Textbooks & Technology

This year the average college student will spend well over $1,000 on textbooks. A staggering sum, especially when added to the rapidly rising cost of tuition. The eTextbook has long been heralded as the answer to textbook costs. But as college kids head back to campus this fall, the vast majority of them are going to their university bookstore to stock up on $100+ tomes.

With that said, technology and innovation have provided some options that can be used to save money on textbooks. For the fiscally savvy student, these options deserve consideration:

eTextbooks - While just 2 percent of college students currently own an eReader, tens of thousands of eBook options exist. Now eBooks are generally available for free when the book is out-of-copyright. Copyright laws no longer protect books published prior to 1923, so literature students can download digital copies of older books on Google Books or Project Gutenberg without paying. For newer editions, try Barnes & Noble's NOOKstudy, which offers thousands of recent eTextbooks. These versions are generally 30% less expensive than their hardcopy counterparts and come with a one-week free trial.

Rental - Over the past few years, renting textbooks has become an increasingly popular option among college students. Under these arrangements students pay to use a textbook for one semester. At the end of that period, they mail their book back to the vendor or return it to their campus bookstore. The two largest websites in the space are BookRenter and Chegg and thousands of colleges are now offering their own rental programs on campus.

Price Comparison
- The inherent problem with both eTextbooks and textbook rentals is that at the end of the semester students are left with nothing to sell. The used book market has long been a saving grace for cash strapped students heading home for vacation. This is where price comparison applications like CampusBooks and CheapTextbooks come in. Using the CampusBooks website, iPhone or Android application, a student can compare the price to purchase, rent and sell textbooks on over 40 websites including Chegg, BookRenter and Amazon. The site also offers students the ability to check the price for the book at their college's bookstore and see if the book is available to borrow from the library.

Whether your book is digital or analogue, new, used or rented, be sure to check out all of these options before making that $1,000 investment.