Author Topic: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?  (Read 8129 times)

Zalo

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Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« on: September 03, 2013, 06:20:57 PM »
So far the most straightforward, 'inexpensive' way seems to be through Amazon.

Perhaps purchasing a yesteryear [used] kindle might be a good investment over the long run.

What are your thoughts/what did you do in college?

Dr.Vibrissae

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2013, 06:58:56 PM »
When I first got to undergrad, I foolishly purchased every recommended book for every class, only to find that in most classes the book was ancillary and not really necessary.  After that I waited for a few weeks to determine how relevant/important the book was before purchase.  Sometimes you can get away with just using a library copy, or copying small sections.  Also check to see what is available online (our library has some text available entirely as PDF's, they tend to be older or more specialized books though).  This will obviously vary depending on the types of classes, subjects you take.

Second, don't be afraid of an older edition unless it's a subject that changes a lot in a short time.  Often if the textbook was recently updated, one edition older is not going to be a huge deal, but will be significantly cheaper.  There are also sites that allow you to purchase international copies of some texts (although I can't remember off the top of my head) these are often cheaper.

For super expensive books I didn't want to own, and didn't want to lose the sell back price, I have rented a couple textbooks from online vendors.  It was $60 for a semester, but it was still better than the $100+ spent on books that I was later unable to sell back because the instructor switched texts for the class, or a newer edition came out and I couldn't unload books I was never going to use again.

galliver

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2013, 07:23:01 PM »
For engineering/math/science classes:

1) People you know on campus (some may even let you borrow the book free)
2) Used on Amazon/Amazon marketplace
3) Other methods (college bookstore, new on Amazon, etc)

I've never seen eBay/Half/etc have a significant advantage over the Amazon used market, but then, after a while I stopped looking.

**DO** check which edition you need (ask the prof). Some profs will tell you the older edition is fine if they just use it for reference. Others will assign problems from the book, which change significantly between editions. Sure, you can track down a classmate and photocopy the relevant pages, but then you get back to your room and realize the problem referenced an example or an equation which is different in your edition, and you're tracking down the classmate again...If you're already investing thousands in your education, you might as well spend the extra $100-200 to get the right resources so you're spending your time studying, and not chasing down the homework problems.

**DO**think before you sell back your books. Is it used for another class in the sequence? Will it be a useful reference in a class for which this is a prerequisite? Finally, did you enjoy the class enough you might do this for a living and use the book as reference? Sometimes you might keep it, sometimes sell back and buy an older edition. But don't just sell back your book automatically, and think carefully about renting up front as well.

Rural

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2013, 07:29:22 PM »
Rental is a pretty good option. Half.com is often a great option, and sometimes Amazon is good. If you're going to order online, do it early so you aren't trying to muddle through the first few weeks, getting hopelessly behind (a 16-week semester is not like high school).

You don't have to buy the recommended books, but don't be "that student" who doesn't buy the required one. You'll make a bad impression from the beginning which will only be exacerbated by your struggles to do without the basic course requirements. Professors notice, trust me.

If you discover you can get the previous edition, it's usually fine, but ask. Four editions back is usually just too different to serve for what you need, even in fields that don't change at all. It doesn't matter if the basic knowledge is unchanged if you can't do your homework.

Disclaimer: I'm a professor who goes to great lengths to find inexpensive options for my students.

GuitarStv

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2013, 06:59:01 AM »
I got most of my books used from other people who took it the previous semester or previous year.  Even if the edition changes, usually the topics covered are the same and in a similar order, they just might have slightly different problems or minor edits that don't make much difference.

Rust

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2013, 08:53:42 AM »
Time consuming but works...

Go to one of those places that lets you do 2 cent copies.  Copy the book.

500 page textbook will cost you $10 to copy but the odds are pretty high the new one cost $100.

Return new book within the full refund period and pocket the $90 savings.

GuitarStv

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2013, 08:57:36 AM »
^ If you want to steal it, you might as well just shoplift the book.

