Passing class without breaking the bank

Follow these textbook tips to avoid bookstore hassles.

HILLARY PETROZZIELLO TTN Jess Leikauskas of Manahawkin, NJ demonstrates the ongoing predicament of college students as they struggle to balance bank accounts and pay the staggering cost of textbooks at the beginning of each semester.

Every semester brings the same scene to the lower level of the Student Center: Lines of people waiting to pay wrap around the store. Nomads search for notebooks, planners and Temple apparel, and students walk out hundreds of dollars poorer but toting the latest editions of required reading.

For at least two full weeks the textbook extravaganza continues, turning even the simplest purchase into a half-hour debacle.

The school bookstore may be the quickest option to buy textbooks – although even there it can sometimes take weeks to get what you need – but it can end up costing more than $400 for one semester, depending on your major.

The key to saving money on books is getting them used or previously owned.

Temple’s bookstore carries a certain number of these, but many other outlets sell used books, too. Here are some buying alternatives that could help students avoid the bookstore chaos and save them hundreds of dollars this semester.

Go online: Amazon and Half.com

Katie Steele, a senior chemistry major, used to spend about $500 a semester on books from the university bookstore.

“This past semester I bought them all on Amazon and ended up saving about $200,” she said.

Amazon Marketplace allows members to sell used textbooks at their own prices. Depending on the time of year and the competition from other sellers, books can be more than half off the full price.

The same goes for Half.com, a subset of eBay that collects the lowest prices from ongoing auctions for each item. Students can use both sites to sell back their books after the semester comes to a close.

One downside, however: Sellers on these sites are located all over the country, so it can take three days to a full week for the books to arrive.

Rent books by the semester

Renting is a relatively new option on the textbook-obtaining horizon. Most textbook rental sites offer many books that colleges require in various subjects and editions, and students can rent them for at least 50 percent off the listed selling price.

Textbook borrowers put in their orders, and the website mails the books with a return label so that customers can return the books for free when they’re finished. Chegg.com might be the greenest option for renting textbooks, as the site plants a tree every time someone rents.

The only downfall here, though, is the student’s inability to make money at the end of a semester by selling books back.

Decide whether to buy the latest edition

Any student who has been at Temple for more than a semester knows this story: A student buys a $150 textbook from the bookstore and plans to sell it back at the end of the semester. By the time December rolls around, the student arrives at the bookstore to find it replaced by a new edition. Suddenly he or she is left with a brand-new $150 paperweight.

Every year or two, changes – often minor – are made to a text, and a publishing company reprints a new edition to reflect those changes. Professors then update their coursework and require students to have the most up-to-date texts.

But the books typically contain similar information in nearly the same format. Before splurging on the latest edition, try contacting your professor at the start of the semester to find out whether an older edition of a text would be acceptable.

Sometimes, professors are sympathetic to the high book prices students must pay and may even suggest that their students use an older, cheaper edition of a text.

Head a couple blocks off campus

Zavelle Bookstore is an independent bookseller at 1520 N. Broad St., just across the street from the Fresh Grocer. It carries used texts the same way Temple’s bookstore does.

Zavelle Bookstore offers students a discount from the full prices, but, much like shopping at Temple’s bookstore, it pays to get there as early in the semester as possible. It too can quickly run out of the discounted used copies of the books students need.

Students can also make money by selling their books back to Zavelle at the beginning and end of the semesters.

Christina Ciammaichelli can be reached at christina.ciammaichelli@temple.edu

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