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A lot has changed since I was a student, but one thing has not: Textbooks are expensive! Sure, the format differs, but the cost for books and supplies keeps soaring.
Students today have many more and different options than we did, including rentals. Plan to decide by weighing which is the easiest and which is the most cost-efficient way for your student to obtain a textbook. Textbooks cost as much as a few hundred dollars each. Some students (like mine) appreciate being able to mark up and highlight a textbook. Others are happier with an online edition. HaveUHeard that some professors require packets that come in sealed plastic? These, too, can be costly.
To buy or not to buy?
Sometimes new books are necessary due to an online code that comes as an accessory to the book. Also, note that some professors will insist on using the newest edition of a textbook simply because it is how they make money. Therefore, last year’s edition may not be considered sufficient, even if the changes in its material may be minimal. In this instance, sometimes a couple of students can share both new and used editions as well as their pooled costs. Just be sure your student makes a choice that doesn’t adversely affect how they are graded.
Believe it or not, there were a few times my daughters didn’t find it necessary to purchase the book at all (the textbook was just a small piece of the required materials) or they just purchased a less-costly online version. (Some classes do require a unique code to be able to access any required online material, whether separate from or in conjunction with the textbook).
So many options…
When buying books, have your students consider whether they want an actual textbook or a digital version (if available). If they prefer a book, I suggest buying used or renting whenever possible. Hopefully, they’ll find one that hasn’t been marked up too much. (Although, truth be told, sometimes another student’s notes are helpful!)
While textbook prices are growing, so are the options for buying, renting, and selling. And while some of you are inclined to encourage your students to be proactive and order their textbooks early — hang on! I have heard too many times about books that arrive in time for the first day of class when the professor announces that he or she has changed their textbook plans. In the interim between writing the course description and the onset of class, the prof may find a new edition or preferred textbook. They also occasionally decide that they really don’t need a book at all, due to the availability (often through the internet) of the information they want accessed.
Get it right…and affordably.
Be sure your student can return any books purchased ahead of time. You might even have them wait to order it until they confirm what they need. Just don’t wait too long, and have options. You don’t want your student to back herself into a corner when midterms arrive before the back-ordered textbook. And, remember, those textbooks 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’s Textbook Exchange Facebook group
- UF 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, and — surprise! — it is a UF bookstore as well, so the same deal applies. And, they do have a link to their UF Book Market, for when you need to sell your textbook. Students may receive 50% of their original purchase price and can also list them to sell to other students.
- BarnesandNoble.com — You can pick from 60, 90, or 130 days for your rental and 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 (or the professor has made that warned-about change)!
- Amazon Prime — Students can use their UF email to get six months of Amazon Prime (and its free shipping) for free. They can then keep Prime 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.
More textbook resources, perhaps less familiar:
- VitalSource — Use for digital textbooks. You can highlight text, take notes, and search for specific content online.
- Textbooks.com — Offering free shipping on $25 orders and 30-day returns. Guarantees 50% back at the end of the semester if you purchase a guaranteed cashback 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 — Offering three different rental options: short-term (think summer session), quarter, and semester. Be sure to sign up for their e-rewards program. They have free shipping for orders over $35 and offer discounts just by texting them a code.
- Textbook Underground — Whether renting or buying, they offer a 21-day guarantee. If you drop the class, you can return the text for a full refund within that time frame. Rental periods are customizable, so if you need it just to prep for a test, you can rent it for only the time you need it.
Weigh all your options.
I think renting is the least expensive way to go based on personal experience. Students can save as much as 80% by renting a textbook for the semester. And it’s right in line with their generational approach to life to take advantage of the proliferation of all the online and smartphone apps for buying and selling college textbooks.
When it comes time to sell back any books that were purchased, consider the website Sellbackbooks.com. It is somewhat like a CarMax sale — simply put in the ISBN number and they will give you a quote on what they are paying to purchase your used textbook. The quote is valid for 7 days.
Now, let the studying begin!