Purchasing your textbooks from the college bookstore is certainly convenient, but it's not often the most cost-effective option. If you're on a tight budget, you may be able to save money by ordering your textbooks online.
Options for Ordering College Textbooks
Popular websites for ordering college textbooks include the following:
- Amazon offers a myriad of products for college students, including textbooks. As with all other orders, shipping on the site is free on qualifying purchases of $25 or more.
- Barnes & Noble doesn't carry textbooks in their retail stores, but they do have a large selection of books available online.
- Buy.com has many of the most popular textbooks used in colleges across the United States.
- Half.com offers both new and used books.
- ECampus lets you buy or rent college textbooks. They also offer e-books for many titles.
- Textbooks.com lets you buy, rent, or download textbooks. You can also earn money by referring your friends to the site.
Your college or university may also offer the option of ordering books online, although online prices are likely to be identical or very close to what you'd pay when visiting the bookstore in person.
Tips for Ordering Textbooks Online
Ordering textbooks online is designed to be as simple as possible, but you'll still want to double-check your order to make sure you've purchased the edition your professor has specified. Textbooks often have new editions released each year, and listings that don't include photos or detailed descriptions can be difficult to navigate. The page numbers and content will be slightly different from edition to edition, but covers can be almost identical.
It's also important to review shipping fees before you buy. Although many retailers offer free shipping, some do not. Textbooks are heavy, so shipping fees can add up quickly if you are ordering several books.
Finally, allow as much time as possible for your order to ship. The shipping times given during checkout are only an estimate, and your order could be delayed due to factors beyond your control. You don't want to fall behind on homework or miss out on study sessions because your books did not arrive on time.
How Much Can I Save?
Although expenses will vary based upon your exact course load, college students can typically expect to spend between $1,000 and $1,500 per year on books and supplies. The University of Iowa used a figure of $1,090 per year for books and supplies when calculating the 2011-2012 cost of attendance. For the same time period, Texas A&M University estimated students would spend $1,350 per year on books and supplies.
The cost of a single textbook is often between $50 and $200. Books for highly technical subjects, such as those relating to math or science, tend to be the most expensive. Books that come with supplemental materials, such as DVDs or access to a special learning website, tend to be more expensive than books without the extras.
When you order cheap textbooks online, many books are discounted at least 20 to 30 percent off the publisher's listed price. Prices do vary, however, so it's helpful to compare the cost of your books at several different sites before placing your order. To save the most money, you may need to order your college textbooks from several different websites. Big Words provides a price comparison search engine that you can use to find the best deal on a particular title.
If you can snag deals on all your books, you may save several hundred dollars or more. Keep in mind that you can also recoup some of your initial expenses by selling your books at the end of the semester, either back to the site from which you purchased them, to another bookstore, or directly to students who are taking your finished classes.