Textbooks. They’re vital for postsecondary learning, but expensive. This past June the University of Northwestern — St. Paul’s Dr. Tanya Grosz observed
Textbook prices have risen up to 6 times the rate of inflation. . . . And according to a 2016 study conducted with . . . 40 public colleges in Florida, the high cost of textbooks caused 66.5% of students not to take a certain course, 47.6% to take fewer courses, 37.6% to earn a poor grade, 26.1% to drop a course, and 19.8% to fail a course.
But textbook costs can be shrunk. Most colleges provide lists of required textbook titles and ISBN numbers at or before registration so you have time to save by:
• Shopping Around: A booklist for each class is usually available on-line. Get it, and then compare prices for electronic and physical books — new, used, rental — at various retailers. College bookstores often charge more than you’ll pay elsewhere.
• Going to the Library: Campus and local libraries often have textbooks you can check out. If not, contact your instructor and ask to have books required for you class placed in the campus library.
• Using E-Books: Textbooks may be available electronically — sometimes, but not always, for less than physical books — from online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Textbooks.com, etc. You can download them onto Kindles, laptops, mobile phones, or tablets and can do searches, highlight and copy text, insert bookmarks, and make your own notes in them. But remember – rented e-books eventually go away, so buy it if you need to keep it.
• Accessing Open Textbooks: These are digitally accessible texts written by experts, then edited by instructors if needed. Open textbooks are particularly useful for fields of study that require few updates (e.g. mathematics). Ask at your school’s library or maybe check out OpenStax College, a nonprofit based at Rice University, which publishes open textbooks that are free online and low cost in print.
• Getting Used Texts: You can buy or rent used physical books for less than new books. But check their condition. Watch out for broken spines, missing pages, and pages falling out, or books with too much that’s been marked up by others.
• Book-Sharing: Split textbook costs with classmates, and then share. But set clear sharing-schedules, and make sure classmates can be trusted to abide by them so you’ll get the books when planned.
• Book-Trading: Another cost-cutter trading books that are no longer needed for books need in a new term’s classes. Just double check to be sure you have the edition required by your instructor.
These strategies can help cut your expenses, which can help you borrow less for postsecondary education.
Contact College Affordability Solutions for a free consultation on other ways to cut college-related expenses.