4 Ways to Save Money on Textbooks

If you’re returning to college or taking your first set of classes, you may get sticker shock when it comes time to purchase your textbooks.

According to College Board, students attending a four-year university spend an average of $1,298 on books and supplies. Considering the average cost of an undergraduate degree at public four-year universities in 2015-2016 is $9,410, this is overwhelming for many students.

What’s more disconcerting is that prices haven’t always been so shockingly high. The cost of textbooks escalated 1041% from 1977 to 2015. More recently, costs have soared by 73 percent since 2006, over four times the rate of inflation, according to Student Public Interest Research Groups.

Why are textbook prices continuing to go up? Part of the reason is that textbook publishing is a billion dollar industry with five or more publishers controlling 80 percent of the market. It also costs a lot of money to create a book, with an average textbook costing around $750,000.

With prices escalating, more and more students are illegally downloading their textbooks to save money. But there are plenty of legal ways to find free or reasonably priced textbooks. Here are four strategies to help you save money:

Use Open-Source Books
A textbook that is open-source means that it is openly licensed and available online free to the public. Colorado State University offers a few open-source books on writing. There are also many sites to access a wide variety of textbooks, such as open.unm.edu and collegeopentextbooks.org.

Check Local and Online Libraries
Your local or school library can be a great place to find hard copies of textbooks to check out, but you can also access thousands of books from your computer. Free online libraries such as Project Gutenberg and Bookshare are great sources to access information and research materials.

Rent Textbooks
Sites like Chegg give options to rent either a physical copy or an e-text version of a book.  Sometimes, renting can cost only around $20. If you don’t want to keep your books after your class ends, renting a textbook is a good option.

Sell Your Old Books
Don’t want your old textbooks anymore? Selling is an option that can help you get some money for a new book. You can sell your books on Amazon, half.com, and Chegg. While you will most likely get less back than you paid for it, it’s a good way to fund books you’ll need in the future.

What are your strategies for saving money on textbooks? Let us know in the comments below.

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