How College Students Save Money on Textbooks

save money on textbooksThe huge expense of college is not limited to tuition, room and board. Buying textbooks can add thousands of dollars to the sky-high price tag of attending a university. In addition, many students have to pay extra for access to an online grading system, even when they attend class on campus. So they try to save money on textbooks in any way they can.

As a result, students are getting smarter about how they shop, finding lower cost means of getting the books they need. There are alternatives out there now for students that can save hundreds of dollars on textbooks. For example, open-source textbooks can play a key role in bringing down the high cost of a college education.

According to a recent survey, Amazon is the primary purchase channel for college students to save money on textbooks, beating out other websites as well as the brick-and-mortar college bookstore. The latest Textbook Cost & Purchasing Study from learning materials publisher FlatWorld surveyed 368 students from two- and four-year institutions across the United States.

58 percent of survey respondents said they bought at least one textbook on Amazon, compared to 51 percent who shopped in person at their school bookstore. 30 percent shopped online through another website, and 17 percent shopped on a publisher’s website. In particular, students reported that textbook costs at the school bookstore are higher than other places. “School Bookstore typically charges 3x as much as ordering from Amazon or another site,” noted one respondent.

Students reported taking a variety of cost-saving measures for their textbooks:

  • 49 percent said they bought all of their textbooks used;
  • 47 percent reported buying an older edition of an assigned textbook; and
  • 40 percent opted not to buy at least one assigned textbook because it was too expensive.

Students still seem to prefer print textbooks over digital: 72 percent reported purchasing more than one of their textbooks in print format, while only 40 percent purchased more than one digital textbook. And 30 percent did not buy any digital textbooks.

“Many textbook publishers claim that digital-only distribution is the key to bringing textbook costs down. But our study’s findings paint a picture of students either turning to used print books instead of purchasing digital copies, or not buying their assigned books at all,” said Alastair Adam, CEO of FlatWorld.

“When you see just how many students are deciding against buying their assigned readings, as well as how many students are forced to pay extra to complete assigned homework, it’s clear that textbook publishers are still falling short when it comes to affordability,” Adam commented.

Money-Saving Textbook Tips

Here are a few things to keep in mind when attempting to save money on textbooks, so you won’t actually waste money.

  • Always double-check the ISBN number to make sure you’re looking at the exact same book, as there are often many different editions.
  • Students may be eligible for a tax exemption on textbooks in some states. Learn more about tax exemptions.
  • Renting textbooks costs less upfront than purchasing the book, and could make sense if you won’t need the books after the course is over. But if you lose or damage the book, you will have to pay additional fees when it comes time to return it – and that might be more costly than purchasing the book.
  • At the Amazon Textbooks Store, you can score college textbooks for up to 90% off their regular retail price. Amazon offers a variety of new, used, rental, and eTextbooks for any subject from biology, chemistry, and nursing to accounting, arts, and engineering. And with Prime Student, you’ll even get free 2-day shipping right to your door. As a bonus, Amazon will let you trade in any textbook and get up to 80% of its value in an Amazon Gift Card, regardless of whether you bought it there or not. Save both time and money by shopping at!

How have you handled the high cost of textbooks? Let us know in the comment section below.

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