Thursday, July 30, 2009

How to save on college textbooks

An AP article carried by Cleveland Ohio Business News suggests "3 ways to save on college textbooks"

The article points out that publishers are now offering to rent books or are providing electronic versions at what AP says is a fraction of the cost and that, next summer, colleges will be required by federal law to "list the cost of required materials in online course schedules.  Publishers will also need to disclose book prices in marketing sent to professors who may not realize the costs"

Until then they suggest
1. Renting.  They give Chegg.com as an example - that site is renting Introductory Chemistry for a semester for $44 while the list price of the book is $140.  They have a catalog of 1.6 million titles and say they will try to track down books requested that are not in the catalog.  While the student pays for shipping, returns at the end of the semester are done with prepaid envelopes.
  BookRenter.com works similarly and there is an option to buy at the end of the rental period, with credit for the rental price.  Both places offer refunds if a class is dropped - within 30 days at Chegg.com and within 10 at BookRenter.

2. Buying Used.  The AP article states that used books cost almost as much as new ones, at campus bookstores, so they recommend going online to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Borders for better pricing, where the condition of a book is often described by the 3rd-party sellers (rated by users) and online coupons or special sales are offered in email by the bookstore chains.

3. Digital books.  Coursesmart.com offers about 7,000 titles and the company says that its e-textbooks are, on average, half the price of new print copies, and have the same layout so there's no confusion over what 'pages' are assigned.  Print copies are available too.  There is rather limited copy & paste allowed but students can print 10 copies "at a time" (whatever "a time" means).  Highlighting is also a feature.
  Cengage Learning makes its titles available electronically at iChapters.com.  Unlike e-books bought for the Kindle or Sony readers, the books at both companies can be kept for only the equivalent of a semester and can't be used later for referencing.  These are not bought but leased then.

 The Kindle DX and Sony Reader are also mentioned, but it's pointed out that some textbooks won't be available for them.  They add:
" Three textbook publishers -- Pearson PLC, Cengage Learning and John Wiley & Sons Inc. -- have agreed to make books available on the Kindle. But representatives for Kindle and Sony did not respond to questions about the breadth of their textbook selections or prices.

As an example, however, "An Introduction to the Standard Model of Particle Physics" cost $45.45 on the Kindle, compared to $75.11 for a new copy from third-party vendors. "
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