Textbooks are a classic hallmark of college life. They are and have always been a crucial part of higher education. The moment you attend the first class of your first day in a college or university, you will be “required” to obtain numerous textbooks that you will be using for the entire semester.
Why should college students strive to obtain the required textbooks? How essential are these tools to the collegiate population? Where is the best place to get college books? How much do students spend on college textbooks? How do you find cheap college textbooks? Is it possible to get free college textbooks? Are there ways to save on the rising textbook costs? Here, we explore the many facets of buying or selling, owning, reading and using college textbooks to benefit college students.
Why Textbooks are Indispensable in College
The College Textbook Situation
How To Hack The Textbook Racket
Why Textbooks are Indispensable in College
Research revealed that in 2017, the most common “requirements” that college professors in the U.S. list on their syllabus are a textbook or two. It is said that 68% of all faculty reported that students are required to own the college textbook relevant to the topic.
While they are as important as other essential college books and resources that help students navigate their higher education journey, textbooks are specific to the course and subject matter in a college program. College educators use textbooks as a reference and aid in discussions. Students refer to textbooks as a tool to understand the subject better, highlight important points, and refresh their memory for examinations.
E-Textbooks: A Rising Textbook Trend
Advanced technologies have given rise to a new type or version of the textbook. Popular among college students are E-textbooks. Essentially, they are textbooks in digital format that are accessible across any device. They are available online and work for students who are always on the go, such as adult learners or distance students. Online textbooks offer a different experience with an array of interactive features such as quick search, note-taking, and highlighting.
A survey conducted by EDUCAUSE Review showed that E-textbook use grew from 2012 to 2016, with up to 66% of students saying they preferred this digital version.
While conveniently ideal for many, an E-Textbook also has its downsides. According to users, not all textbooks are available in digital editions, which means you can only access a limited number of them; therefore, not all of the textbooks in your classes can be accessed digitally. It can be a challenge, too, to find a digital library website. Accessing them comes with restrictions as well. The lack of social tools can be a problem when using E-textbooks.
The biggest E-Textbook publishers are McGraw-Hill Education (SmartBooks), MacMillan (DynamicBooks), Pearson (iBooks Textbooks), OpenStax (OpenStax textbooks), and Elsevier that provides edX’s Circuits & Electronics MOOC students with free, non-downloadable e-textbooks.
How to Take Notes from a Textbook
Comprehending college-level textbooks can be quite a challenge, particularly those that involve difficult subject matters and courses. Understanding complicated formulas, unpronounceable terms, or big and lengthy data can be tricky. Similarly, taking notes isn’t a walk in the park! To address this difficulty, here are the best tips:
- Understand the textbook layout: Determine the index, the chapters and their summaries, and the learning outcomes at the end of each chapter.
- Focus only on what you need to read. Narrowing down focus areas is an effective strategy, considering how college textbooks cover more information than you can process at a given time.
- Learn to browse your textbook. Your college professor will never ask you to read an entire chapter unless you’re off to a three-week vacation. When navigating your textbook for information, use the Index Page. You can also check out the Chapter Summary and Chapter Index pages.
- List keywords and make notes. Use these to skim through the other pages of the textbook. You will find categories that match your search.
How to Cite A Textbook
College research papers use textbooks as references. It is imperative that, as a researcher, you don’t only present the data you used but also reveal the actual source. Also called citation, this process enables your readers to see where you gathered your information. Its primary purpose is to prevent plagiarism, which is punishable by law.
There are three basic citation styles. The Modern Language Association (MLA) format is used for liberal arts and humanities topics; the American Psychological Association (APA) style is for social sciences, education, and psychology topics; and the Chicago Manual of Style is for writings in subjects such as history, business, law, and other disciplines.
Here are the basic rules for in-text citation:
An APA in-text citation includes:
- the last name/s of the author/s
- the source’s year of publication
- the information location or page
An MLA in-text citation essentially follows the author-page method, showing:
- the author’s last name
- the page number/s of the information or quotation
The paper’s Works Cited page should also list the reference, following the author-title, publisher, and publication year format. It will appear like this:
The Chicago Manual of Style citation format is a bibliographic entry that accounts for the published material, and maintains this style:
- title (and subtitle if applicable)
- date/year of publication
The superscript format, starting with the number 1, is used.
How to Take Notes from a Textbook
While reading the pages of your college textbook, it’s not uncommon to encounter difficult information. You may have a problem fully understanding or articulating the material. Here’s how you can overcome this obstacle and enhance your comprehension of difficult material:
- Determine the context of the main idea.
- Pause and vocalize your reading.
- Make notes and summaries on a separate sheet of paper to help you remember what you are reading.
- Re-read the difficult chapter.
The College Textbook Situation
Within 2017 and 2018, college students in the United States acquired textbooks, among other course materials, by making an actual purchase, renting, downloading free textbooks online, and borrowing. This doesn’t come as a surprise, considering how one hardcover math or science textbook costs at least $100! Add that into the other course materials for a semester, and a student’s expenses can spike up to thousands, exacerbating their financial woes.
