1. Use a textbook price comparison service. These services check the prices from the online textbook sellers. Typically you enter an ISBN or title or author and the site will report everybody that has that book available, the current price, and if the book is new or used. Some sites also report the pricing in digital download format, rental pricing and even pricing on international editions. These sites make it real simple to see who is the cheapest or compare different options like rental versions used.
2. Don't buy - rent textbook. There are now over a dozen sites renting textbooks. In addition many campus bookstores are also now renting textbooks. Renting is usually about half the price of purchasing a new textbook. Of course there is nothing to sell back at the end of the class. This means renting may be slightly more expensive than buying used and then reselling at the end of the semester. Even though there is no sell back option renting may provide a smaller initial price. Renting is also good when a new addition has just come out or is scheduled to come out which would devalue the price if you had purchased the textbook.
3. Use textbook coupons. Many of the booksellers offer discount coupons. This is especially true in August and September when they try to introduce their service to new students. Many times these coupons can be as high as 10% or 12% off the purchase or rental price.
4. Use an older edition. I would ask your professor before trying this strategy but because they had update their lesson plan with the new edition they are familiar with the changes and can let you know if the prior addition covers the material needed for the class. Prior additions are significantly cheaper than the current edition.
5. Use the buddy system. If you have a friend or roommate taking the same class consider buying one book and sharing it between the two of you.
6. Consider renting digital textbooks. Digital textbooks are relatively new and not all titles are available in digital format. You can find renting a digital version is sometimes cheaper than renting the paper version. It is also a good solution when you need your textbook fast. Generally you can download the textbook within minutes of making the purchase. Just like renting paper textbooks there nothing to sell back at the end of the quarter or semester. The book will just expire and not be accessible on your computer or tablet.
7. Buy an International Edition. International versions are designed to be sold overseas and usually have a paper cover, thinner pages and sometimes lack color printing. The actual content however is identical to the US version of the textbook. Normally an international textbook is considerably cheaper. It is important to know that the ISBN sometimes is not the same on a International Edition.
8. Check the library. Many schools keep copies of textbooks at the reference desk. Check with the librarian on the policy for the use of textbooks.
9. Use on campus book exchanges. Some campuses have on campus book exchanges or textbook swap meets. Check school bulletin boards, Fraternities, Sororities and even Craigslist for students selling books or book exchange clubs.
10. Get your books early. Textbooks like other commodities are subject to price changes to meet the supply and demand. Shopping early when the supply is highest can result in finding the cheapest prices. If you wait until school starts you will have less options than those options will be more expensive.
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