Handy ways to save on textbooks

At the TCU Bookstore you can find flip flops, face wash, chips, stationary, feather pens and more. You cannot, however, find cheap textbooks.

It’s not the bookstore’s fault, though; Roman Coronado, the textbook manager, said the reason textbooks are more expensive at the bookstore is because the managers have contracts with the publishers, and the bookstore cannot diverge from the price the publishers give. Nonetheless, Coronado said the high price of a textbook ensures a lot of other factors: the correct edition, publication and International Standard Book Number code – which is guaranteed because the professors give their book orders directly to the bookstore.

But if you’re willing to risk the small chance of receiving the wrong edition or a late shipping order in exchange for saving a hunk of cash, welcome to the wonderful World Wide Web of textbook buying.

If you go to a search engine and type in “textbooks,” you will likely be bombarded and confused by a plethora of Web sites selling, buying, renting, and whatnot-ing textbooks. Here is a list of different kinds of textbook Web sites and their functions.

Comparison – With the amount of money forked over for textbooks, comparing prices as you would for a car or another large investment is not such a ridiculous idea. Web sites like BIGWORDS.com, which just came out with an iPhone application on July 30, are search engines that compare prices of hundreds of textbooks at stores across the Internet. According to its site, it saves 50 percent on books bought from a bookstore.

Other comparison Web sites: bookfinder.com/textbooks, gettextbooks.com

Marketplace – There is eBay.com, Amazon.com and a handful of other online marketplaces for every thing imaginable, but there are also online marketplaces specifically for textbooks, one of them being Akademos which runs the Web site (textbookX.com). Brian Jacobs, the President and CEO of Akademos, said the service works with more than 500 educational publishers in addition to student sellers and has about 1.2 million book titles available. He said Akademos in particular has a very structured ordering system so that no student leaves unsatisfied: when receiving a book, the buyer has a three-day window to request a refund, while the seller must use the company’s shipping label in order to keep track of it. Seeing as they are the main bookstore source for about 40 institutions, Akademos has high credibility when it comes to receiving the correct edition and publication of books. Other marketplace Web sites: valorebooks.com, biblio.com/textbooks

Rentals – Rent a car, rent a house, rent a textbook. Chegg.com is one of many Web sites that allows you to rent your textbooks for a semester (125 days) versus buying and then selling them back – it cuts out a step in the process, and a large chunk of money. According to its Web site, Chegg.com not only saves students 65 to 85 percent on textbooks, but also plants a tree for every book rented. Chegg.com also allows for selling and buying on their site.

Other textbook rental Web sites: BookRenter.com, campusbookrentals.com

Electronic – With the “Go Green” campaign becoming more popular, the eTextbook will probably follow suit. Frank Lyman, executive vice president of CourseSmart.com, said students can purchase from a library of 7,000 core eTextbooks which they have instant access to via the Internet or they can download as a PDF file; the pages look identical to the printed version and students can print out whichever pages are necessary. Not only do they save trees, but money also.

“Our prices do average 50 percent less versus the bookstore,” Lyman said. There are also several tools special to eTextbooks, including a search function and the ability to copy and paste directly from the book into notes.

Other electronic textbook Web sites: iChapters.com