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Textbook Options for Online College Students

April 21, 2014 by Kelly Paul |
Kelly Paul

Textbooks now cost college students an average of almost $1,000/year. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (2011), about seven out of ten college students skip buying one or more textbooks because it’s too expensive, even though they know not reading the textbook will lower their grades.

Students also can feel burdened because publishers put out new editions that instructors require, and some textbooks come bundled with extras (like CDs and passwords).

The good news is, there are more ways than ever to get your college textbooks, many of which are considerably cheaper than the publisher’s print list price.

The following suggestions are adapted from Laura Coffey’s excellent article, “11 Ways to Beat the System when Buying College Textbooks” from Today.

  1. Get to the college bookstore early to beat the crowds and snatch up whatever used textbook copies are available.
  2. Use the ISBN numbers to comparison shop online.  Several large reputable sites, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and eBay offer textbooks, and other sites such as do the comparison shopping for you. See Coffey’s article for a full list of sites to check.
  3. Consider ebooks. Though most students still prefer print textbooks, ebooks are much cheaper. Some ebook platforms even allow you to highlight text and take notes. One notable platform is the Amazon Kindle app, which does not require a Kindle. It can be downloaded to your PC, Mac, tablet, or smartphone.
  4. Rent your textbooks in print or online. Several services like and offer print rentals. Others like Kindle Textbook Rental offer e-versions, which can be rented for 30, 60, 90, or 120 days, the length of the standard semester.  Rental prices can be up to 40% cheaper than buying, and you don’t have to worry about unloading the textbook when the course is over.
  5. Check out Five major textbook publishers, including John Wiley & Sons, have banded together to offer textbooks in a cheaper e-book format.
  6. Take advantage of Project Gutenberg, the first producer of free e-books. It specializes in making available works whose copyright has expired. This includes many classics of literature. It has a catalogue of 42,000 books.


 Article by: Coventry Kessler




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