Amazon is just one source to get the books you need and get rid of the ones that you don’t.
The average cost per student for textbooks and school supplies for the 2012-2013 academic year is $1,200 at public institutions, according to a recent report by the College Board. Exorbitant prices at campus bookstores have elicited an influx of online textbook retailers offering discounted prices.
Bibliographic information and management solutions provider Bowker released a study in May 2012 concluding that textbook rentals rose from eight percent to 11% in the past year. In the same timeframe, sales of new textbooks dropped from 59% to 55%. This correlates with declining purchases from on-campus bookstores, which fell to an unprecedented low of 46% of all new textbook sales, down from 52%.
As a third-year student at University of California – Santa Cruz, Adam Cannella has benefited firsthand from purchasing his textbooks online instead of on campus.
“My freshman year I spent over $1,000 alone on textbooks. It was crazy,” Cannella said. “Now that I purchase them all online, I’d say I spend about $600 a year. The savings are unreal.”
Here are five top websites for buying, trading and renting textbooks.
As one of the largest online merchants, Amazon has been at the forefront of the online textbook sales boom. Amazon offers students free two-day shipping through its $39 a year Amazon Student program, year-round textbook trade-ins and textbook rentals (beginning last August). Ripley MacDonald, director of textbooks at Amazon, said that the retailer is focused on “providing customers the best selection of textbooks at the lowest possible prices — whether it’s new or used textbooks, in print or digital format, to buy or to rent.”
Having coined the “Student Hub,” Chegg has garnered notoriety for renting low-cost books. According to its President and CEO Dan Rosensweig, Chegg reaches 30% of U.S. college students saving them up to $500 per year. “Additionally, we offer ‘Read While You Wait,’ a service that allows students to access a digital copy of their book on Chegg’s eTextbook Reader while they wait for their physical textbook to arrive.”
Known as the “Textbook Superstore,” Half is a subsidiary of the online bidding giant eBay Inc. Half’s niche is predicated on a person-to-person basis, so customers are able to establish transparent reputations as both textbook buyers and sellers.
Launched in 1996, AbeBooks boasts a diverse collection encompassing millions of books discounted up to 50% off retail prices. AbeBooks offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee on all purchases compared to the conventional bookstore. The site claims to be 100% secure in regards to searching and purchasing textbooks via its “secure checkout” process where booksellers ship products directly to customers.
In addition to selling new and used textbooks through third-party vendors, Alibris’ continual success can be attributed to its superior customer service. Alibris has a 60-day money-back guarantee policy and enables students to sell back their textbooks at the end of each semester.
UC Santa Cruz senior Eleni Taousakis is an outspoken proponent of shopping for textbooks online.
“Being at the bookstore the first week of every term is like being at the mall at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, except at least on Black Friday you actually save money,” Taousakis said. “With so many students complaining about tuition costs, you’d think they’d know better and buy their books online. I got the memo pretty quickly.”
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