Textbook Alternatives

by Kelli Ellenburg, PHR, CPRW

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Electronic Textbooks

Could you use an extra $900 this school year? After enrolling in a course at my local community college for some continuing education credits, I discovered that the required textbook was nearly half of the tuition. This realization catapulted the search for an alternative to the college bookstore. Armed with the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), I turned to the Internet to research options. Besides the more obvious tactic of buying a used textbook, this is what I discovered:

  1. Read online. Many books are now offered online at reduced prices through web sites selling finite digital subscriptions. At www.coursesmart.com purchase an electronic version of the textbook for 360 days and take advantage of search and note taking features. Freeload Press offers free downloads for many titles. Access a list of available books at their web site at www.freeloadpress.com. Additional sites such as the above will no doubt continue to emerge.
  2. Buy online. Sites such as amazon.com, ebay.com, and half.com also sell used and new textbooks, often for less than your local college bookstore. Some sites such as textbooks.com guarantee they will buy back books meeting certain criteria for a predetermined amount when a new textbook is purchased. And, one cannot overlook craigslist.com as yet another option when scouting for used textbooks.
  3. Preview copies. Examination, review, or desk copies of textbooks are often sent to professors unsolicited. While some feel it improper to sell such a textbook, your professor may be willing to part with it gratis. Even if he/she is not, a colleague of theirs may gladly pass it on.
  4. New editions. Updated textbooks are constantly being released, often with little change to the content. Realistically, how many breakthroughs in college math in the last ten years warrant a revised text? Ask the professor if the previous edition will suffice.
  5. Lending library. Don't overlook the possibility that the college or public library has a copy of the required text. Especially in the case of literary classics, many of which are also available free on the Internet, it makes sense to investigate.

It should be noted that there seems to be a market for "international editions" of textbooks used in the United States. The international editions are usually paperback, printed on thin paper, and display a different cover, but are otherwise purported to have the same content as versions printed for sale in the United States. Because these books are not intended to be sold in the States, however, it may not be legal for the book to be imported. Additionally, students often have a difficult time reselling the international editions because of the inferior quality.

Given the alternatives noted above, there is a good possibility you can save a portion of the average $900 that textbooks.com claims students spend each year on college textbooks. Learn something new everyday, at a fraction of the cost!

In addition to being a cost-conscious consumer, Kelli Ellenburg is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Professional in Human Resources (PHR). She has more than ten years of industry experience.

Take the Next Step:

  • Before heading to the college bookstore, see if there are viable textbook alternatives that you can take advantage of. You just may save yourself some money!

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