of Governors voted several weeks ago to enforce similar deadlines for choosing on textbooks on professors; however the Board also voted to force public universities in North Carolina to either guarantee textbook buy-backs or provide textbook rental programs (UNC says cost of books must fall via newsobserver.com). The rental program looks promising, especially if schools begin to institute a semester fee, under which all your textbooks are available.
Still, there’s a lot of work to be done to bring down the costs of textbooks and the elephant in the room is still the textbook manufactures themselves. College textbooks are an extremely profitable industry, and manufactures are not going to budge from their current strategies unless they need to (very similar to the RIIA in that respect). I’d like to see textbook publishers begin to offer their books online, in a .pdf format, for students to read through and print as need be. Imagine how many trees could be saved by not printing all of those textbooks!
In the mean time, I thought it’d be helpful to all the college students out there to present some methods I’ve developed/discovered to save on textbooks.
- Order the International version on-line
- Order the U.S. version…on-line
- facebook, facebook, myspace, craigslist and facebook
- What? We have a library?
- Sell Yourself
- Leave Campus
- Sir Mooch-a-lot
- Become a Master Student
- Google is your friend
During the summer of 2005, I discovered that some of my textbooks also have an international version, which appeared to differ from the regular version on three points: it was black & white, paperback, and a hell of a lot cheaper! After I checked with the book’s publisher and confirmed that the actual textual content was identical, I went ahead and ordered the international versions and haven’t noticed any differences between my greatly cheaper international version and the standard U.S. hardcover versions.
Since, then whenever I need to buy a textbook, the first thing I look for is the international version of the book. A few great resources are:
None of those places have the international version? Don’t fret, they probably still have better deals than you’ll find on campus.
Remember though, the internet is always a-changing and better sites will always come up, but if you search around you can easily beat the prices at your school’s store.
What, you thought facebook was just for poking, stalking, and procrastinating? Most of the people on facebook are college students and there’s probably a ton who are taking the class you’re signing up for, hit them up and see if they’d like to make a deal for the books. You’re bound to get a cheaper price than through your school’s store and so are they. It’s win-win!
Remember to check myspace and craigslist too.
Huh, our library has textbooks? You bet they do! Almost all college campuses stock at least one copy of the textbooks for that semester in their campus library, but you may not be able to take the book outside of the building. Still, if the library has a scanner you can upload a textbook (chapter by chapter so you’re not at the scanner for the whole semester) or just make plain copies of it. Better yet, if you have a photographic memory, just read the book there.
If you live in a large metropolitan area, say Boston, check with the public library too as they may have your textbook(s), especially if you’re a English major.
NO! Not that way…get your mind out of the gutter and check out the the Freeload Press, where for the “price” of having to view ads, you can get textbooks for free! This site would be a lot higher on this list if they had a wider selection, still you can’t beat free and some of the books on there you may want to check out even if you don’t have a class in that subject.
So you’ve tried all the above methods and still can’t find the book or beat your school store’s prices? Look outside the campus then. Many big schools, especially those in college towns, have book stores off-campus that routinely have better prices than the school store.
Make friends with someone in your class, and repeatedly borrow their book. Note, you’ll either need to be very persuasive, attractive, or poor to make this work, but trust me, it can be done. Or you could borrow it once or twice and make copies of what you need.
If you already know everything in the textbook, you really don’t need it, do you? There’s literally a plethora of resources all over the web to learn any subject. Bone up on the topic and you’ll get great grades and save money!! Use at your own risk…
This goes along with the Master Student suggestion, but remember you can find nearly anything on the web.
8 responses to “Down with Textbooks! What Schools, Publishers and You can do to Reduce Textbook Costs”
I agree brick and mortar just seems to get you in the mood to learn. Being home online would tempt many to get lazy.
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Actually, I’ll have to disagree with both of you, online classes (for me) are easier to get to and schedule and thus have a higher chance of me attending and participating in the class. Especially living here in New England, it becomes easy to skip a class or two during the winter when there’s tons of snow on the ground and cold wind in the air. Online classes, on the other hand can be attended from anywhere you have an internet connection, I could even access the majority of my coursework via my iPhone!
I understand the point but for me online education’s merits beat out traditional brick and mortar classrooms. Though, having said that I’d like to participate in a hybrid school where there are online and brick and mortar classes, just to mix things up and keep everything fresh and exciting.
Borrow a friendly classmates book for a day, scan all the pages to pdf, and keep all your textbooks in one nice laptop 🙂 Saved me $100’s in college.
Good call Phillip. What pisses me off about textbook publishers is that they print of needless editions every year in huge number and then must charge so much for them to make their money back, whereas they could instead just print all their books to PDF and save everyone involved a ton of money and still maintain the same profit level. At the very least they should provide options to students to purchase the book in PDF format for a discount, instead of forcing one type of product on the entire market.
Good point Adam. I’m sure there could be an encryption in place to keep it from being pirated.
My stepson who is attending UC San Diego shares your frustrations. Of course I should be the one frustrated, I’m footing the bill for all his school. Oh well, when I’m old and broke, I’ll just hit him up for a loan…LOL!
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Every University library should have copies of text books. During my University course I had some books, which were huge, around 100 pages, which would have been impossible to scan. In the UK many Universities have second-hand book shops, but they don’t always take your book in if they are flooded with the same book. So if you want to sell yours, do it few days before the course ends, or hang on to it for a while, as everybody is trying to sell the same book right after the exam.
I still believe e-books are the way to go. Publishers hate them because they can’t sell e-books for $100-$200 but it makes sense.
But you can’t sell international textbooks back. :/