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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to Buy College Textbooks for Less

As a blind or visually impaired student, you don't have the luxury of waiting to purchase your textbooks at the same time as the rest of your classmates. You may need to get that book recorded, enlarged or find a reader for assistance. 

College is a big business, and one of the biggest moneymakers for any college are the required textbooks. Nothing hits your party pocketbook like a trip to the campus bookstore. To make matters worse, you get little or nothing when you try to resell your books (even the ones you never opened)! 

Don't take out the extra loans. Justfollow this lesson to lessen the cost of your education.

  1. If you haven't done so already, get connected with the Talking Book Library in your area. Make sure that you're all signed up and that you can receive books when you request them.
  2. If you're not a member of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic click this link to sign up or call toll free: 866-732-3585. With more than 109,000 titles in their CV Starr Learning Through Listening Library, RFB&D is the number one producer in the world of audio textbooks for people who can't effectively read standard print. 
  3. Familiarize yourself with the Louis Database of Accessible Materials at the American Printing House for the Blind. Make sure you can effectively search this online resource and find the titles you need. 
  4.  
  5. Register for classes as early as possible. Start researching courses as soon as you can, and solidify your schedule early. If you have to change classes at the last minute, it'll be hard to escape high textbook prices.
  6. Find out what books you'll need for your classes. Go to the bookstore just to browse. Leave the wallet at home, but bring a pen and paper or recorder. Look for your classes and the new semester's required books. Ask the bookstore employees to assist you if needed. If your classes' book requirements are not in yet, inquire as to when they will be and come back on that date. You may also be able to get this information off the bookstore's website or your classes' web pages.
  7. Write down or have someone read you the following information for each book:
    • the name and edition of the book
    • the name of the author
    • the book's International Standard Book Number (ISBN), found on or near the barcode on the back of the book
    • the price.
  8. Take this information home, to the Disability Student Services office or to your school library if it has an accessible computer with online access and a telephone.
  9. Begin your search. This will require the book's ISBN or International Standard Book Number. Call RFB&D or visit the Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic's website to see if they have the books in their catalog.
  10. Search Louis: the Database of Accessible Materials.
  11. If the book is more of general reading than an actual textbook, call your local Talking Book Library to see if they have it. This works well for classic books from authors like Mary Shelley or H. G. Wells.
  12. The search has ended for accessible versions of your books. Now, you're going to have to find someone to read the book to you or find some way to convert it into a format that you can use.
  13. Try to find the books in the library. Check the catalogs of your school library and the local public library. If you can't find a book there, try to obtain the book via interlibrary loan. Depending on the library's borrowing policies, you may be able to check out books for the whole semester or at least for as long as you'll need them. You'll want to get on this early, though, because supplies will be limited. Ask for assistance if needed.
  14. If you haven't found all your books at this point, you're going to have to buy them. Let's change our focus to purchasing the cheapest possible book.
  15. Find out if any books are optional, and think twice about buying them. Some optional books are really quite necessary, while others aren't. Ask your professor or TA for advice if in doubt, and consider your own study habits. If you tend to ignore the optional materials anyway, then there's no point in wasting your money on it.
  16. Search for books on the Internet. All you'll need is the book's ISBN. In the search box of your favorite search engine, enter only the ISBN number, without the dashes that separate the digits. You should come up with several exact matches; in the unlikely event that you don't, try searching by title. Verify that you have the correct book using the other information you wrote down or recorded. If a search engine search isn't very fruitful, try searching directly at online booksellers' sites. 
  17. When the price matters more than the store, online textbook price comparison engines shine. When you don't care what truck your $200 Chemistry book fell off of or what far reaches of the world it has to travel from to get to you as long as it's dirt cheap, comparison engines are the perfect tool.
    BigWords.com is by far the most popular comparison engine. BigWords has expanded over the years to cover not just the buying and selling of textbooks but price comparisons for DVDs, music, games, and other consumer products. While Addall.com isn't as polished as BigWords', it does search forty-one book sites, ensuring that whether your book is on Half.com or Walmart.com you'll end up with a low price. Unfortunately, AddALL cannot do multiple comparisons like BigWords can.
    A great website for finding books at a great price is http://www.half.com. This is an affiliate of eBay but there are no auctions to mess with. You will need a Paypal account to buy books from this site.

    TextBookRevolt.com

    With this site, you'll be able to trade your current books for ones you need, easily. Just tell the site what books you have and what books you need. You'll then be able to make contact with people who are in your same situation. Just send them your books, and receive the ones you need. This sort of communal book trading will greatly decrease the amount of money you spend on books. All you'll have to do is share with others and you'll receive what you need. This concept of sharing books should be sending chills down the spines of many college bookstores. Signing up is free, and you'll instantly be eligible to become a part of the sharing process.

    Click this link to visit http://www.TextBookRevolt.com
    .

