The rising cost of higher education comes with its own version of sticker shock, and one of the most glaring areas is the price of textbooks.
In fact, a study by the Student Public Interest Research Groups showed that the cost for college textbooks has jumped 73 percent over the last decade – more than four times the inflation rate.
That can represent a serious wallop to your wallet.
And that’s true whether you’re a business owner planning to take a college class to boost your personal skills, you want to offer a continuing-education program for your employees – or you have a son or daughter who’s about to start college.
Regardless of which category you fall under, you should explore ways to trim these staggering textbook costs because there’s no reason to pay more than is absolutely necessary, and understanding a little about the textbook-industry game can help you keep more of your cash.
Just realize that the system isn’t necessarily set up to give you the best deal. Sometimes it’s just the opposite, with gimmicks or requirements that can all but force you to pay an inflated price for a textbook that’s easily available elsewhere at a much-reduced cost.
The good news is that sometimes there are workarounds you can use to avoid being lured into paying premium prices when discounts are out there for the taking.
Here are just three ways you can save when you’re in the market for textbooks:
- Beware of book bundles. It’s fairly common for colleges to ask students to buy a book bundle for some classes. A book bundle is when other learning material is combined with the textbook and you get it all nicely wrapped up for one price. Your business sense might tell you that sounds worthwhile and convenient, and it probably is if all those extra materials actually are needed. But often individual professors have no plans to use all the items in the bundle – so you could be paying for something you’ll never touch. It could pay off to email the professor ahead of time or wait until the class starts and ask whether the supplemental material is necessary. If it’s not, forgo the bundle and order the textbook online.
- Avoid college-specific books. Colleges have started asking students to buy college-specific textbooks, but in reality these books aren’t all that specific and you can get what you need with a generic version. The college-specific books merely add the college’s name and course number to the cover, while the contents remain unchanged. That altered cover, though, gives this now customized book a new ISBN (International Standard Book Number) that is typically only available at the college it was made for – and at the price the college book store is asking. Contact the professor to find out if it’s OK to use the book’s common version, which will be available online and, in almost all cases, be cheaper.
- Don’t let them rush you. Sometimes students don’t get much advance notice on what textbook is required for a class. That doesn’t leave them a lot of time to shop around if they want to make sure they have the book in hand on the first day of class. Once again, that puts you at the mercy of whatever price the college book store wants to charge. But don’t worry too much about having your books before classes start. In fact, if you don’t mind a little inconvenience, you can wait a day or two into the semester before purchasing. Who knows? The professor might even tell you the textbook isn’t necessary. If it is, you can shop online and probably still have it in a few days.
As with so many other things in the world of commerce, you can often find better deals when you are able to shop around.
The trick with purchasing college textbooks is to sidestep those obstacles that the college-textbook industry sets in your path so that you can put your smart-shopping skills to work.
Your wallet will thank you.