Dave, I’m just a few weeks from starting my first semester at college and am aghast at the price of textbooks. Is there some way I can save some money by buying used textbooks online, and if so, what are your recommendations for where to go? Thanks, man!
More than anything else, the most important thing is to shop as early as possible. This is a challenging task for many of you college students, who tend to procrastinate and probably have many more important things to think about (beach, opposite sex, beer, etc.) as the summer winds down.
I asked my friend Steve Loyola, who runs BestBookBuys.com, for his suggestions on how to save money buying textbooks and he had some great thoughts. First off, though, I should let you know that he runs a comparison shopping site used by an over one hundred thousand college students every semester. It’s good stuff.
Now, according to Steve, here are the five important reasons why shopping early for your textbooks will help you save money, time, and your own sanity as classes kick in and you start another semester.
One: Get the lowest prices on used books
Two: Get the best quality used books
Many college students save money by buying used textbooks online. Steve tells me that over half of the textbooks bought through BestBookBuys.com are used. While merchants have stacks of new textbooks in warehouses, most students don’t realize that there are often just a few used copies to choose from. So, with limited selection, which copies do you think disappear first? Yep, the cheapest and best quality.
Let’s look at an example. Click on the following link for a comparison shopping page for a popular Economics textbook by David Colander: Economics. As I write this, the four cheapest stores have prices ranging from $15.00 to $38.51. (These may change by the time you read this, thus proving my point that the best prices disappear quickly.) The cheapest new copy is $62.54. As the semester approaches, students will buy those cheaper copies first. Procrastinators could wind up paying four times more than the early birds.
Sometimes, you can also save money buying an international edition of the textbook, as the site highlights:
Of course, you might also check with your professor about international editions too: I found that when I was in college my professors were all to happy to help me save money buying used and previous editions of the textbooks.
Three: Get the cheapest shipping
Buying early also lets you choose the cheapest shipping option, which sometimes can be FREE. Wait until a few days before class starts and you’ll be forking over more of your precious beer or Starbucks money to UPS or FedEx to get your books on time.
Here’s an example of the various shipping costs at Amazon for one student’s book list.
|Super Saver (5-9 business days)||$0.00|
|Standard Shipping (3-5 business days)||$20.82|
|Two-Day Shipping (2 business days)||$43.31|
|One-Day Shipping (1 business day)||$84.31|
See? Waiting until the last minute can cost you about 20 Starbucks venti lattes! Ouch!
Four: No stress about getting your books on time
Ordering early lets you party carefree through the rest of summer while your procrastinating pals are stressing out about whether or not their books will arrive in time for class. You’ll have more cash left too so you’ll be the hit of the party.
Five: Reduce your chances of getting the wrong book
Wait until the last minute and you won’t be the only one stressing out. Order volume surges around the start of each semester, so the crew working overtime picking and packing and shipping your textbooks are more likely to make mistakes during this hectic time than before the mad rush starts. These errors are rare but why risk it?
As hard as it might be for you to admit, your mom was right when she told you not to leave important tasks until the last minute. Wait too long and you’ll be wasting money on books that are half-filled with highlighter and be stressing out waiting for them. But shop early and you’ll find barely used textbooks and leave wads of cash in your wallet for stress-free partying in the days before class starts.
Thanks for that great answer, Steve! Again, if you are looking for textbooks, either used textbooks or new textbooks, I recommend you check out Best Book Buys.com.