Textbooks: a hidden cost of college -- Page 2
With a little more creativity, you can save more on textbooks, but
don't expect to save like you would on other purchases. "In
most cases, you're not going to find textbooks that you can use
marked down by 80 percent," says Tanabe.
Pillar recommends meeting students in your major through
campus clubs and organizations and buying books through those acquaintances
"I was a public relations major and I met a lot
of other people in my major through the Public Relations Student
Society," she says.
Look on campus bulletin boards and see if anyone wants
to sell the books that you'll need this semester. Students who are
truly strapped can buy books with friends in the same class and
work out a system to share them, Tanabe says. This won't work if
you both procrastinate and want to study at the last minute, though.
Many colleges reserve copies of textbooks at the library
for all students to access. The only catch, Pillar says, is that
if someone else has the book out the night before the test, you
may be out of luck.
"For English majors and others who use the classics
-- including foreign language majors -- many of the classics like
Shakespeare's plays are available for free online at sites like
Gutenberg, which has thousands of free e-book titles available
for downloading," says Tanabe.
Consider buying an older, used edition of a particular
textbook, especially if a new edition has just been released. Publishers
frequently bring out new editions of a book, but in many cases the
material in the book isn't substantially different from an older
edition. Before you plunk down your cash for an older edition, compare
it to the new edition to make sure there aren't major changes.
Some colleges place a book recycling bin outside their
bookstores for students to place their old books that don't have
much resale value. If your college has one, check it frequently
for any copies of books you may need.
Some textbook publishers are offering online versions of textbooks
that students can subscribe to for a semester or more without having
to buy the hard copy of the book.
One textbook company that is experimenting with online
versions of some of its titles is Pearson Education, which operates
online as SafariX
Textbooks Online. In addition, several widely used economics
textbooks are available online at Aplia.
Ask your professor if there is an online version of your textbook
that's an acceptable alternative to the hard copy.
Before buying an online textbook, Tanabe recommends
that you compare the actual price of the online book with prices
of new and used hard copies to ensure that the savings for an online
book is substantial to offset the disadvantages particular to online
To read an online textbook book you have to go online.
What if the power goes out? Also, you can only access your book
in areas where there is Internet access.
While you can certainly print out copies of certain
pages or chapters, the costs involved may negate or even exceed
any savings you get by purchasing an online instead of a hard copy
edition. Also, once the semester is up, you lose access to any revenue
you could have gained from selling it, although you may not realize
much profit from selling
Over a four-year college career, books can add $4,000 or more to
your college tab. "This is an expense that many people don't
expect," Tanabe says. "You know about the tuition and
the dorm room, but the high cost of textbooks is hard for many people
If you've saved for college with a college savings
plan such as a Coverdell Savings Account or Section 529 Savings
Plan, you may be able to use some of your savings to pay for textbooks.
Coverdell money can be used in nearly all cases, but it depends
on the particular Section 529 plan that you're in, as some only
cover tuition costs.
If you have money left over after paying tuition,
by all means use some to pay for textbooks. Some colleges and alumni
associations offer small scholarships to help needy students with
textbooks. While these grants may only be $100 or so, every little