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Used and free textbooks online save money

January 1, 2008

in All Articles,Books and documents,Miscellaneous

Look to your wallet, young graduate!

These days you need to incorporate the cost of textbooks when planning college finances. No longer can you buy your books with help from the “Ramen noodle diet”. Today’s textbook prices call for more extreme solutions, like the “sell blood plasma savings plan”.

Granted, textbooks can’t be cheap because they cost a lot to produce. They’re expensive because they have to be. This isn’t a pulp paperback, and production values skyrocket for large, hardcover, full-color books, often accompanied by CD-ROM and DVDs.

However, this doesn’t change the fact the textbook publishing industry sits in the middle of a pretty sweet (but metaphorical) piece of cake. And lucky for them, they get to eat it, too.

It’s as close to a perfect monopoly as you can get: There are no price controls. No significant competition or incentive to drop prices. Their audience is in continual demand for the product.

We’re broke and we’re not going to take it anymore.

Many textbooks or their equivalents are available online. Some are free, others are available used at steep discounts. One advantage of a world-spanning information source like the Internet is it introduces the “have-nots” to the “haves”. College textbooks don’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) relegated to just your local campus bookstore and student body.

When saving money on textbooks, remember The Three R’s: Research, Review, and Roverseas. (Please allow me creative alliteration to preserve my pretentious pontificating.)

Research: You’ll need to know what books are required for a course. Talk to the instructor, or look online to see if a syllabus has been posted. Research this information as soon as possible, so if you have to order a book you can have it arrive ideally before class starts. If possible, get the ISBN numbers for the books you need.

Review: Use this list of free and discount college textbook providers:

Alibris is a gigantic meeting place for those selling books, music and movies, and those who want to buy. Individuals can buy and sell using Alibris, and are rated on their past transactions. Those looking for discounted textbooks will find new, used and international versions.

Best Book Buys sells discounted and new textbooks. A very handy tool is the “Compare prices” feature, which gives you a listing of prices from many different resellers. Especially handy are links given to overseas resellers of international editions of textbooks. Because of lower production values and potential content differences, these textbooks are often 90% cheaper than their USA versions.

BigWords gives you side-by-side price comparisons with many textbook resellers. You’ll need the book’s ISBN, title or author, and can then get pricing information as well as shipping deals and any other perks available from each vendor.

Buy Used Textbooks focuses on students, teachers and colleges for used text book sales.

Campus Book Swap is the perfect name: Buy and sell used textbooks.

CollegeSwapShop gives you the ability to buy and sell directly to other students, including the ability to search specifically at your school of choice! Not limited to just books, also search for student housing, roommates, tickets and other items.

Compare TextBook gives comparison pricing for new and used college textbooks, with links to sellers. Search by ISBN, title, author or keyword.

eBay’s contribution to discounted textbooks. Search for your books and find a listing of sellers selling far below retail list price, new and used.

Freeload Press offers “free textbooks and study aids for select courses in business, math, and computer applications”. They use commercial sponsors to pay for their service. This means the books you read will have ads in them. But they’re free.

The Internet Public Library is a collection of free resources meant to supplement or replace textbooks and coursework. Great for those who are trying to get by without textbooks, or for those learning complex topics on their own.

OpenCourseWare Finder is a listing of free courses, lectures and video lectures, made available primarily from MIT and Utah State University.

Resource for buying and selling new and used textbooks. Site advertises you can “Sell your books and earn 200% more than campus buyback”.

Textbook Revolution is a compilation of free textbooks, for use by students as well as teachers. Teachers can choose to run course materials provided here, or students can use the materials as supplements or complete replacements for standard bookstore textbooks.

This list will help you narrow down your search to the cheapest, most reliable sellers who can ship the fastest. Who are you purchasing from? Some resellers are similar to eBay, where a good faith reputation can be built by making past buyers happy. This is important, particularly when buying from an individual.

Some resources on the list are discount textbook sellers. Some are services connecting used book sellers and buyers. Some actually provide free textbooks, syllabi, videos and training for self-education. Ambitious students could use this material to completely replace required textbooks with similar free equivalents.

Roverseas: Many textbooks are available in an “international version”. This is generally a lower-production value of a textbook. Sometimes a hardcover will be demoted to paperback, or color pages will be black and white. Check to verify the text or content hasn’t changed too dramatically. Generally this is a remarkably cheap way of replacing a standard high-priced textbook. International versions of college textbooks can approach a 90% savings!

Textbook publishers have no incentive to help us find lowest prices, so the job is up to us. If there’s one thing the Internet really does well, it’s making people mad. Textbook publishers, it’s your turn.

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