Those who spent any time in a school bookstore know just how expensive purchasing textbooks can be. Even getting them used can put a major dent in your wallet. Of course, you can’t successfully complete a class without the appropriate textbooks. So what can you do to ease the financial burden of these necessary books?

Why Do College Textbooks Cost So Much?

If you had a dollar for every time this question was asked by a student each semester, it would more than pay for your textbooks. Unfortunately, that type of reimbursement won’t be coming anytime soon.

As if the general expenses of college weren’t enough, buying textbooks each semester could easily set you back a thousand dollars–if not more. Sadly, you only use these books for a few months. When you try to sell them back, you get much less than what you paid. It almost seems like you need to take out another student loan just to afford these books.

So why does a textbook cost $100 or more? There are several reasons. For those studying literature and other creative arts, authors of anthologies often have to pay copyright fees for every contributor to the book. A textbook with short stories may involve several of copyright fees. These expenses are passed on to you.

In addition, many college textbooks offer highly specialized material published in small numbers. Since there is little competition when these books are created, publishers can jack up the price to make a profit. 

Ever try to buy an affordable used textbook only to find it was the wrong edition? College subjects constantly evolve, especially in subjects affected by current technological advances. Every college wants a student to have the most recent information so they could successfully thrive in their chosen career. As a result, new editions of a textbooks pop up frequently. This updated information comes with a cost to the students. 

Of course, textbook publishers want to make a profit. They don’t make any money when a textbook is purchased used. This is another reason why new editions are published every few years.

Sometimes professors are to blame. In many cases, individual faculty members have complete control over what books are used for a particular course. Sometimes they have ulterior motives. If they contributed to or authored a book on a particular subject, they may assign certain books helping boost their royalties.

Also, since online learning has become an integral part of the college experience, many textbooks offer online companions where students can access additional information. This service is often added to the price of the book. 

Save Money on College Textbooks

Let’s face it: those attending college already have significant expenses. Saving a little money purchasing college textbooks can be the difference between everyday ramen noodle dinners and the occasional splurge on a pizza party. So what can you do to keep a little extra money in your struggling checking account?

Buy Used Early

If you’re a procrastinator, this may be an excellent opportunity to break the habit. As soon as you choose your courses for the next semester, visit the bookstore. Used books can save you around 25%. Want an added bonus? Those used books may have valuable highlighted text or notes written in the margins that may help with your studying. And sometimes, depending on the subject, you can squeeze by with an earlier edition of a book.

Be warned: Used books usually go fast. If you wait until the last minute, you may be denying yourself the opportunity to save hundreds of dollars.

Find an Electronic Edition

Times have changed. You may be able to have every required textbook downloaded onto your computer or tablet. This saves you the hassle of lugging heavy books around and puts all of your learning materials in one place. In addition, e-books may be more affordable due to less overhead costs.

Connect with Fellow Students

Know a few people a year or two ahead of you in your chosen major? See if you could buy textbooks off them. They would probably be more than willing to sell you the book around the same price (or even lower if they like you) as bookstores low buy-back prices.

Search for Textbooks Online

Your school bookstore makes buying books easy. You can find the exact book for your particular class. Of course, if you do a little extra work, you may be able to find the same textbook and edition lower online. In some cases, you may save up to 20%.

Use the Library

It’s no surprise the library has a wealth of books. While it may not have your Intro to Thermodynamics textbook available, those studying literature or other creative arts may save hundreds borrowing books that are required reading. Of course, if many people are enrolled in your class, you need to act fast. Try to get the book as an interlibrary loan or through your local library.

Rent Books

Yes, you can rent books. You can even do it online. Amazon or offers book rentals which may save you up to 30% compared to purchasing the book. Just make sure you take good care of the books. Just like an security lease on an apartment, you may have to pay extra for any damage noticed while you rent the books 

Share Textbooks with Classmates

Although you may not be able to share a book with the same person from your class, a little shrewd planning can help you split the cost of a textbook. Finding someone that has the same class and instructor but a different class time. If you could work out a schedule for sharing the book, you might be saving yourself a good chunk of money.

Textbooks are a necessary evil when attending college or other higher education institutions. While you may not be able to save money on every book, using a few of these strategies can make the cost of textbooks a little more bearable. Do your research. Start planning early. With a little effort and some luck, you may not have to eat ramen noodles every night this upcoming semester.