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Consumer
Shop smart to tackle high textbook prices
NEW YORK (8/18/08)--As college students head back to campus, many are struggling to afford pricey textbooks, although there are bargains to be had if you know where to look. For financially strapped families, those bargains could mean the difference between a student staying in school and dropping out (SmartMoney.com Aug. 4). On average, students spend $900 a year on textbooks--almost 20% of in-state tuition and fees at a four-year public university, according to a February 2007 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). A single science book could cost $200 or more. To add to the high prices, publishers continually roll out new editions of textbooks--typically 12% more expensive than the previous edition--even though 71% of professors in the U.S. PIRG study said these editions are only “sometimes” or “rarely” justified. Some federal help may be on the way. Although not yet signed into law, Congress recently passed a modified version of the Higher Education Opportunity Act that includes a section addressing textbook prices and policies. Among other provisions, the act demands that publishers provide college faculty with accurate textbook pricing information as well as offer unbundled packages so students aren’t forced to purchase workbooks and other materials they don’t need. Even with the government’s help, high textbook prices still can involve a big chunk of change. Do this first: Obtain a list of required course textbook titles from your university bookstore (you can search its website) or ask your individual professors. Then, use these resources to shop smart and avoid overpaying:
* Go green, go electronic. Environmentalists, rejoice. Six of the largest textbook publishers recently began selling digital copies of textbooks on CourseSmart.com--at as much as 50% off the hardcover book price. If you can’t find the book you’re looking for, ask individual publishers or university bookstores if they offer electronic options. * Compare prices, buy online. This might be your best option. So many resources exist in the online textbook market, you are bound to uncover a bargain. To compare prices, try sites like Bestwebbuys.com, Bigwords.com, CheapestTextbooks.com, or Half.com. Use your search engine to uncover more websites and resources. * Download books—for free. And yes, downloadable books are legal. Sites like freeloadpress.com and gutenberg.org have books available, but you may have to search other resources as well because selections are limited. * Share with a friend. Even though this can cut the price in half, you may end up fighting for study rights with the book come exam time. This option may work best for solutions manuals or other necessary supplements. * Beware of bundles. Many students never glance at the CD-ROM or workbook bundled to the front of the textbook; yet they pay extra for the materials. If this sounds like you, search for the unbundled versions. * Consider older editions. Often, the latest edition of a text may not vary that much from the previous one--and it likely costs considerably less.
For more information, read “Timing Rules Student Loan Consolidation” in Home & Family Resource Center.
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