NumberCruncher

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2013, 09:09:41 AM »
I'd use Abe Books and some other sellers for math/science/engineering books seemed to be some of the best bang for the buck.

simonsez

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2013, 09:17:32 AM »
The campus library system.  When I was in undergrad, I worked at the engineering library and learned a lot of ways to save money myself (as a non-engineer).  If not already, get a group of classmates and convince a professor to have a copy or two of the textbook put at the library that can be checked out in 1 or 2 hour increments. 1/2.com and amazon were so-so options but the best time to buy is at the end of the previous semester when everyone is selling.  Another great option was something called I-Share (I was at the University of Illinois and cannot say enough good things about their library system).  This was basically a consortium across 30+ colleges/universities with an agreement to borrow each other's books.  I was able to use this to get actual statistical/economic textbooks for free in 4-week increments with the ability to renew.  Also, nowadays students are connected with their classmates on a common website for the class.  Be proactive in the early going about splitting the textbook multiple ways and figuring out an arrangement to meet weekly like a discussion section or just to do homework/study.

Tangent: my employment as a student librarian led me to write my senior thesis on textbook expenditures (i.e. regression models, controlling for variables, etc.) with the most robust conclusion that as your college-experience increases, the amount you spend on textbooks decreases, probably due to upperclassmen figuring out what is actually required and other avenues to have requisite materials.

Daley

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2013, 09:23:59 AM »
Any student considering the Amazon Warehouse Deals textbook rental program as Zalo hinted at or Rural suggested, you might want to read this article:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/08/16/amazon-restricts-students-bringing-certain-textbook-rentals-across-state-lines

Quote
If Amazon does determine that a renter has moved his or her book to a different state “at any time during the rental period,” the company at its “sole discretion” can charge the consumer the buyout price of the textbook.

Just a heads up, as it could turn a cost-effective textbook approach into a financial hellscape. It just goes to show how important it is to actually read the fine print on these sorts of deals.

Time consuming but works...

Go to one of those places that lets you do 2 cent copies.  Copy the book.

500 page textbook will cost you $10 to copy but the odds are pretty high the new one cost $100.

Return new book within the full refund period and pocket the $90 savings.

^ If you want to steal it, you might as well just shoplift the book.

Quite. Alternately and in that spirit, one could also download the PDF that some other ethically dubious student scanned and tossed up on TPB as an e-book; but that's not just ethically suspect, it also jumps firmly across the line of being frugal into being downright stingy. It also ignores and undervalues personal time and labor.

I do think IP rights in this country - especially in context to textbooks - are seriously jacked up, anti-consumer-friendly, and priced in a predatory fashion to exploit a monopoly... but using a Xerox machine or scanning the pages and sticking them in a PDF isn't entirely the same as loaning a book out from the library, especially if you go and return it for a refund after. It may be difficult to define theft in the modern era with information under certain circumstances, but social contracts and copyright law in this case are both in agreement: the publisher should be financially compensated (directly or indirectly through used book and rental programs for physical media - thank you SCOTUS for preserving first sale doctrine!) for your using their literature to advance your secondary education. Students may be bent over the barrel for that opportunity due to the publishers doing wrong and exploiting their position, but two wrongs don't make a right... especially in a country where copyright infringement is now a federal matter instead of a civil one.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2013, 09:26:00 AM by I.P. Daley »

livetogive

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2013, 10:04:41 AM »
I had great luck on Amazon and/or eBay.  Be very aggressive selling back your books with the exception of the basic fundamental text for your chosen field.  You can always buy them back later but old editions lose value fast.  The only book i even rarely reference is an Accounting 101 text.

Dee18

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2013, 10:36:21 AM »
I always check the site:  bestbookbuys.com    It searches through many, many sites for you.

Also, always check with the professor to see if an earlier edition is okay.  I often put on my course syllabus that any edition is acceptable, but am amazed how few students buy a cheaper, older edition.

bogart

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2013, 10:37:29 AM »
fetchbook.info is another book price aggregator (searches used listings as well as new).  No idea how it compares to the other one mentioned.

Rust

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2013, 12:10:10 PM »

Also, always check with the professor to see if an earlier edition is okay.  I often put on my course syllabus that any edition is acceptable, but am amazed how few students buy a cheaper, older edition.

