5 Ways to Save Big on College Textbooks

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- With college costs rising and Labor Day fast approaching, cash-strapped college students may face a big dilemma: How to pay for their college textbooks.

One way out is to not buy them at all and just rent them for a semester at a huge discount. Another is to use an e-reader like a Kindle to rent or buy books. But those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to saving cash on textbooks. Here are five more tips to take back to school with you.

Rent books at half-price. Websites like CampusBookRentals.com offer in demand college textbooks for students at 5,600 U.S. colleges and universities. The service allows students to go to the website and place their orders, receive the books via mail delivery within a few days, and save big bucks in the process.

Get A Kindle. With Amazon’s (Stock Quote: AMZN) Kindles getting cheaper each day (you can now get a basic Kindle for $139), they could be the pathway to lower textbook costs. This month Amazon is introducing its Kindle textbook rental program where students can save 80% on book rentals, the company says. Students can customize their rental timetables—anywhere between 30 and 360 days, depending on how long they need the book—and only pay for what they need. Amazon even lets you keep the margin and highlighted notes you made on your book, through a technology called Whispersync. The website says it has “tens of thousands” of titles to choose from.

Purchase books from abroad. If you want a hard copy textbook but can’t find a cheap used one, buy the international edition. These soft-cover copies often come at a much cheaper price. Sites like AbeBooks.com will help you find what your options are.

Use Craigslist. No shortage of sites sell used textbooks, but Craigslist has one built-in advantage in that it focuses on local communities. You can pair up with a seller in your own hometown, and usually at a deep discount.

Get the ISBN. Every published book comes with an ISBN to make it easier for everyone along the commercial chain (and the Library of Congress, which stores the books) to identify the title. If you’re buying your textbook online, having the ISBN code, which can be found on the back of the book near the bar code, can make it much easier to find precisely the edition you need.

Getting a good deal on college textbooks is all about the search and price. Leveraging both is highly doable, leaving you more cash to spend on the important things like music downloads, jeans and pizza.

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