November 28, 2014
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Taming the cost of textbooks

In an era when digital books can be downloaded to an e-reader for a few dollars, students may feel it foolish to shell out several hundred dollars for a hardcover textbook that will only be used once. Many college students are shocked at the cost of their textbooks. In fact, many students do not take textbook costs into consideration when budgeting for school, only to have their jaws drop at the checkout counter of their campus bookstore.

The cost of textbooks has been an issue on college campuses for years. Many elementary and high school students do not have to pay directly for their textbooks, but college students must pay for their books.

There are a number of ways to curtail costs. One of the reasons behind the high sticker price for college textbooks is the copyright fees publishers of large anthologies must pay to every author who contributed to a book. Such costs can quickly add up. When there isn’t a large demand for the books, publishers will not make much money if they don’t charge more for the books.

Another reason for the high cost of textbooks is that some are accompanied by online companion resources. The publishers build the price of these resources into the cost of the book.

An additional contributing factor to students’ high textbook tabs could be the faculty at their college or university. Some professors are not sensitive to the cost of books, selecting books they like or even ones they authored themselves without considering the price of such texts.

Supply and demand may also influence the cost of textbooks. When too many textbooks are in circulation, there is no longer a high demand. So publishers make money by continually issuing new volumes with an item or two changed to justify the purchase of a new book.

But as costly as textbooks can be, students can employ various methods to trim their textbook tabs.

Purchase used textbooks whenever possible. Used textbooks may cost half as much as brand new texts. They may be highlighted or have notes in the margins, but if you can overlook these things, you can save money.

Sell back textbooks. Keep textbooks in good condition and attempt to sell them back to either the campus bookstore or one near to the school. If the edition will be used again, you may be able to recoup a significant amount of the money you spent on the book.

Shop around. Jot down the ISBN number for the particular textbook and then go online and price it out. Thanks to the Internet, you may find the book elsewhere for a significant discount over the in-store price on campus.

Look for alternative formats. With that ISBN number in hand, find out if there are digital or softcover versions of the textbook available. These formats may be more affordable and easier to lug around as well.

Compare the old edition to the new. The new edition may have different page numbers or minor changes, but not enough to negate the value of the old edition. You can save a lot of money on an old edition.

Share the book with a classmate. Make friends with someone in your class and share the costs and use of the book. Set up study and homework sessions to work together or make copies of particular chapters if you need to work solo.

Consult with your financial aid counselor. Sometimes financial aid can offset the cost of textbooks. You might be eligible for aid to cover the cost of your textbooks throughout the school year.


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