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With the school year fast approaching, many college students and parents are getting ready to purchase this semester’s textbooks. What many parents and students may not know is that they can purchase or rent textbooks from various sellers for a lower price than what they would pay for the same textbooks at the school bookstore. The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation recently conducted a college textbook review to inform consumers of the potential savings.

The Office looked at four hardcover textbooks used by Boston area colleges. Purchase and rental prices for textbooks from school bookstores were compared to the price of purchasing the same books from, independent sellers on, the Google Play store, and the Kindle stores. Price information for textbooks was gathered during the week of August 3rd.

Buy School Textbooks from an Independent Source

Consumers who purchase their books new from the school bookstore are paying substantially more than consumers who obtain their books from alternative sources. The least expensive options for print textbooks were renting used from the school bookstore or purchasing used on Amazon from an individual seller. Additionally, consumers who prefer new books can save significantly when they purchase new books from an individual seller on Amazon rather than purchasing new books from the school bookstore. For example, a new seventh edition Principles of Microeconomics book at the bookstore costs $285.00, while the price for a new copy of the same book from an individual seller on Amazon started at $150.00—a 47 percent savings!

Try e-Books

Consumers can also save by renting or purchasing textbooks in electronic form. According to the textbook pricing review, textbooks that were available in electronic form for rent were over 70% less expensive than the new print version at the bookstore, while an electronic book purchase from Kindle was over 30 percent less expensive than the new book at the bookstore! Spending some time online searching for the best deal can pay off, but do not forget to account for your individual needs first.
More Tips

OCABR advises consumers to consider the following options when shopping for textbooks:

  •  Consider study habits when deciding what investment to make in each book. Personal habits and preferences should carry the most weight when deciding whether to purchase, rent, borrow or share a book. For students who highlight or make notes in books, buying new or used is the best option, as rental books must be returned in good condition.  Decide whether you plan to keep or will sell the book back at the end of the semester.
  •  Check the syllabus. Ask the professor if all books listed are required. Some supplemental readings, like short stories or famous speeches, can be found online for free.
  • Share a book. By splitting the cost of textbooks with classmates, each student can save a significant amount of money.
  • Meet the professor during office hours. He or she may have an extra textbook on hand that you can read during that time.
  • Use the library. Most college and university libraries keep at least one copy of each textbook. These are typically not available to borrow, but can be used inside the library. If the book is not available, ask the professor to request the library keep a copy on reserve.
  • Buy softcover. Softcover textbooks tend to cost up to 15 percent less, and are lighter and easier to carry than their hardcover counterparts.

OCABR Consumer Tips for School Bookstore Shopping:

  •  Keep receipts. Many bookstores require receipts for returns to ensure that the book was actually purchased at the bookstore and not from another retailer. Textbook receipts are especially helpful during tax season because books and other course materials may be claimed when filing for the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
  •  Know the refund policy. Before purchasing textbooks, make note of return and refund policies, especially deadlines. Students may not be able to return a book to the school bookstore after a short and specific window at the beginning of each semester. Most sellers will not offer full credit for books that have been marked or bundles that have been opened, even slightly.
  • Know the rental return date. Before renting a textbook or e-book, don’t forget to check the return date on the rental to avoid late charges or extra fees.
  • Don’t use your credit card. Try to pay with cash or by debit card to avoid credit card fees and interest on these high-dollar purchases.

OCABR Consumer Tips for Online Textbook Shopping:

  •  Buy local. Choosing textbooks from a bookseller in your area can lower shipping costs.
  • Ensure proper delivery time. Some online retailers may offer to ship a book overnight, while others require a week or more for delivery.
  •  Review comments. Spend a few moments reading comments from customers about their satisfaction with a particular bookseller. This may be helpful when choosing a bookseller, their price, the condition of the book, and shipping and delivery time.

OCABR is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow OCABR at its blog, on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.

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