Textbook tips

Savvy students sound off on purchasing course materials

Savvy students sound off on purchasing course materials

Chico State senior Sulie Garcia knows what happens when you put off buying textbooks: It’s either wait for an online retailer to deliver the books two to four weeks into the semester (good luck on those homework assignments) or fork over an extra $100 to buy a new book because that’s all the campus bookstore has left. That’s how she ended up spending roughly $200 on a business textbook.

Garcia, who’s double majoring in business project management and Asian studies, is just one of many students who have experienced textbook woes. She paid nearly $600 for the required books during one semester alone.

Eric Hassel, a junior studying environmental science, said he is often strapped for cash when the semester begins.

“I would definitely say there’s a little bit of stress related to it,” Hassel said. “It seems like every 4 1/2, five months, when the new semester rolls around, I’m always kind of scrambling to get finances together to fund all of my textbooks.”

And Hassel isn’t alone. Students across the U.S. have experienced steadily climbing prices for over a decade. According to a report released last summer by the Government Accountability Office, new textbook prices rose 82 percent between 2002 and 2013, increasing at an average of 6 percent a year.

As a result of the rising prices, some students are not purchasing required course materials, even if they are worried it will affect class performance. According to a U.S. Public Interest Research Group study published last fall, 65 percent of students have opted to not buy a textbook because it was too expensive, even though 94 percent were concerned it would harm their grade.

Students have become savvier textbook-buyers to combat the markups. Here are a few tips to save money:

Shop early: Garcia suggests searching for course materials as soon as possible to find the best deals. “Once you have availability to find out what books you need for your classes, start checking prices then,” she said. “Don’t put it off, because then there’s only the new-book options, which are more expensive than used.”

Do a price-check: Garcia and Hassel suggest comparing your campus bookstore’s prices to online retailers like Amazon or Half.com. “I just search for the best-priced book, whether it be renting and/or buying,” Hassel added. “If it’s in decent condition, but it’s used, as long as I can save money I’m always willing to shop around.”

Consider renting: This can be a cheaper option for students who can return books on time and won’t end up drenching them in late-night study-sesh coffee—bookstores reserve the right to charge full price if the rental is damaged. Hassel suggests Chegg, a Santa Clara-based company that specializes in rentals (and even sends along a free Red Bull with larger orders).

Go digital: E-textbooks can be considerably cheaper than physical textbooks and are also available to rent and purchase. The Wildcat Store now features e-books through BryteWave, a digital textbook program created by Follett, which offers nearly 100,000 titles.