A lot has changed since I was a student at UF 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. From January 2006 to July 2016, the Consumer Price Index for college textbooks increased 88 percent.
But 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. My daughter and son often asked their sorority sisters/fraternity brothers first. As a matter of fact, my daughter’s sorority had a study room that had a bunch of old books that sisters would leave. (You most probably won’t find this – or a study room – in a frat house.) Students would much rather sell their books to a friend then back to the bookstore; they make more money back that way. You may want to mention to your students that as they meet people and look for the low-down on classes before registering for each semester; they should take note of who already took the class. Asking someone to save a book (fancy calculator, i-clicker, etc.) for them can guarantee a used book when they need it later. Students can also buy or sell their textbooks through the UF Book Market or join the Facebook group called UF Textbook Exchange Facebook group.
The most obvious place to buy or rent books is the campus bookstore. UF’s bookstore will actually 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 (it was an independent bookstore but they consolidated with the University of Florida’s on-campus bookstore in 2016). They can also check out renttext in Gainesville but that is closer to Santa Fe College.
Another option for buying, selling or renting books is BarnesandNoble.com, Chegg.com or U-Loop. Then there is Prime Student Amazon; of which I am a huge fan. Students 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. 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 textbook including slugbooks, textbookrush, booksmart, Bookbyte and packback .
So 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).
Let the studying begin!