Textbook prices tend to rise at four times the rate of inflation for an average of $900 per year. It doesn't take a college education to figure out there are alternatives to traditional outlets, but incoming freshmen don't always know the ropes. Here are 11 ways to save this fall -- none of which include shopping at the college bookstore.
1. Wait Until After You've Seen the Syllabus
Professors must submit their textbook lists far in advance of the next semester, which means they may never require you even open the book. Talk with your professor in the first few days to determine whether it's worth shelling out cash for something that may become a paperweight.
Chegg.com, the Netflix of textbooks, started a trend several years ago by allowing students to rent their books. You'll pay roughly half the purchase price and shipping is often free. Other similar dealers include BookRenter.com and CampusBookRentals.com.
3. Watch Daily Deals
The aforementioned Chegg announced in late May they'd begin offering daily deals targeted at college students. Scheduled to start in July, the program will begin with offerings from HP, Capital One, MTV, Microsoft and Dr. Pepper. Also keep an eye out for offers tailored to students by location -- possibly even your local bookstore.
4. Buy Used Textbooks
Used textbook companies have proliferated and even traditional booksellers now both buy and sell used textbooks. The selection has greatly increased and the prices are far superior to exorbitant college bookstores. Check out Half.com, Textbooks.com and eCampus.com.
Few classes require students read every page of a textbook, so why not download the necessary portion from such websites as CourseSmart.com and Open Courseware from MIT? Project Gutenbergalso has scanned in hundreds of free-domain books for use on e-readers.
6. Don't Purchase the Whole Package
Federal regulations no longer allow publishers to combine textbooks with add-ons, such as CD-ROMs and workbooks. Check with your professor or teaching assistant before you buy the whole bundle.
7. Buy Online
If you want to physically own a new book, buying online often means free shipping and reduced prices. Grab a coupon code from CouponSherpa.com and shop online at new textbook sellers like Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and AbeBooks.com.
8. International Or Older Versions
Non-traditional editions are usually significantly cheaper. There may be some slight changes, but many of these tend to be cosmetic or minor and won't greatly impact use.
If you carpool, you know the advantage of splitting the cost of high-ticket expenses. Sharing is easier if you're in the same study group and/or see each other frequently.
Some schools now hold swap meets, where students can trade their old textbooks for the ones they'll need next year.
11. Compare Prices
You wouldn't buy a Porsche without shopping around, so do the same with textbooks. Websites such as CampusBooks.com, BigWords.com and AllBookstores.com make the process much easier.