This is the time when every business in the entire USA advertises their back-to-school promotions. The Fall semester is about to start and students and their parents have started making purchases to be all set on the first day of school. If we forget about tuition for a minute (as it is something we can’t save money on), textbooks would be the most painful recurring expense. Here are the pro-tips to save a lot of money when you buy or sell your books.
Find out which books you need
If you want to get your books without any surprises, then you need to do your homework even before your real homework starts. The information on which books are needed is usually on your department’s website or professor’s course web page. You need to find the book title, author, edition and year. It’s best if you can find the ISBN, which is easy to find by typing the name into one of the many websites available, such as Bookup. You can also do some searching on Google to find exactly what you need.
See if a friend has those books
Check with your friends to see if they have that book. If they do, just borrow it from them or even buy it. Usually online textbook sellers make about 40% buying back a book from one student and selling it to next. For instance, if a bubble wrap version of a book costs $100, you can buy a used copy of this book for about $75 online or at the university bookstore. However, if you want to sell this book back to them after the semester you will only get about $30 to $35 back at best. If you buy the same book from your friend and pay him or her $55, you will save $20 and your friend will also make $20. It is a win-win situation for both of you! If none of your friends have a copy of the book, read my last point here on peer-to-peer book trading.
Buy a used textbook
If you can’t acquire the book from a friend, see if you can find a used textbook. Be very careful when you buy a used textbook though. Read this article that debunks the myth of cheap used textbooks and proceed with caution, doing the math to figure out what is actually cheaper. Sometimes what seems to be cheap is not necessarily so. See if you are getting free shipping and check if the price includes taxes and fees.
Don’t rent a book
You will hear some experts to advise renting a book. These experts are mostly paid by big guys such as Amazon and Chegg, either directly or through marketing. I would totally oppose it, unless of course you really don’t have enough money to buy the book and you have to rent it. If you can buy a used book for $60, or rent the same book for $35, go for the buying process. In the end you might be able to sell the used book for $45, but renting is a 100% loss.
Consider an international edition
If you can find an international edition, just buy it right then and there. It is mostly the same stuff at three to four times cheaper. If you are worried about the legality of buying international editions of the books, trust me, you are fine. There was a recent legal decision that makes it legal to buy or sell used college textbooks even though it is publicized as the other way around.
Get an eBook and an eBook Reader
If you don’t need to touch the book you are reading, you could also go for the electronic version of that book. Electronic versions are usually cheaper and it is easier to search through them. You might also be able to get them online in pdf form. If you find a pdf file then you don’t even need an e-book reader.
Check out the previous editions
The previous editions of a book are usually much cheaper. If the difference is not significant, you could continue with the previous edition. Your professor is not going to change his notes every year just because the publisher changed stuff inside the book, meaning there is no need to buy a new edition of a book. If you are assigned reading, just compare notes with your friends and read accordingly – it’s usually only a one or two page difference.
Look for peer-to-peer trading
This is my best advice to you. The online retailers including Amazon and Chegg have to spend a lot of money on their warehouses and people to manage those warehouses. This expense is reflected in their prices. If you want to get cheaper rates, use a company that doesn’t maintain warehouses. Bookup is one such company: they let students interact with each other and this way they save students 30-45% on used college textbooks.
The way it works is pretty impressive as well. You sign up with them and list the books you have or you need. Everything else will take place by text message. You might find a match right away and you can continue the sales process with Bookup. If there isn’t a match, then you will get a text message whenever someone has a book you need or someone needs a book you have. You can reply to that text and complete the transaction. You can even get a book you want by trading it for a book you have, which means you pay nothing. I would highly recommend this “by students for students” startup to all students looking to save some money on used textbooks.