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Tempering the Cost of College Books

Aug 17, 2007
One of the most demanding investments we make in our college years is in college books. When I was in school, both in undergraduate and graduate school, though I was an English Lit major, my books were from 100 to 500 dollars a semester.

I went about the first week of the semester feeling so sorry for myself . . . until I saw some of the other major's college books and prices: psychology, 100; engineering, 200; math, 200. But keep in mind there are alternatives today, thanks to in large part the Internet.

First, you have to get over the elitist attitude that you need all brand new books. If the book is available on the shelf in the college bookstore used, go for it. Or check the used bookstores in town: for anyone living in the San Francisco Bay Area, that is much more of a possibility, as we have Moe's Books in Berkeley, Green Apple Books on Clement Street, and hundreds of independent bookstores.

As well, sites like the world-renowned EBay give us access to booksellers the world over, and you can usually (if you don't have time to bid on a book, as you need it within a week) take the "Buy Now" option. EBay sellers, from my experience thus far, are fast. I have gotten books mailed from the UK to the US in under five days!

Next, there are appropriate venders outside of EBay online. Here are a few that my own students have used over the years:

NEW COLLEGE BOOKS
http://www.textbookx.com/

NEW/USED COLLEGE BOOKS
http://www.amazon.com/
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/textbooks/index.asp?r=1&popup=0
http://www.campusbooks.com/
http://www.ecampus.com/
http://www.bookbyte.com/
http://www.cheapesttextbooks.com/ (this site is an amalgamation, a search engine for all the connecting bookstores online)

Another strategy you might have seen--unless you just started school and have not seen the campus facilities, yet--is the common bulletin board system: you post a request for a particular title along with your phone number outside of the department, in the cafeteria, and wherever else a bulletin board allows public postings. (Be sure you have gotten approval for posting from the associated students or others, who will date stamp your ad, else the flyers can and might be torn down.)

There's one more strategy that some of my students have tried--sometimes with great success, other times with not so great success: two people share in the cost of a new college book. They take turns using the book, especially since they live together and/or are in the same class.

But by the same token that peer group workers can have one peer who is flaky or who takes on in the middle of the semester or who has a tragedy hit (when he or she has the necessary materials and cannot get them to the group), so might you encounter a sharer of your source materials, just when it is your turn to use one and just when the partner is nowhere to be found. Of course, some students have taken the expense of photocopying chapters, but that seems to be overkill (of time and nerves), especially now that we have tools to enhance our book-buying experience.
About the Author
Joe enjoys academics at reasonable costs for student and faculty alike. Here is his new book and ebook resource: Book Resources
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