Doesn't surprise me.  I know many of friends who had their books paid for by scholarship or by parents.  They got the new edition because it provided the highest resale value.  Which meant more beer money for the end of term parties.

RacingFestive

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2013, 12:38:02 PM »
I've rented from chegg.com and been quite pleased with their quality of book as well as flexibility with time periods of rental. I've also used bigwords.com which looks over multiple sites and allows you to easily compare deals on rentals vs buying and site vs site.

Forcus

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2013, 01:01:32 PM »
I used textbookx.com and it worked well. Buying and selling.

ocandelario

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2013, 02:12:20 PM »
How popular is the book? If it's a very common book that many universities use, you can almost always find a free PDF copy of it on the internet somewhere (and if you want a hard copy, it probably wouldn't be too expensive to then print it out from the PDF).

MrsPete

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #17 on: September 04, 2013, 04:12:21 PM »
The absolute cheapest way to obtain your books:  Choose a college that includes textbook rental in the price of tuition.  Here in NC I am aware of only four schools that use this system:  Two of them are large schools in the UNC-system.  Another is one of the UNC-system's lesser-known schools.  The last is a very expensive private school, but since the cost of attendance at that schools is approximately 3.5Xs the cost of the state schools, this is a questionable way to avoid buying books. 

She goes to the bookstore, obtains a print-out of her schedule, takes it to the book counter, where the worker bees say, "One moment, please", and they bring her a stack of expensive books.  She signs for them, and they're hers 'til the last day of exams.  If she fails to return them by the last date, she's billed for them.  I went with her last time she picked up books, and when they gave her the books, she commented that one book had water damage -- they brought her a new book. 

I think it's a fantastic system.  It says to students, "Books are so important that we're going to make sure you have them.  You're not going to have to chase all over the internet so you can have what you need to be successful in college."  And on multiple levels, it just makes sense for the college to use the same books over and over. 

My daughter's a sophomore, and her total semester book costs have been $25, $10 and $15 -- all for consumable lab manuals.
The biggest shocker:  Her Chemistry book alone would've cost $360, had she bought it new. 

I did buy her several textbooks while she was in high school taking AP classes, and this is what she and I learned together:  Pay attention to the ISBN number.  Say it's 123456789.  Type into Google, "Buy 123456789" and it'll pop up all the sites that're selling it.  Do the same when you're ready to sell.  Prices vary widely:  I remember the first book we ever bought for her was something like $12 on one site, $108 on another.  It was an eye opener for me, but she was downright shocked. 

Chowder

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2013, 05:12:03 PM »
bigwords.com for paper texts (search by ISBN)

grantmeaname

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2013, 05:12:18 PM »
Seconded on textbookx, that's a great site. The campus library should also have course reserves - here at OSU, I can check nearly any book required for a course out for two hours at a time, read the chapter, copy down the homework problems, and return it. I avoided buying three books this semester in that way.

Consider buying a book that's one or two editions old if the professor allows it, the material's the same, and/or the homework assignments don't come from the book.

The absolute cheapest way to obtain your books:  Choose a college that includes textbook rental in the price of tuition.
Stay at hospitals to avoid paying for meals! You know it's not free just because you pay for it indirectly, right?

MrsPete

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #20 on: September 04, 2013, 07:42:41 PM »

The absolute cheapest way to obtain your books:  Choose a college that includes textbook rental in the price of tuition.
Stay at hospitals to avoid paying for meals! You know it's not free just because you pay for it indirectly, right?
[/quote]I am going to pay the tuition anyway.  The book rental fee is $105 of that cost.  The tuition is actually on the low end for our state schools.  If you can find fault with that, you're on your own with that rationalization 'cause it's a great system.  Total win for the student.

galliver

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #21 on: September 04, 2013, 09:46:02 PM »
...since the cost of attendance at that schools is approximately 3.5Xs the cost of the state schools, this is a questionable way to avoid buying books. 

