Textbook Purchase Do's and Don'ts

scales books and money

When you're living on a student budget, the cost of textbooks can put a crimp in your finances. Fortunately, a variety of strategies exist for saving money on your college book purchases. Try the following penny pinching do's and don'ts when you buy your required texts.


Do Inquire With the Instructor


Before you start buying books, check with your instructors to make sure that they intend to use the textbooks. You may find that they will be relying mostly on lectures, or they may have you only read a few chapters. If an instructor is only using a portion of the book, you may be able to find it at the library or through a fellow student and make photocopies of the pages for much less than buying the entire book.


Do Price Comparisons


When searching for books online, use a price comparison tool, such as University Network's Textbook Save Engine and Campusbooks.com. Such sites can help you to find the absolute best prices out there.


Do Buy Used


Purchasing a used textbook not only saves you money, it's an environmentally friendly option. When purchasing a previously used book, check that the condition is good enough for the book to be readable.


Do Rent


If you're buying a book for a class that isn't in your major and you know you won't be consulting the information after the course is over, rent the book. The cost of renting for a specified period of time, such as a semester, is markedly less expensive than buying even used books. Just make certain to return books on time or you can face stiff fines.


Do Use Electronic Books


E-books are a growing trend at many schools, for a wide variety of reasons. Not only is their cost much less expensive than paper books, this option is environmentally friendly, and you get the book instantaneously. This last benefit works out quite well if you've procrastinated and class has already started. E-books also take up very little storage space, and you can keep them indefinitely. In fact, the benefits of using e-books inspired Ashford to develop Constellation, a cloud-based, interactive platform for accessing and annotating Ashford course learning materials on the web or any mobile device. Constellation helps our busy students keep up with their studies wherever they are.


Don't Buy Without Verifying it's the Right Edition


Before you buy, it's critical that you determine you are definitely buying the correct edition of the textbook. Editions are updated frequently and can contain information that previous versions lack. The only way to know for sure is to confirm that the ISBN number is exactly the same.


Don't Forget About Sharing


If a textbook is especially cost prohibitive, consider buying it with a classmate and sharing the cost. If you both require the text at the same time, photocopy the pages needed so that each of you can read and study – even if you're not in the same location. Email makes sharing course materials today easier than ever before. When you're finished with the book, sell it back and split the proceeds.


Don't Buy Too Early


While it's admirable to be prepared for the next course, it's not necessary or advisable to purchase your books more than a month or two in advance. If you buy or rent books too far in advance, there is always the possibility that the class requirements could be changed, and you could end up with books you don't need.


Don't Forget to Save Book Receipts for Your Taxes


If you qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, you get up to $2,500 worth of tax credit on out-of-pocket college expenses, including textbooks. Receipts allow you to add up how much you paid on books so that you can inform your accountant, who will include the amount on your tax return for a credit.


Textbooks are a necessary part of college life, but they don't have to strain your budget. Follow these textbook purchase do's and don'ts to maximize your education dollar.


Written by Ashford University staff.

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