Money College: Avoid high bookstore prices, buy textbooks online

College bookstores overprice everything from a bottle of water to that embroidered hoodie. While it may seem the most convenient place to grab the reads you need, it will leave a serious dent in your wallet. Online retailers offer more than reasonable textbook options delivered to your doorstep. Here's a Money College survey of some places worthy of your textbook dollar.
At this point, Amazon hawks pretty much everything from organic foods to digital downloads. In addition, it's created a painless online marketplace to buy and sell books. Type in the name and author in the search box to browse new and used books. Prices are based on the number of editions floating around the site, but books have been known to show up for as a little as a penny. Standard shipping runs for $3.99, but the time it takes for a book to arrive depends on the distance between you and the individual seller. If you apply to become a member of Amazon Prime, you can get a full month of free unlimited two-day shipping on all orders. But make sure you cancel it before your trial ends; it's $79 for the year. Minus the Amazon fees, the selling process is pretty satisfying, too -- funds are transferred straight to your bank account.
An eBay affiliate, is a textbooks heavy hitter. Search by title, author, or even ISBN number of the book you are seeking and browse through the choices. Sellers at are asked to rank the books' quality from "Brand New" to "Acceptable" and provide a description: Did someone write in it? Are there coffee stains on the pages? Or is it gently used? Media Mail here adds up to $3.49 and some sellers offer to send it expedited for $5.49.

Why own when you can rent? That was exactly what the founders of Chegg asked when they started their company of textbook rentals. They were tired of hefty textbook circulation at the expense of trees. Not only does the rental process save resources, but the company dedicates a newly-planted tree for every book rented. And so far, so good: it's planted more than 3, 000 trees. Students order their books through the Web site, receive them in a big recyclable orange box and return the book with free UPS shipping upon completion of the semester. Standard shipping is $1.99 to receive the book and all the company asks is that students limit their highlighting and don't add notes and doodles to the margins. The company estimates that students can save $500 off retailer's list prices by renting instead of buying books. (For a closer look at Chegg, see Money College writer Jason St. Amand's comparison shop for his college textbooks.)

Alibris calls itself home to independent sellers of new and used books, among other items. Independently owned since 1998, it knows a thing or two about shelling out textbook steals. It offers Google checkout and accepts PayPal. Though a textbook-selling veteran, it has teamed up with the newcomers at Chegg in order to provide sellers with a responsible outlet. Chegg is the buyback service for Alibris with an average price of $40 paid per book. Not only do they boast free shipping, but a tree is planted for every book sold back.

Searching sites for the best textbook deal online can take some serious time if you're a real penny pincher. AddALL recognized that problem and found a solution: create a book search and price comparison site. One simple search of title, shipping destination and state allows you to compare textbooks from more than 41 sites including and AbeBooks. It even provides an inspirational quote while you wait for your search results. When the list of titles comes, click on the appropriate author and edition and you can see the listings in price order. AddALL is not a seller of books, but more a book buyer resource so once you click on "buy," you're redirected to the selling site.

Before you drop $500 on one semester's worth of books, consider staying in, searching the web, and having the deals delivered to you. And remember, textbook companies are a business. They release new editions every few years, sometimes without even changing much of the content, at cost to the consumer: you. So don't be afraid to ask your professor if the older edition will suffice.These older editions can be found easily and reasonably online. It could be your ticket to $100 or less for a semester's worth of textbooks.
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