9 Ways to save on books


Aprile Rickert, Contributing writer

After factoring in tuition and fees, housing, transportation and books, college can get pretty expensive. Here are nine tips to consider when buying books that could save a considerable amount of money each semester—something every college student could use.

1. The bookstore

The bookstore is convenient. It is on campus and has in stock every required text that a student needs for a particular course. And at IU Southeast, within a specified time period, students may charge up to $600 in books and select supplies on their UCards, to be billed on their tuition statements. However, since they carry the most recent editions of books, campus bookstores are not always the least expensive option.

To help save money at the bookstore, students should go as early as possible to increase the chance of getting a used copy of a book. However, not all titles are available, and there are more students who want a used book than there are copies to go around.

Dalen Lieffring, computer science, said he finds the convenience of the bookstore a big draw, and charges all of his books to his UCard.

“It’s just really easy to log into the website and it will pull up all the books that I need,” he said. “I usually compare with Amazon’s prices, but typically it lines up.”

Lieffring said that he would like to be able to get more used books at the IU Southeast bookstore.

“I try to get used [books] because I’m a broke college student, but I don’t typically have a lot of luck with that.”

Students can also take advantage of incentives and deals on books purchased from the bookstore. For summer 2014, IU Southeast offered book scholarships of up to $300 for any student who registered within the early registration period. There are also options to rent used, new and digital books at lower costs than buying new ones.

2. Book scholarships

There are tons of scholarships available to students—some specifically for books. And they aren’t all merit based—some scholarships are reserved for students with a particular major or hobby.

3. Online book sellers

According to the Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision of 2010, or HEOA, information about the textbooks that will be used, including ISBN, publisher, edition, author(s) and copyright date must be available to students before classes start, so they may compare prices to decide if they want to purchase their books from the campus bookstore or elsewhere.

Students can find deals on buying or renting new, used or digital textbooks from online companies such as Amazon.com, Half.com, Abebooks, Valorebooks, Chegg and others. Bigwords and Bookfinder also help students compare book prices from many different websites. It is important to remember though, when searching on these sites, to look for the exact ISBN number of the book a professor requires. (See # 4 for more information on older editions)

Taylor McLeod, psychology junior, said she gets almost all of her textbooks—both new and used—from Amazon.

“They’re usually cheaper,” she said. “They have a free student trial and you get them in two days.”

Stephanie Habermel, dental hygiene sophomore, said she has saved a lot of money using half.com.

“It’s a lot cheaper,” she said. “For my anatomy book this semester, from the book store, it was almost $500 and I got it [on half.com] for like $130.”

She said she has never had a problem with ordering the wrong edition by mistake.

“I always just get what [professors] have uploaded,” she said.

4. Older editions

When book publishers come out with a new edition of a textbook, the older ones can go down significantly in price. Depending on the material, the course and the professor, a new edition may or may not be necessary. If they plan to go this route, students should first find out from their professors—before classes start—if it will be acceptable to use an older edition.

5. Share with a friend

While it is illegal to scan or copy entire books, it is perfectly fine to share with a buddy, as long as both students have a good system worked out for it.

6. The library

The IU Southeast Library may have one or two copies of many books that are used in courses on this campus. If the campus library does not have it, the public library might have copies available.

7. Online Codes – Necessary?

In math, science or language courses, the online supplemental materials are often used to give students more practice in mastering the subject. Other types of classes may or may not find it as useful. Just because a book is sold with a code does not mean it will be needed. Students should check first with the professor to see if the code is necessary.If it isn’t, the book may be found online without the code at a lower cost. Also, if a student has a new book with a code, it may be worth more when reselling, either to the bookstore or online, if the code has never been used.

Robin Morgan, professor of psychology, said she does not utilize the book codes in her courses.

“It costs the students extra, which I don’t think is fair,” Morgan said. “Everything is so expensive already, plus I want students to learn and do what I’m creating for them. If I’m teaching them, and then somebody else has prepared materials, there could be a lack of coherence between what somebody else has created and what I’m teaching, which could be very confusing for students.”

Habermel said she found out from her professor on the first day of class that she had purchased extra materials she didn’t need.

“It had a package and I went to class with the book that I bought the first day and he said that I didn’t need the package,” Habermel said.

8. Professors

In many cases, professor and instructors are able to choose which materials will be used in their courses. Another result of the Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision of 2010 is that book publishers must disclose the price of books they market to educators.

When possible, they may be able to choose the less costly options for students.

“I try to make it as cost-effective as possible for students,” Bryan Hall, professor of philosophy, said. “And I don’t design the course necessarily around the books that are available so if I find out that there are a bunch of readings, we’re going to put them together into a course pack. To purchase multiple anthologies or multiple standalone works would cost the students a lot of money. I typically scan in those items and put them in Oncourse if they’re coming in from enough different sources.

But if I find a good anthology which is relatively affordable for students, then I can go with that. Some of these anthologies are just getting prohibitively expensive.”

Morgan said she also finds it useful to use more than just one book as the learning material in a course.

“If I can use readings or other materials, then I do that as well,” Morgan said. “A textbook is limited in that it presents one view of the world. I’m not really concerned with my students learning a textbook—I’m really concerned with my students understanding a field.

“Sometimes I don’t even use a textbook because what I want my students to learn isn’t contained within one textbook.

“And why have them buy a textbook that they may read two or three chapters of? Yes, those two or three chapters are wonderful, well written and well researched, but I’m not going to ask a student to spent $200 for a textbook I use two or three chapters of. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Morgan said she also sometimes uses Course Load, digital textbooks that are built into the cost of the class as a fee. Students can access them through Canvas. Even though this option is not available for all books or in all classes, Morgan said she thinks it is very beneficial to students.

“It’s cheaper for the students and the students have it already into the course,” Morgan said. “So they don’t have to wait until their money comes in to buy a book or anything like this. It saves them money and everything is right here.”

9. Selling back books

After the class is over, some students may want to hang onto their textbooks, but some may be into getting cash to help pay next semester’s books. The bookstore, as well as buyers from eBay, Amazon and many other online markets, may buy the textbooks. The money students can get depends on a variety of factors, such as the market, condition of the book and whether or not there is a newer edition. Students can get an idea of what an item sells for by checking to see others of similar condition that are for sale online and by visiting the bookstore.