University textbooks are really, really expensive. We have seen books priced at as much $200 per book. Taking 5 classes per semester and you could easily shell out as much as $1,000 a semester or $2,000 – $3,000 a year. Ouch! I feel the holes burning in my pockets.
There are, however, ways around this where you could potentially save as much as 50% and in some cases even more. These options include buying new and reselling, buying used, renting or now buying digital. Research each option before proceeding to purchase university textbooks.
Before you begin your journey to the U.S., ask your potential professors for their syllabus or the name of the book(s) they intend on using. Consider purchasing all university textbooks in your home country. In many cases we have seen instant savings — greater than 50%. However, recently a few copyright infringement suits have been filed by publisher John Wiley & Sons against resale of international editions.
Publishers are attempting to close down this supply route by changing the ISBN number on international editions. This makes it tougher to figure out which university textbooks to purchase. They are also changing front covers, page numbers and sometimes pictures. But imagine biology changing over time and space. It’s just not possible, unless it’s an out-of-the-world (Mars) edition.
If this isn’t an option, consider the resale value of the book. Research on Amazon or other sites such as eBay to determine the used value of the book in question. If the price of the book doesn’t drop significantly, purchasing a new edition of the book and then reselling after the semester is over is a good idea.
If this is not an option, purchasing a used version of the book or even an older edition would be wise. Again, I wouldn’t imagine calculus changing within the span of a few years (I’ve never been good at calculus so please let me know otherwise).
Renting books have become a popular option recently. Also check out book rentals, it’s a great source to determine the cost of renting your textbooks. Even local options may be available through your campus bookstore or third party vendors. Rental prices are generally a third to half of the books’ list price (50% to 65% off), which is greatly appealing for books and courses out of your major field of study such as common electives or core classes in the first and second year of college.
Digital versions of university textbooks are usually more expensive than rental print books and sometimes run more than buying used print titles. They are tough to resell since many now come with a one-time-use passcode.
Finally, there’s always an option of not buying textbooks at all. Using your university library as a resource for textbooks is an excellent idea. Also determine if there’s an open-source textbook available that he or she could assign instead. Open-source books are free, can be read on any device and can be printed and bound for around $40 or so.
An open source textbook website is Rice University’s Openstax College, whose books – so far, mostly science and maths with some history and economics – are in use at more than 150 colleges and high schools.
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