Sunday, September 21, 2008

Grace Goes Textbook Shopping

For the past 18 months, I've been paying for my 20 year old granddaughter's community college tuition and books. I quickly learned that I would save a lot of money if I took the buying of textbooks out of her cute, young hands and did it myself.

As one example this term:

My granddaughter is enrolled in Accounting 101. The text for this particular class retails for $94.80. Her college bookstore sells it new for $81.00 or used for $60.75. Amazon Textbooks lists it used for prices ranging from $53 to $75 and in various conditions. Half.Com has it listed (also in various conditions) new for $65.00 down to very used for $35.00. I settled on a text in "very good" condition for $45 plus $3.99 in shipping.

Now that I've ordered textbooks over the course of four terms, here's what I've learned:

Don't trust the student to tell you what book is needed. If you're the student, don't trust yourself. Almost all college bookstores are online and list their books by class and teacher. Go there!

The ISBN number is crucial. Just having the title and author does not make it clear what edition is needed. The first time I ordered a math text, I wound up buying the teacher's edition! My granddaughter didn't mind, since it had all the answers in it, but I suspect that's not what the teacher had in mind when he told the kids what book to use.

Stick with booksellers who've had a lot of sales. While this is probably unfair to students who are reselling their used books on and don't have much of a seller history, these same students are not always qualified to evaluate the condition of their books. One English text that purported to be in "good" condition came to my student with extensive highlighting on every single page. It was usable, but the experience has made me leery.

Remember to count in shipping costs when evaluating an online deal. I've seen sellers charge $10 for shipping and handling. Personally, I consider $3.99 fair, and that's the maximum I will pay.

All in all, I saved $174.22 buying three books online. It would have been more but one class had materials assembled by the teacher that was available only at the college bookstore and only at their price.


Anonymous said...

Another good site for next semester you should try for your granddaughter is cause they save me a ton of money when I get my books for my grandson. Its an amazing site that I use to compare the prices from many different online stores at once. Just thought i would pass that tip on to you since you help us readers out all the time

Grace. said...

I just checked out It looks good--next time, I'll try there, as well. Fortunately, I don't have to buy again until January. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You can also borrow the book from a friend and photocopy it at work. Sure she'd have to come on the weekend, but it's a cheap way to get a book that's expensive.

I only took one course of stastics and never bought the book. I borrowed it actually from the library to photocopy.

Griffin said...

I agree, but I put shipping on my books at $5 (I resell mine at the end of the semester). Unfortunately, $3.99 doesn't cover flat-rate shipping on a textbook. :( I wish it did though!

I don't recommend photocopying the whole book (it can get pricey, among other reasons), but if there are only a couple of sections you need to copy, I say go for it. I hated it when I would go to a class (having bought the book) and the teacher would tell us we wouldn't be using it or that Chapter X was the only part we'd need it for. (I just spend $140 on this and you're telling me to use it as a doorstop?!)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said... is by far the best place to search for college textbooks. i use it every semester and save so much money!

Anonymous said... is another good site for textbooks. A lot of small business owners sell on it.