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COLLEGE BOOKS

TEXTBOOK ANSWERS

How can you save money on textbooks and get the best quality and price?

Buy used: Used textbooks, available at college bookstores and online, such as at Alibris, can reduce textbook costs without sacrificing quality. Make sure the used textbook reflects the course content—the one assigned or a recent edition is best. Some teachers also allow previous editions of the textbook they are using.

Buy online and buy early: Books may be coming from an individual seller (such as through Alibris), so order early to get low-priced used textbooks on time. When buying online, look for details about the condition and edition to get the best book at the best price, and pay attention to shipping discount offers.

What do I do while I'm waiting for my textbooks?

If you ordered your textbooks later than expected, there are several ways to bridge the gap until your shipment arrives.

  • Borrow from friends and classmates.
  • Use a textbook rental program that allows you to borrow a textbook for a fee on a short-term basis and gives you the option to buy later.
  • Ask your professor to put a copy of the textbook on reserve in the library, which will allow you to check out the book from a few hours to a few days.
  • Ask if your professor can make electronic copies of assigned textbooks available through the university library's Web site.
  • Check with your university library for previous editions of the textbook or related books on the same topic. Or request an interlibrary loan, in which your university library will ask another university library to lend them a book for a limited time period.

Why are college textbooks so expensive?

According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), college textbooks cost students approximately $900 per year, or about 20% of tuition at an average university. Textbook price increases outpace inflation, with government-sponsored studies finding that textbook prices have been increasing 6% year over year since 1987, compared to 3% increases of average prices.

Government studies attribute rapid price increases to a market driven by supply rather than demand: Professors select textbooks from publishers, bookstores order them, and students must pay. Students can't control or influence the price, format, or quality of the product, and are subject to whatever price is set by the textbook publishing companies.

Several governmental organizations have suggested that short-term and long-term approaches to remedying the high cost of university education must include additional options for making textbooks more affordable for students, with a focus on transforming the existing supplier-focused market into a demand-driven, college- and student-centric market.


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