Have you ever wanted to save money on textbooks, and just didn’t know how?
During first semester at Corban, not having time to look for alternatives, I bought my textbooks through the bookstore. Since then, however, I have learned how to find cheap books in reasonable condition through various websites. This semester alone, I saved more than $200 by buying my textbooks online.
Where to look?
I tend to use two different websites: Bookbyte.com, whose warehouse is based here in Salem, and Abebooks.com. My sister-in-law, a Corban graduate, recommended both sites to me, and I have saved from $100 to $200 per semester since I started using them. Of the two, I prefer Bookbyte, since most of their books listed as “used” actually appear to be in “good” or “like-new” condition.
Just recently, a friend recommended Bigwords.com; she told me that she bought her textbooks for the spring semester through this company for less than $100. When I checked the site, I found that it compiled results from the two sites I used, as well as Amazon.com and other suppliers. But be careful to read the instructions: the site offers both book sales and rentals, so know which option you are choosing.
Another friend, who lives in Portland, bought her used textbooks from Powell’s Books. I’ve checked the store’s prices through Powells.com and found some bargains. For the most part, however, the prices run higher than the other sites I’ve checked.
How to buy?
In general, I found the best deals when I bought my more expensive textbooks online. Over the past year, for example, I bought a number of $50-$60 anthologies for only $10-20. Last semester, I was able to buy a book on Literary Criticism – priced at $100-$140 – for only $70.
To save this much money, however, I had to spend a certain amount of time looking. This spring, I had to wait until the bookstore posted its textbook listing in late December. As soon as I had the list, I noted the names of the books I needed for each class, and then spent a couple hours on Bookbyte’s and Abebooks’s websites, searching for books by their ISBN numbers and picking out the best deals.
Some books may not be worth the effort. I realized this spring that books priced at $6-$10 in the bookstore would cost almost that much online once I added in the costs for shipping.
Standard shipping takes around two weeks, and even though I ordered them early, some of the books did not arrive until the end of the first week of classes. I also learned around that time that one company had cancelled part of my order. While I was able to re-order the book online, I had to borrow an older text in order to keep up with the reading assignments in that class. Have a back-up plan in case you meet similar crises.
What about selling?
In addition to offering textbooks at low prices, these websites will also buy them back at the end of the semester, though they differ in what they buy and how much they will pay.
I like to keep my books, so I have not used any of these options myself, but Bigwords.com seems to have the best options, because it compiles prices from a variety of buyers. The site can be slow, however, if you have a number of books to sell, while Bookbyte.com offers faster results and comparable prices on most texts. When I checked the sites, for example, I could have sold Bookbyte.com my $70 Literary Criticism text for around $40, and Bigwords.com offered slightly more for a book in good condition.
Once again, selling books takes time, and you need to check the fine print. Some buyers may pay shipping, while others may not; some offer store credit, others cash; most won’t buy older editions, and prices vary from company to company.
If you need your books in a hurry, or you don’t want to spend time looking through the options, then online buying might not be the best method for you. Still, with a little effort and exploration, you should be able to find what you need online, sometimes at drastically lower prices. Don’t be afraid to look around a little.