Just want to point out: when it comes to colleges, "the cost is 3.5x more" is pretty meaningless without context, because typically this refers to the "sticker price." You could, of course, be talking about the average price students end up paying (out of pocket/loans), in which case I apologize for the assumption, but it's still not true for every student. "Way" back when I was looking at colleges (2005-6) I definitely saw private institutions offering much more by way of scholarships than public. So that more-expensive private university? Might be worth comparing to those state schools.

Sorry for off-topic.

Joel

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #22 on: September 05, 2013, 12:09:23 AM »
Buy low (end of semester)
Sell high (beginning of semester)

Personally, I used amazon and got away with spending less than $500 on books for my bachelors and MBA. Buying international versions can save significant money for those books that homework questions will not be assigned out of.

rebel100

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #23 on: September 05, 2013, 12:21:35 AM »
Amazon and Abe Books, especially if an edition or two ago will do.

ebay, looking around for international versions of new text, especially science books.  Less than 1/3 the cost of a hardback US version.

My MBA book costs are included and the tuition is still among the lowest in the country.  http://www.wgu.edu/business/master_business_administration_degree_details#tuition 

Textbooks are a predatory profit center for the school...I take great pleasure in finding my texts elsewhere.

grantmeaname

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #24 on: September 05, 2013, 06:51:38 AM »
I am going to pay the tuition anyway.  The book rental fee is $105 of that cost.  The tuition is actually on the low end for our state schools.  If you can find fault with that, you're on your own with that rationalization 'cause it's a great system.  Total win for the student.
The fact that tuition is on the low end doesn't mean that the school gets the books for free from the publisher, or that tuition wouldn't be lower without the school providing the books. That rental fee is more than I usually pay for books in a semester by comparison shopping, and you don't get to keep them as references after the course is done, and you don't get to sell them later. So it's pretty far from a total win for the student.

Hillcrester14

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #25 on: September 05, 2013, 02:52:25 PM »
The library is perhaps the most under-used resource on college campuses. If you are in any humanities course that requires a lot of non-fiction or fiction works, your library most likely has them on the shelves or perhaps even on reserve, guaranteeing you access. If they don't, they likely will have an Inter-Library Loan system. You can likely use this as a student for free.

With a bit of planning, I have used ILL for the last three semester and haven't paid a dime for books.

MrsPete

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #26 on: September 05, 2013, 03:05:57 PM »
...since the cost of attendance at that schools is approximately 3.5Xs the cost of the state schools, this is a questionable way to avoid buying books. 

Just want to point out: when it comes to colleges, "the cost is 3.5x more" is pretty meaningless without context, because typically this refers to the "sticker price." You could, of course, be talking about the average price students end up paying (out of pocket/loans), in which case I apologize for the assumption, but it's still not true for every student. "Way" back when I was looking at colleges (2005-6) I definitely saw private institutions offering much more by way of scholarships than public. So that more-expensive private university? Might be worth comparing to those state schools.

Sorry for off-topic.
I've been teaching high school seniors for 21 years, and this is an urban legend that's true just often enough to keep it going.  The truth is that while private schools do give out more scholarships, that doesn't usually make them cheaper than the public school.  If you really want the private school and are a good student, a scholarship might bring you close enough to justify the price.  And most students -- public or private -- do not receive any scholarship money from their schools. 

General rule of thumb, the vast majority of the time, the school with the more expensive sticker price ends up having the most expensive final price. 

MrsPete

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #27 on: September 05, 2013, 04:18:34 PM »
I am going to pay the tuition anyway.  The book rental fee is $105 of that cost.  The tuition is actually on the low end for our state schools.  If you can find fault with that, you're on your own with that rationalization 'cause it's a great system.  Total win for the student.
The fact that tuition is on the low end doesn't mean that the school gets the books for free from the publisher, or that tuition wouldn't be lower without the school providing the books. That rental fee is more than I usually pay for books in a semester by comparison shopping, and you don't get to keep them as references after the course is done, and you don't get to sell them later. So it's pretty far from a total win for the student.
Well, I pointed out that it's on the low side of average for a state school in our area to prevent the question, "Yeah, but if books are included, isn't the tuition sky-high?"  And that IS true for one of the four schools I know who do this. 

