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A lot has changed since I was a student but the one thing that has not is that textbooks are expensive. Sure the format is different, but the cost for books and supplies are soaring.
Students today have many different options than we did including rentals. Deciding which is the most a) cost-efficient and b) the easiest way for your student to use it are important factors. Textbooks can cost as much as a few hundred dollars each. (Please note that some professors will insist on the newest edition of a textbook simply because it is how they make money; therefore last year’s edition may not be considered sufficient; regardless of the fact that the changes in its material may be minuscule and a used edition may be far cheaper.) Some students may appreciate being able to mark up and highlight a textbook, while others may be satisfied with an online edition. Some professors have packets that come in sealed plastic and can be rather costly as well. Sometimes new books are required, because of an online code that comes with the book. And, believe it or not, for some classes, my daughters were able to either not purchase the book at all or just purchase the online version. (some classes require a unique online code to be able to access the material).
When buying books, your student must consider whether they want an actual textbook or a digital version (which is often available). If they prefer a book, then I suggest buying used or renting whenever possible. Hopefully, one that hasn’t been marked up too much will be available. While textbook prices are soaring, so too are the options for buying, renting and selling.
Now some of you may encourage your student to be proactive and order their textbooks early, but hang on. I have heard too many times that books arrive and then on the first day of class, the professor announces he/she has changed books, wants the newest edition or that they really don’t need a book at all (the internet has enough information). Be sure they can return any books purchased ahead of time should this happen or wait to order it until they confirm what they need, (but don’t wait too long; when a book doesn’t arrive until halfway through the semester due to back order; it can be a problem.) And, remember, those textbook and class supplies are covered under The American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit (read our blog on education tax credits here).
Here are resources for buying or renting textbooks:
- UF Book Market
- UF Textbook Exchange Facebook group
- UF’s bookstore – will price match any textbooks found for a better price on bn.com, Amazon or from local competitors. There are exclusions so make sure your student is familiar with the restrictions. Students can order books online and pick them up right at the bookstore on campus. They can also be returned there at the end of the semester. There is also a bookstore right across from campus on University, but surprise…it is a UF bookstore as well, so same deal applies.
- renttext in Gainesville but that is closer to Santa Fe College.
- BarnesandNoble.com – You can pick from 60, 90, or 130 days for your rental and you can extend it if needed. You will see the shipping cost after adding the book to your shopping bag and returning your rental is free.
- Chegg.com- Chegg is popular with students for renting or buying books with free 2-day shipping over $35. And they have a 21-day risk free returns in case students drop or switch classes.
- Amazon Prime – Student can use their UF email to get six months of Amazon Prime for free (free shipping) and then for only $50 a year. And, yes, Amazon rents too. All rental returns are shipped for free and you will receive a notification reminding you when your book is due.
- VitalSource – For digital textbooks, you can highlight text, take notes and search for specific content online.
- Textbooks.com- Offers free shipping on $25 orders and 30-day returns. Guarantees 50% back at end of the semester if you purchase a guaranteed cash back book.
- Bookbyte – Search for your textbook and then review rental term options. You can rent the book for 30, 60, 90, or 150 days, priced accordingly. Bookbyte offers free shipping for receiving and returning the book for orders of $49 and up.
- eCampus – offers rentals for three different rental options: short-term (think summer session), quarter and semester. Make sure to sign up for their e-rewards program. free shipping for orders over $35 and they offer discounts just by texting them a code.
- Textbook Underground – Whether renting or buying, they offer a 21-day guarantee so if you drop a class, you can return for a full refund. Rental periods are customizable so if you need it just for a test, you can choose that too.
It is, as I said above, a matter of weighing the options. I personally think renting is the least expensive way to go. Students can save as much as 80% by renting a textbook for the semester. There has been a proliferation of other online and smartphone apps for buying and selling college textbooks.
Now, when it comes time to sell back any books that were purchased, consider the website Sellbackbooks.com.
It is somewhat like how CarMax works- simply put in the ISBN number and they will give you a quote on what they are paying. The quote is valid for 7 days.
Let the studying begin!