College is expensive. No one is going to argue the amount of money that a student needs to pay, either out of their own pocket or through some other resource, in order to get a higher education. When asked what the most frustrating college expense is, however, their answer could more than likely be, “Paying for textbooks.”
According to NBC’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, “textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015, a 1,041 percent increase.” While this may support the notion that textbook prices are wildly inflated, the numbers may also be misleading. NBC’s numbers don’t count the many alternatives to buying new. According to research done by the independent research firm Student Monitor, “student spending for a textbook has increased by just 13%” as compared to spending 10 years ago. This is notable because thirteen percent is a relatively small increase over 10 years, and it illustrates that increases in spending for textbooks have started to level-off. This downturn in price increases can be primarily attributed to the rise of cheaper alternatives like digital materials and textbook renting.
Before heading directly to the college bookstore, take some time to compare prices online or find alternative methods to getting textbooks. Amazon is always a good place to start for new and used books.
For students willing to put in the research, there are also many websites available that exist just to compare textbook prices like Textsurf, BIGWORDS, BookFinder and SlugBooks. For the top results, it’s best to use multiple comparison tools as some might have access to resources that the others do not.
It is important to remember that electronic and digital textbooks are an option too, and many professors do not distinguish between physical or digital versions. “E-textbooks” are often cheaper than physical versions, and have the added benefit of being available on most electronic devices like laptops, tablets or even smartphones. For e-textbooks there’s Chegg, VitalSource and the ever-reliable textbooks.com.
One last resource, and the toughest one to use if available, is an “Open Educational Resource.” According to Time, an OER is a textbook “written with the understanding that they’ll be free to read online and affordable to print into a hard copy,” in an effort to reduce the price burden on students. The only problem is availability, as only some colleges or professors assign such open textbooks. But these textbooks can still be found regardless at sites like openstax and OER Commons.
For both new and returning students, saving money at every possible opportunity is important. So they need to use every resource available to find books at reduced prices, or for free. Hopefully, the internet and a little searching can help.