Tag Archives: comparison shopping

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.



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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