Category Archives: Textbook Buying

How to pay less for textbooks

To buy or not to buy — when it comes to buying textbooks, your options can be limited. To save or not to save, here are some FreeP tips on the costly world of buying textbooks at Boston University.

Barnes & Noble

Centrally located in Kenmore Square, the Boston University Barnes & Noble is the primary provider of textbooks and classroom materials on campus. Students can order their textbooks through the BU Barnes & Noble website for pickup at the store or dorm or home delivery. If you want to stretch your legs, you can also peruse the shelves of textbooks at the bookstore.

Expect no sales or discounts for new materials. However, renting or buying used editions, if available for that course, are money-saving alternatives for the frugal-minded student. The conditions of used editions may vary, but the books are generally in readable condition.

A cornerstone of BU, the Barnes & Noble in Kenmore provides many options in both the purchasing process and price variance. However, for those seeking the cheapest textbooks, this store may not be the perfect choice.


If full price isn’t your thing, Amazon is a great alternative to the shelves of Barnes & Noble. While some of the prices on Amazon are comparable with the Kenmore-located store, most textbooks can be purchased at a heavily discounted rate. Amazon also has a wider array of used textbook options at very low prices.

While Amazon can deliver textbooks to your dorm, you can also pick up — and return if you ordered the wrong ones — at the Amazon Locker at 870 Commonwealth Ave. Located across the street from the College of Fine Arts and the College of General Studies in West Campus, this brick-and-mortar Amazon store is helpful for those in a rush or unable to pick up books through the campus mail system.

The drawbacks of using Amazon for all your textbook shopping needs is that it may not have specific editions that a professor demands for a course. Comparing prices and hunting down these specific versions can also be time-consuming. However, if you’re a true penny pincher, the time spent will be worth it.

Selling Textbooks

Unless you are a passionate textbook collector, you may not need many textbooks after you have completed a specific course. Instead, you can sell textbooks for cash. At the end of each semester during final exams, students will find trucks and vans along Commonwealth Avenue with the sole purpose of buying textbooks.

The buyers always pay in cash, but they may not purchase all the textbooks you have.

If you are still strapped with certain textbooks after visiting the numerous buyers on the street, try selling to other students through the various BU class groups. While syllabi may change, textbook requirements for courses often remain the same.

Additional Tips

Don’t buy your textbooks over the summer. Wait until you attend class and go over the course syllabus. The professor may change his or her mind and decide to make certain textbooks optional or remove them.

Boston has many great local bookstores, but don’t rely on them for your textbook needs. Local shops may have new and used books, but they most likely will not carry that special microeconomics textbook you need.



OER Saves Students $1 Million in Textbook Costs

September 26, 2017 – Over the last few years, several Santa Fe College professors opted to forego the use of traditional textbooks and use Open Educational Resources (OER) to save students money.  OER content is licensed in a manner that provides perpetual permission resulting in the ability to retain, reuse, revise, and redistribute content.

During Fall 2016, there were 98 sections using an OER.  During Fall 2017, that number more than doubled with 207 sections. As a result, there has been over one million dollars in savings for students since tracking began.

The average yearly cost of textbooks per student is approximately $1,200. Studies have shown how the high cost of textbooks has affected student learning and academic choices in several ways including taking fewer courses, not registering for a specific course, dropping, withdrawing or failing a course or earn a poor grade.

Over 66 percent of students do not purchase the required textbook.  This greatly affects their ability to be successful. Using OER enables students to learn without the financial hurdles printed textbooks can present. Many online OER have a low-cost print option if students wish to have a hard copy.

A list of courses/instructors using OER can be found at

If you are interested in using an OER, would like more information, or your name is not on the listing, contact

Today@Santa FE

Is Students’ Textbook Spending Falling?

For the second year in a row, college students spent less on textbooks and other course materials. The findings, from two new reports, link the spending drop to a rise in the use of rented materials and digital textbooks. The reports cite that digital materials can cost 15-70% less than new print textbooks.

The Student Watch Survey, conducted by the National Association of College Stores, reported a decline of $23 per student in spending; it dropped from $602 during the 2015-2016 academic year to $579 during 2016-2017. Student Monitor, an independent study of student spending issued twice a year, reported a decline of $64 in spending per student, dropping from $607 during the 2015-2016 year to $543 in the 2016-2017 academic year.

More students than ever—82% of the respondents in the Student Monitor survey—are using comparison shopping. Students, the reports said, are taking advantage of the competitive market for course material, where there is an increased variety of low-priced options.

The Student Watch survey reported that as many as 52% of students use digital course materials. According to this study, renting a textbook costs about $30 less than buying one. More than 33% of the respondents in the Student Watch survey said they had rented one or more textbooks; that figure marks a record high.

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Have you ever used International Versions of a textbook?

International Versions of textbooks, what are they and are they legal in the US?

Textbook publishers sell their books worldwide and often price them based on book prices and economic conditions of the destination countries. These textbooks sold abroad are referred to “International Editions” or “Low price editions”.

An International Edition textbook is simply the international counterpart to a US Edition. Most international editions have slightly different covers, many have different ISBNs on the outside covers (although some have the same ISBN as the US edition on the inside), but are still printed on high-quality paper. These books were originally created to be sold in different regions, like Europe. International Edition textbooks have the same pagination and contents as the US Edition. All units, page numbers, and problem sets are the same as the US version.

Most international editions may bear a label that says something to the effect of “Not for sale in the U.S. or Canada”. This is because the publisher has printed the books to be sold overseas. There is nothing illegal, however, in purchasing international edition books from sellers overseas. In fact, the 2013 Supreme Court decision of Kirtsaeng vs. John Wiley & Sons put this matter to rest, ruling that International Edition textbooks may be sold and purchased within the U.S. It also upheld the right of anyone to sell used international edition textbooks, which means that college students can resell their international edition textbooks when the semester is over!

Students are missing out on big savings by not investigating International Editions of textbooks. Website, whose textbook price service includes International Editions, recently ran a Twitter poll asking about International Edition usage and 100% of the respondents said they have not used a international Edition.


If available do you prefer to rent or buy textbooks?

Renting vs Buying college textbooks is an option most college students have to consider. Many students simply pick the cheapest option but there are other considerations.

Renting textbooks

  • Cheaper up front cost
  • No risk of a new version coming out and devaluing a purchased textbook

Buying textbooks

  • Buying used and reselling may be the cheapest method
  • A better choice if the textbook will be used in another or advanced course

Deciding Which is Right for You  

Now that we have listed the options and the pros of each, it’s up to you to decide! Just to recap, many students rent their college textbooks because it’s cheaper up front and they usually don’t use them after the class. The exception is textbooks that I’ll be using for multiple semesters. There’s really no right or wrong when it comes to buying or renting your textbooks, it just depends on you, your financial status, and your style of studying. Once you determine how you study and what you need in order to succeed, your textbook selection process will be a breeze.

What do other student recommend?

Textbook comparison website recently ran a Twitter poll for college students to vote on buying vs renting. The results were really right down the middle with 50% responding that they prefer to rent and 50% that prefer to buy.