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College Books



College books are a part of the cost of going to college. This article has information on purchasing your college books at the college bookstore or purchasing your college books online. Keep reading for tips on getting your college books.

With the cost of a single course book sometimes more than a hundred dollars, it makes sense to think a bit before trotting down to the college bookstore and plunking down your plastic. Are there cheaper alternatives? There are in many cases? Are they worth exploring? Let’s take a look at the options.

The College Bookstore

There isn’t a generic college bookstore any more. First of all, some, like College Book Store at Ohio University are independent bookstores - local companies that happen to serve a college community.  Older colleges may have older bookstores, some with a long history of serving the community. Others, like the University of Chicago Bookstore, are a branch of a national chain, in this case, Barnes & Noble.

Why Shop for College Books on Campus?

Here are some reasons to buy your books on campus:

  • Just as you may have a school sweatshirt and a school mug, you may wish to support your campus bookstore.
  • No shipping and handling fees: the money you pay is for the book.
  • When buying a used book, you get to see it: this means you get a better idea than in a brief online description of what “used” actually means in this particular case. If you want to buy used, but other people’s marks can be distracting to you, this is a good way to go.
  • You may not find all the college books you need at any one place online, but at the college bookstore, it’s one-stop shopping. You go in, run through the list, wait in a long line, and you’re done.
  • It may even be less of your time, despite that long line. If you’re taking really demanding courses, the time spent researching online options may come into play. The bookstore may not save you money, but it could be the most time-efficient choice.
  • If there’s a problem, help is right at hand. Whether it’s a mistake in a bill or missing pages 403-408, you can get a quicker resolution in person at the local bookstore.
  • Ever had a longer than expected wait for a textbook ordered online, while you tried to keep up in class? It’s not going to happen if you have the book in your hand.

The Online Bookseller

The books college books you can get online fall into the same categories as those on campuses: some are sold by local booksellers, and some are sold by national chains like Amazon. It’s just that local in this case is probably not local to you. Online could be anywhere, and this gives you access to more possibilities and more competition, which - as expected - lowers prices.

Why Shop for College Books Online?

  • Saving money is the number one reason for shopping for college books online. Take Half.com. There are major savings to be had here from a book’s list price.
  • Quality ratings allow you to be flexible about your college book decisions. The college book store may not have a “Very Good” used copy, but you’re likely to be able to find one on line.
  • If you think ahead and note where the books are shipping from, you may be able to lessen shipping costs. Sure, media mail is cheaper, so if you know what you’re taking next quarter, order your books in finals week of this quarter, leaving plenty of time for them to get to here from there.
  • Thinking beyond Half.com gives you even more options. Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Alibris.com each have their strengths. For example, if you, or someone in your family, gets an Amazon Prime Membership (yearly membership is currently $79.00), and you are happy to order books that are eligible for Prime, you can have two-day delivery with no shipping and handling fee.

One More Option

Before you go for either of those options, you might want to check the guy or gal down the hall who took the same class last quarter/semester or last year. You might find the best bargain of all buying used textbooks directly from fellow students. Best case scenario, you’ll save money, have no wait in line, and you won’t even have to leave your dorm.