47% of students buy their textbooks from college bookstores, hoping to find the exact item they are looking for. Because physical shops also run promotional price-offs periodically, students also hope to find cheap college textbooks from these stores. The collegiate population in the United States obtain their textbooks and other course materials from 5,000 retail stores across the country. Each of these retail shops generates $2.3 million in sales.
In a 2012 study, roughly 74% of college students revealed they preferred the print textbooks over the digital or electronic version. According to them, digital textbooks can become inaccessible at the end of the semester. A similar survey in 2014 showed that more students generally preferred printed textbooks because of ease of use and to experience the physical feel of the book. They found that printed textbooks are best for note-taking purposes.
The Soaring Costs of College Textbooks
Did you know that college students spend an average of $1,298 for their course requirements, primarily in textbooks? The National Association of College Stores Foundation revealed that approximately 63% of college students bought new print textbooks, and some 56% of them reported buying used print. An overwhelming 77% of these buyers bought textbooks and course materials from their campus bookstores. Roughly 25% went for digital textbooks.
The escalating prices of textbooks are hitting students’ (and their parents’) wallets hard, rising to a whopping 67% from 2008 to 2018. Going way back, a report even pointed to a Bureau of Labor Statistics finding that textbook prices rose by 1,041% since 1977!
So, where do all these head-spinning textbook-cost-upsurge statistics leave students who are struggling to make ends meet? Colleges and universities are taking advantage of less expensive copyright-free, open-source educational materials that are accessed digitally, but only 6% of them are opting for this alternative. A separate study said 67% of college students chose not to buy textbooks altogether!
Why Are College Textbooks So Expensive?
It doesn’t matter if you are attending a private university or a less expensive college; textbooks come at fixed prices. Unlike tuition, fees, or board, college textbooks all share the same price tag, regardless of your financial capacity as a college student. All things considered, members of the collegiate population all share the need for cheap student textbooks.
But what’s behind the unstoppable textbook price increase? Here are some of the best-known reasons:
- College textbook publishers know that they have a captive audience who will purchase their published materials even if they come in outrageous price tags. Not only that, expensive textbooks are released in new editions periodically to keep the information up-to-date.
- Professors assign textbooks without being price-sensitive. The course requirement weighs strongly for these teachers who have the authority to require students to get their copies. Quite a controversial aspect of this situation is that some professors include in the syllabus the textbooks that they have authored. Some colleges and universities in the United States allow this practice under strict conditions such as approval from academic committees, and the professor’s commitment to never profit from the sale of the textbooks.
- Publishers pay textbook authors copyright fees, and the charges often involve numerous copyrights.
- Exclusive and specialized textbook materials contribute to the rising cost of owning a college textbook. Limited textbook editions drive up prices.
- The latest wave of textbooks, particularly in the sciences, bundle up other content and tools such as workbooks and CDs.
- Online textbooks have high subscription rates because the costs also account for the the online platforms and resources on which they are available.
How To Hack The Textbook Racket
College textbook costs are a significant impediment to a college student’s academic success. If you are one of the many financially strapped college students, you know there is just no way to afford them all!
Is there a way to get cheap college [biology, chemistry, physics, math, etc.] textbooks? What is the best way to buy college textbooks without breaking the bank? Here are the fool-proof ways to get your hands on the textbook and enjoy significant savings.
How to Save Money on College Textbooks
The soaring prices of college textbooks shouldn’t stop you from completing your course requirements. Be smart and practical! Here are the best tips to access cheap textbooks:
Buy Used Textbooks
Who says you need brand-new materials? Look for used textbooks and save an average of 25%. The used textbooks market is generally on the rise, which means you have numerous resources to choose from, including physical and online book shops. Just make sure that you are buying the right edition! Importantly, assess if you are getting a great deal overall, shipping costs included.
Borrow or Buy from a Student
It is wise to source a textbook directly from a fellow student or a friend who will not be using the material anymore. Why buy a printed textbook when you can get it absolutely for free? You can also find friends or friends of friends who have owned and used the material and are contemplating selling the textbook you need for the semester. It’s highly likely that you will enjoy a massive discount!
Purchase Your Printed Textbooks Online
Do comparison shopping. Online book shops sell traditional textbooks that are generally 20% cheaper! Check out online bookstores for their periodic discount deals. Also, check out cheap E-Textbooks available in online bookstores.
Choose the Electronic Edition
See if the textbooks that are sold as E-Textbooks costs you less. This is often the case because E-Textbooks do not incur manufacturing, printing, or shipping costs.
Rent Your Textbooks
Renting textbooks saves you up to 30%. You need to make sure that the material stays in good condition to avoid penalties and other fees. Some schools facilitate book rentals.
Sell Your Textbooks
Many colleges and universities in the country encourage textbook owners to make some money off of previously used textbooks through a buy-back program. You can sell your textbook to a student who will be using it, or use other online platforms where interested buyers can see it.
Photocopy the Pages You Need
More often than not, your professor will only be discussing a few topics in your textbook, not everything in it! Copy the pages you need, but avoid committing copyright violations by photocopying numerous pages.