I never suggested that the school isn't paying for the books -- just that they've figured the cost of books into tuition.  It makes great sense for the college to figure that an Intro to Psych book will be used perhaps 10 times and to use a rental system to help students prevent big bills. 

Given that my daughter's Chem book was $360, and her Anat-Phys book was over $200 -- plus she's taking other classes -- I'm finding it hard to believe that you'd find those same books for less than $105.  Yes, comparison shopping via internet is a great deal, and I do wish it'd been available when I was in school back in the 80s, but when books start that high, their owners don't sell them for $10 or $20.  And you're assuming that every book can be purchased used, then resold.  While those things are usually true, there's always going to be an exception.  As for saving books for reference, that was one of my husband's concerns, but once he looked at the money saved, he realized that it would be possible to buy the occasional book she'd want for reference and still come out ahead.   

grantmeaname

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #28 on: September 05, 2013, 04:26:32 PM »
Well, I pointed out that it's on the low side of average for a state school in our area to prevent the question, "Yeah, but if books are included, isn't the tuition sky-high?"
That's not at all what I said.

Quote
Given that my daughter's Chem book was $360, and her Anat-Phys book was over $200 -- plus she's taking other classes -- I'm finding it hard to believe that you'd find those same books for less than $105.  Yes, comparison shopping via internet is a great deal, and I do wish it'd been available when I was in school back in the 80s, but when books start that high, their owners don't sell them for $10 or $20.

Campbell Biology is very similar to your daughter's chem book - the big introductory courses tend to have the most expensive books in my experience. Here it is for $16, two generations old (one generation old, it's $34). The cool thing is that it's already a used book, so when you go to sell it it'll still be a used book.

Quote
And you're assuming that every book can be purchased used, then resold.  While those things are usually true, there's always going to be an exception.
No, I'm stating that many books can be resold. It's not like the whole thing falls apart if you don't sell every single book you can buy.

MrsPete

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Re: Cheapest, Best Way to Get College Books?
« Reply #29 on: September 06, 2013, 01:46:40 PM »
Well, I pointed out that it's on the low side of average for a state school in our area to prevent the question, "Yeah, but if books are included, isn't the tuition sky-high?"
That's not at all what I said.

Quote
Given that my daughter's Chem book was $360, and her Anat-Phys book was over $200 -- plus she's taking other classes -- I'm finding it hard to believe that you'd find those same books for less than $105.  Yes, comparison shopping via internet is a great deal, and I do wish it'd been available when I was in school back in the 80s, but when books start that high, their owners don't sell them for $10 or $20.

Campbell Biology is very similar to your daughter's chem book - the big introductory courses tend to have the most expensive books in my experience. Here it is for $16, two generations old (one generation old, it's $34). The cool thing is that it's already a used book, so when you go to sell it it'll still be a used book.

Quote
And you're assuming that every book can be purchased used, then resold.  While those things are usually true, there's always going to be an exception.
No, I'm stating that many books can be resold. It's not like the whole thing falls apart if you don't sell every single book you can buy.
Right, you did not say that because I anticipated the objection and clarified my answer. 
So instead, you questioned why I clarified. 

I honestly don't know if that's her book or not, but I personally would not go with an older edition.  Chemistry's a tough enough class without throwing any hurdles in your way.  My girl did well enough that her professor invited her to work as a Chem mentor /study session leader.  I wouldn't change a thing.     

Yes, I'm familiar with the concept of buying-used so you can then avoid depreciation before selling-used. 

When you're talking about managing a whole semester's books for less than $105, failing to sell one book could easily be the difference.  To make that happen on a semester-after-semester basis, ALL your ducks have to be in line, including being able to resell each and every book. 

Having your books provided by the bookstore, included in your tuition is a pretty sweet deal by just about everyone's standards.  Regardless, you're missing one of the key points:  Whether she uses these bookstore rental books or not, her tuition remains the same.  So the books are free to her.  If she were to chase after bargains and use elderly editions, she would not save a dime.