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6 Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks

From Rentals to Book Shares

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6 Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks
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You may have gotten used to the number of zeros on the college tuition bill, but college textbook bills, which can run $1,100 a year at Emory University, for example, always take parents by surprise. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are six ways to shave some bucks off your child's textbook bill.
  1. Rent Books: For the last several years, textbook rental companies such as Chegg.com and Book Renter offer a cool deal. Order the books you need online. At quarter's end, simply mail them back in a prepaid package, Netflix-style. A McGraw Hill college level biology book that lists for $157 retail could be rented from Chegg and BookRenter for $39-$54 a quarter. But now campus bookstores are getting in on the action too, with many offering semester-long rentals. Remind your child to check.

  2. E-books: There's an increasing push toward electronic books, which cost less and certainly weigh less. The upside? Instant download and greater totability. The downside? You can't sell them back at the end of the semester and you can't exactly loan them out without handing over your Kindle or iPad.

  3. Buy Used: Campus bookstores carry used textbooks as well as new ones, but the real deals are found online via Bookfinder.com, eBay's Half.com, Campus Books, eCampus, BigWords and similar companies. Used copies of that $157 biology book ranged from $59 to $122, plus shipping. (Hint: it's vastly easier to find the right book if you have the ISBN, the publisher's identifier number. Otherwise, you'll need the title, author, publisher and edition number.)

  4. Borrow the Book: If your child gets to the campus library quickly enough, he may be able to check out free textbooks. Other good sources for borrowed textbooks include roommates, dorm buddies and Facebook friends who took the same course last year.

  5. Share the Book: Have your child share a copy of the book with his roommate, girlfriend or trusted members of his study group. Upside? The cost is halved. Downside? Less reliable access to the book.

  6. Recycle an Older Edition: Professors typically list the most recent edition of a book on the syllabus, but unless the book's subject covers cutting-edge, soon-rendered obsolete material, it's fine to use an older edition of the book. Upside? You'll find better deals on older books. Downside? Pages 120-123 are now on pages 124-127, and doing specific problems on a specific page may be problematic. Your child may need to doublecheck assignments with a classmate who has the current edition.
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