How To Find FREE Textbooks
Should every college student spend more money than they can afford to finance a good education? With college course materials skyrocketing in prices, it is a must to discover how to find free textbooks!
There are two ways you can enjoy free books for college students. You can access a free Online E-Textbook that requires readers to be connected to the internet and logged into the platform to read the book on it. There are also free E-Textbook and Downloads, which means you can access the platform, download the file from there, and read the E-textbook offline.
Thankfully, there are numerous places online that offer online E-Textbooks and free college textbooks PDF downloads for covering plenty of courses and subjects. Here are five of them:
Carrying more than 60,000 titles, Project Gutenberg offers readers access to textbooks at absolutely zero cost. Read college books online free on this platform using regular browsers or eBook readers in computer and mobile devices.
MIT Open Courseware
MIT Open Courseware is where the MIT faculty share their course materials and textbooks “freely and openly on the Web.” This global educational resource for free college books online features academic content that carries the proper formatting and licensing so that they are legally allowed for open sharing.
Wikibooks is an “open-content textbooks collection” featuring up to 3,065 titles under a variety of categories. Being a wiki page, it is a platform with content that anyone can edit.
Featuring E-textbooks in Accounting, Career & Study Advice, Economics & Finance, Engineering IT & Programming, Languages, Marketing & Law, Natural Sciences, Statistics & Mathematics, and Strategy & Management, Bookboon presents completely free textbooks online that are downloadable in PDF format. You can download free college textbooks and academic resources that are authored by professors from the best universities around the globe.
GetFreeEbooks features free college books. It aims to be “a central hub/directory” of free legal E-textbooks and resources under numerous categories.
OpenStax is a Rice University’s nonprofit educational initiative featuring free “high-quality, peer-reviewed, openly licensed” college E-textbooks. More than 48% of colleges and universities in the United States and over 100 countries utilize the website as a free E-textbook resource.
ManyBooks compiles more than 50,000 free E-textbooks and best-selling books. It features a catalog of public domain books.
How to Find Cheap Textbooks
Finding cost-effective textbook solutions can be quite a challenge, considering the escalating prices of both paperbacks and E-Textbooks. Sometimes, finding the best sites to buy textbooks does not always mean getting brand-new material from them. Buying a used copy or renting a Textbook does the trick.
Find the cheapest places to get college textbooks by checking out these top online bookstores, offering “rent or used” options:
Amazon features the lowest average prices for textbook rentals on a semester-long basis and a 15-day rental extension. Students also get free shipping deals with Amazon Prime Student. Returning the book is free.
Renting and buying old textbooks using BigWords guarantees “the cheapest textbooks, saving [customers] up to 90%”. The site is the only one of its kind to consider buyback pricing so that you can assess whether you save more by renting your textbook or buying and selling it back when the semester ends.
CheapestTextbooks.com is a price comparison search engine that helps you find the best cheap textbook sites. If you are renting a textbook, you should check the comments on the textbook seller’s page to find out more about the condition of the material. You can rent a textbook for up to 130 days.
Textbook Rentals at CampusBooks last up to 150 days and include free shipping. Students can save as much as 80% less than new-textbook price. The Buy Vs. Rent Superbot helps you determine if it’s cheaper to rent or buy your textbooks. The store also encourages students to opt for book rentals to minimize their impact on the environment.
Home to one of the country’s largest textbook inventories, Chegg Books promises up to 90% savings on textbook rentals. By the end of the semester, students can ship back their textbook rentals free of charge using the printable, prepaid shipping labels on the site.
ValoreBooks guarantees “unbeatable rental prices.” Students who rent a textbook and see a cheaper one within seven days, ValoreBooks will refund the difference. Students can choose to rent the textbook for a semester or a quarter.
Barnes & Noble’s Used Textbook Section
Barnes & Nobles’ used textbooks are sold with a discount of up to 70%. The company promises to sell only the highest-quality used printed textbooks that are “intact and virtually scribble-free.”
College Scholarships that Pay for Textbooks
To manage the cost of textbooks, students can turn to financial aid. Federal loans and federal and state grants can cover expenses beyond just tuition and fees. Federal education deductions and tax credits don’t pay for room and board but may cover course materials and supplies.
Here are the scholarships that specifically pay for college textbooks:
The Helping Hands Scholarship is administered by the Helping Hands Foundation, a non-profit organization focusing on student aid. It is open to students who are at least 16 years old and planning to enroll or currently attending a two or four-year college, university, or vocational school. Around 50 scholarships are awarded annually “according to merit on a competitive basis.”
The $1,000 SuperCollege Scholarship is open to students planning to enroll in college or are currently in college or graduate school. Awardees can use the $1,000 scholarship for education-related expenses such as textbooks.
The Carl A. Scott Memorial Fund Book Scholarship is a yearly scholarship opportunity that awards two $500 book scholarships to students “who have demonstrated a commitment to work for equity and social justice in social work.”
Demonstrating the corporate giant’s commitment to student assistance and philanthropy, the Barnes & Noble Book Scholarship is offered in partnership with colleges across the country. After completing other requirements, students must show community or campus service, and show strength in various areas of literacy to qualify.