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Ways To Reduce College Textbook Expenses

Jeffrey Strain -- Paying full price for textbooks is like walking into a car dealership and paying the sticker price listed on the car. Sure, you can do it, but you are paying a lot more than you would be paying if you had done just a little bit of work.

Here are a number of ways that you can reduce the costs of college text books:

Use the Library

The best way to save on books is to not spend any money on them at all. Depending on where you go to school, you may be able to check out the textbooks you need or you may be able to access them in-library for a certain period of time each day. Most libraries have multiple copies of textbooks because publishing companies will send professors free textbook samples in an effort to promote their products. Many professors donate their free copies to the campus library.

Purchase International Editions

One of the great secrets of college textbook sales is that the international edition of a textbook will usually be significantly cheaper (sometimes 90% off) than those produced for the U.S.

While there may be differences between an international edition and a U.S. edition, these differences are usually minimal and content is usually almost identical. Noticeable differences are that international editions may have a soft cover rather than a hard cover, or be entirely in black-and-white rather than having color images. You can search for international editions at places such as

Use an Online Bookswap

Bookswaps allow students to buy and sell their used books directly between each other rather than through an intermediary like the bookstore. This allows students to sell books for more than they would receive from the bookstore, while students can buy them for less than the bookstore would sell them for. There are a number of online bookswaps which cater to textbooks. is one run by students for students that is free of charge to use.

Use Previous Editions

Once a new edition of a textbook comes out, prices for previous editions fall drastically and can be obtained used at deep discounts. Many times a new edition will be basically the same as the previous edition. If you see that a new edition is being used, contact the professor and ask if the previous edition is close enough to use for the class. You will be surprised at how many times it will be. If it is, ask if you can have a copy of the old class syllabus (since the new edition has different page numbers, the syllabus will likely be different).

Use Internet Auctions

Search sites like and for the textbooks you need. You can pick up the books you need for a fraction of what you would pay at your college bookstore and often much cheaper than even the used books for sale there.

Use Textbook Comparison Sites

There are now a large number of Internet Web sites that will search for the best price on a textbook across a large number of bookstores and sites selling textbooks. They give you the location where you can get the best price for the books you are looking for without having to travel to many different Web sites. Simply do a search for "compare textbook prices" and you will have plenty to choose from.

Get Textbooks In Electronic Form

If you don't mind your textbooks in electronic form, getting them this way instead of a traditional book could cut your costs by 50%. Electronic versions of textbooks are available from sites like iChapters. If you're taking a class that requires classic literature books, you can most likely download them for free (if their copyright has expired) at sites like Bartleby.

Taking the time to do a bit of research and looking at alternative sources to get the required textbooks for your classes will be well worth the time and effort in the savings you'll generate. The above options for getting your college course material alone should save you hundreds of dollars off of what you would pay at the college bookstore and that is money that goes right back into your pocket.

Jeffrey Strain is the owner of Saving Advice, a Web site dedicated to saving you money. He also writes a daily personal finance advice blog.

© 2007 Jeffrey Strain

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