College textbooks have always carried a hefty price tag and it appears the astronomical costs show no signs of slowing down. According to Huffington Post, college textbook costs have increased faster than tuition, health care costs and housing prices, all of which have risen faster than inflation. That being said, how can we help our starving college students afford the books they need for class?
Fortunately, there are many more options today than there were when I was in college. In the 90s, we bought used books at the campus bookstore, shared textbooks with classmates and/or, if we were lucky, borrowed the one and only reference copy at the library. There was no Internet, email or e-readers.
Despite my best efforts, my books each semester cost nearly $700. That was a lot of hard earned work-study dollars spent for books I mostly sold back at the end of the semester for a mere fraction of what I had originally paid. Let's not forget the books I couldn't part with, that I had convinced myself that I would look at again as reference!
Nowadays, students have more cost effective options to fulfill their supply list. They can buy or rent digital textbooks. Opting for e-books have cost advantages and the advanced features of being able to access them anytime and take notes without any additional paper or pens to carry around. Digital textbooks may be a challenge for unplugged students and those who still prefer the touch and feel of paper.
If they opt to buy an actual textbook, there are several options to get it at a lower cost – buy a previous edition, shop online marketplaces that sell cheap textbooks, join book swap sites to trade their previous semester's books for the next class, or consider renting the book.
Even though the price for an e-book may seem the cheapest buy, remember that a digital textbook can't be resold, so factor resale value into the initial cost. Google has launched a digital textbook section in Google Play Books. Many textbooks are available for rental but most must be purchased outright. Amazon and Barnes & Noble also rent digital textbooks, but prices seem to vary for the same book.
Weighing your options will help your student to choose the right book for their class. How they study and take notes will determine if they are an e-book or paper book type of student. Most importantly, do your homework for the best deal.
Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom of two boys, a 5-year-old and nearly 2-year-old. She enjoys the challenge of buying stuff without going into debt.