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Cents and Sensibility: The Seemingly Never-Ending Expense of College Textbooks

Ah, spring semester. For some of you, classes already started. For others, like us lucky ducks down at Rider University, we began the second half of our year on Monday. That means, hopefully, that most of us bought our required books for our classes already. If you haven’t, don’t sweat it. There’s still time, and plenty of options to help you get the best deal out there. Every college student knows that books are not at all cheap and most of the time we’d really rather not pay for them. Unfortunately the college textbook tornado is unavoidable, so use your options to help weather the storm.

College Bookstore

Getting your books here has some ups and downs. The pros: you have the convenience of running into the store on campus to pick them up last minute, you know the book is the exact copy you need and most likely you can return it at the end of the semester. The cons: the majority of the time, the books aren’t the cheapest and you run the risk of being stuck with it once classes wrap if the book isn’t needed or has no value to the store.

Rentals

This is probably the easiest and most convenient way of getting books recently. Last year, Rider implemented a rental policy in its bookstore to allow students to rent certain books at a lower cost at the start of the semester, and return them by a certain date with no penalty. The only problem with renting books through your school is that not every book on the shelves has the option to be rented. If you want to take the rental road, check out www.chegg.com to see if your books are offered there and if the price is comparable to your bookstore or other outlets. Also, Chegg offers some cool benefits: the books are usually a decent price, you can highlight and take notes in them (reasonably), the return shipping is pre-paid and Chegg plants a tree for every book you rent!

E-Books

These books are probably the coolest ones on the market, regardless of the fact that it’s actually a college textbook that one may not care less about. The benefits truly outweigh the risks, since there aren’t any risks to be found with an e-book. Typically, and almost always, e-books cost half the price of a print book or more. They are instantly downloaded onto your computer and are accessible through a special program that comes from whatever company you buy the book from (try
www.cafescribe.com ). You are able to zoom, highlight, make notes, mark pages, view multiple pages at once, have a table of contents on hand at any given moment and mark passages to ask questions about later. Granted, many of these things can be done to a print book, but you can go crazy with highlighting and note taking in an e-book that usually warrants a damage fee or “unreturnable” response for a print book come May.

Amazon, Half.com and Other Online Sellers

In a last-ditch effort to get the book you are desperate for, try these sites or do a simple online search for the exact book name and edition. More often than not you will find it, though it may be more expensive than in other places. Taking the Amazon trail can be pleasantly surprising at times, where you can get a book for mere pennies, or at least $20 less than the suggested retail price (or that of your bookstore).

 
Buying textbooks doesn’t have to be the most dreaded part of your college career. Look around, do some searches and be sure of what you want and need for each class. Take your time and you’ll be sure to save a bundle of money.

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