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College textbooks are expensive. You may spend $500 to $800 each semester (that’s an additional 3 to 7 percent of your annual school costs), and the bookstore wants its money now! What to do? Some students get to campus before the semester begins to be first in line at the bookstore and grab used books at 70 to 80 percent of the original cost. But if getting to the school bookstore early isn’t an option for you (or if the person in front of you takes the last used book), it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a used copy somewhere. It just means that it isn’t in your bookstore. Write down the price of the book and look at any online booksellers, including eBay, to see if you can find it cheaper. Remember to consider the actual cost of the book, the shipping and handling costs and the length of time it will take to have it in your hands. One of the drawbacks with online buying is that you need either a credit card or a debit card. Also, you are taking a chance that the book not will arrive in time for your class. In general, one of the cheapest ways to get books is from your classmates through campuswide e-mail, word of mouth or flyers on campus. Expect to pay 50 to 70 percent of the original cost this way. If you don’t need a book right away, keep checking, because there are always students who drop a course and have books to unload. Some large universities have several bookstores, usually with competitive prices, and there are often off-campus bookstores within walking distance that cater to students and sell used textbooks. Still no luck? Don’t give up yet! Contact the professor. Sometimes the book is not required but rather recommended or optional. Maybe the professor has assigned only a couple of chapters from the book. In any case, you may be able to check it out of the library or skim a classmate’s copy. Sometimes professors put reserve copies in the library. It’s not the same as having the book within reach at all times, but it will save you a lot of money. If you are really in a financial bind, talk to the professor, who may be happy to offer you a loaner book to read over the weekend. Remember that you can get back some of the cost later by selling the books. With this in mind, take good care of them. If you plan to sell your books back to the bookstore at the end of the semester, keep receipts (even though most bookstores go by barcodes); don’t write in the books; keep them away from food, animals and bad weather; and rush them back to the bookstore by the sell-back deadline. You can expect to get back 10 to 20 percent of the book’s original cost. If the book isn’t being used the next semester, however, you’re out of luck. As you can see, the rate you get from the bookstore isn’t great. So again, some of the best sellback methods are campuswide e-mail and selling them to friends. Students begin buying books as soon as they get their lists for the next semester. You can expect to sell for at least 50 percent of the original price. In addition, almost all the online booksellers buy books, and you can get a quote quickly. You will have to ship the books, but at least get an estimate, including shipping costs. CHECKLIST
The costs associated with buying books are a fact of college life. But there are plenty of alternatives to annually spending $1000 to $1600 in one-stop shopping at the campus bookstore each year, but you will have to do a little research. Buying books:

  • Check the campus intranet and bulletin boards. If you don’t see what you need, advertise.
  • Buy used textbooks at the college bookstore.
  • Know the bookstore price of your books and look at online booksellers. Amazon and Barnes & Noble both sell used books, but through a third party. Determine the shipping and handling costs and expected date of arrival before you place your order.
  • Look at bookstores that are off campus.
  • Contact the professor to see if all the books on your book list are really required.
  • Ask classmates to share or borrow books.
  • See if the professor has put any books on reserve in the library. If not, request that it be done.
  • Ask the professor to borrow the loaner copy.

Selling books

  • Advertise on the campus intranet.
  • Get quotes from the online bookstores, but add in your cost of packaging and shipping before making a decision.
  • Sell books back to the college bookstore.
  • Sell books to bookstores that are off campus.

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