If you just felt the sting of forking over more money than you’d like for college textbooks, you are not alone. The cost of textbooks has risen over 150% over the last 10-15 years, outpacing the rising cost of medical care and new homes. The textbook industry is in a period of transformation and there are many groups and companies that are working to find their place in the changing environment. These changes can mean some serious savings for you, if you know where to look.
Here are 5 tips that will help you cut your textbook costs:
The Early Bird
Starting to shop for books the moment they are assigned can make a huge difference in the price. Since the companies selling the book are trying to cut costs any way they can longer shipping times can reduce the cost to you. Part of the change in the textbook industry is the emergence of online marketplaces. Amazon is by far the largest but there are many others including Half.com, Barnes and Noble, and many more. These marketplaces act like a stock market of sorts for textbooks. Many even have highly automated pricing tools that change the price multiple times per day to remain competitive. Looking at how these prices change it is easy to see that, as a rule, prices rise as the next semester approaches and then drop steadily until the end of the semester. It turns out to be a classic example of supply and demand but can mean lower costs for you.
Let the Machines Do the Work
Shop Around: Use sites like http://www.bookfinder.com to scan a huge array of online marketplaces to find the best price. These price comparison tools allow you to enter the book you are looking for and see as many as 25 different web sites that are selling that book. Be sure to read the comments about each book as some sellers may list international or “economy” editions that are slightly different then the US version of the book. Also, pay attention to where the seller is located to get some indication of how long it will take the book to arrive.
Consider sites like http://www.textbooks.com and http://www.chegg.com for book rental options, as well as many college bookstores. The upside is a lower cost but the downside is the book has to be returned in good condition. There are sometimes cases when you can buy the book cheaper than you can rent it so be sure to do your homework.
Use social media to ask friends on facebook, Twitter and other sites if anyone has the book you need. It might be available a lot sooner and could be a win-win for you and your friend. Web sites like http://www.texts.com allow students to post their books for other students on the same campus to see.
Buy Low, Sell High
If you are willing to sell your books after you are done with them, consider holding textbooks until about 4 weeks prior to the start of the next semester when book prices will rise as demand increases. You can sell your book to Amazon for a gift card or use a site like http://www.bookscouter.com to find the highest price you can get for your book. There are occasions where it is possible to make money if you buy your book early and wait to sell your book at the beginning of the next semester.
Author: Chris Myers is CEO of Far Corner, Inc. a diversified holding company focusing on providing e commerce based solutions. Based in Columbia MD, the 25 year old company is one of the largest booksellers on Amazon and other marketplaces. Serving over 1.5 million customers a year, its five divisions have developed solutions in etailing, wholesale, logistics, transportation and technology that are used by businesses globally.