    Here's a great service for both bookbuyers and libraries. BWB solves libraries' problem of unwanted discards and donations by selling them online and passing on proceeds to the libraries and their nonprofit literacy partners. Buyers can select from 1.8 million used books and 500,000 new ones, knowing that the money will go to libraries and literacy promotion. Click this link to visit Better World Books at http://betterworldbooks.com.
    Another site for purchasing books is http://www.booksprice.com. Get the books you need for 50% off! Save even more by buying a pre-read copy in nearly new condition!

    Free Textbooks from Orange Grove. When we came across this link to free college-level textbooks in .PDF format from Orange Grove, we were naturally skeptical, thinking they would probably not be accessible. But to our surprise, the website and books appear to be quite usable, downloadable as standard .PDF files. This page lists over 100 titles ranging from politics to history, all available for free. It's a part of the University Press of Florida.
    Chegg.com is a site with a very interesting business model. They rent textbooks rather than selling them. This makes getting a hold of textbooks much cheaper and you don't have to deal with selling them or holding on to them after you are done with the book. Chegg is the Netflix of textbooks. How it works is simple. You go to the site and select the textbooks you need. You pay the one-time rental price for each book and pay for them to ship it to you. You then keep the book until you are finished with it or you have the option to purchase the book later. When you are finished with the book, revisit the site and you can print out a shipping label for the books you want to send back and you ship them back to Chegg. It's as easy as that! 

    Here's a great service for both bookbuyers and libraries. BWB solves libraries' problem of unwanted discards and donations by selling them online and passing on proceeds to the libraries and their nonprofit literacy partners. Buyers can select from 1.8 million used books and 500,000 new ones, knowing that the money will go to libraries and literacy promotion. Click this link to visit Better World Books at http://betterworldbooks.com

    Here's another website that may be helpful: TextbooksRus.com. Not only does this website sell books for a lot less than you would normally buy them for, but they sell International Edition textbooks. 

    Two additional resources: www.ecampus.com and www.campusbooks.com

    What is an international edition? The website explains that textbook companies print textbooks not only for buyers in the United States, but for those in other parts of the world as well. These international editions are often identical to their American counterparts in content. The only differences might be that the cover looks different and the book is a paperback instead of a hardback book. Because people in other parts of the world won't pay the high prices on books that Americans pay, these books are generally much, much less than those sold in the United States. Textbooks R Us also reassures buyers that they will only sell international edition textbooks with identical content to their American counterparts. This could be perfect for anyone who is going to scan the book or have someone read the book aloud.
  18. Continue to Shop around online. Just about any price you find online will be cheaper than the bookstore, but check as many sites as possible to find the cheapest priced book. Check out online auction marketplaces. While you won't be able to find as many books at auctions, you may be able to find some great deals. DirectTextBook.com is an online book price comparison site that lets you quickly compare book prices across 30 major book retailers including Amazon, eBooks.com, Powell’s,  Buy.com, Walmart, Book Closeouts and more. When you search for books it brings up all the options (new, used, ebook, rental) and presents them on one table. You can then scroll through the available prices for each format, select the book you want and go to the bookstores site to purchase it.
  19. Check out local bookstores. You may be able to find a good deal locally, especially once you factor in shipping charges. Even if you can't quite match an online price locally, you'll be able to see the book before you purchase and you'll get the satisfaction of helping local merchants.
  20. Consider used books. Used books are almost always cheaper than new ones, and if you can find a used version online in good condition it's probably a good bet. You may also be able to get used books at your campus bookstore, especially if you shop early or pre-order. Compare prices to find the best deal.
  21. Inquire about earlier editions. If the current edition's used price is still too much, use the book name to find an earlier edition: enter the book title in the search box and remove any references to what edition it is. Before buying, ask your professor or TA if the earlier edition is acceptable. Sometimes it is not, and you don't want to have to pay for a book twice.
  22. Scour your campus. Some colleges have student groups that sell used textbooks for older students or that otherwise facilitate buying and selling of books. Ask your friends, look at flyers around campus, and watch the student paper for deals. Don't forget to ask in the Disability Student Services office, maybe someone there has already taken the class and still has the book. Many blind students will leave their copy of books that have been recorded for the next student to use.
Resell your books. If you don't foresee that you'll need a book after the semester ends, or after you've had it scanned or recorded, try to resell it as soon as possible. Find out what your campus bookstore and local booksellers will pay, and consider putting up flyers around campus and/or selling it online. If your book is in high demand, you may be able to sell a book online within a day, and at a much higher price than you'll get at the bookstore. 

Always include shipping costs in your calculations. You may be able to save money on shipping by purchasing several books from one merchant. 

Don't forget about international editions. They're generally exactly the same as their American counterparts, except they often come only in paperback, and the pages may feel a bit different. 

Using more than a few online book resellers might not be beneficial. Don't waste time and confuse yourself with multiple sites; focus on finding what you need, especially if the prices all appear to be about the same. 

The best time to buy is between semesters, when people online are trying to get rid of their old books, but before people are buying new ones. It's usually between 2 and 4 weeks before classes start. If you track sale prices over time, you can see the dip, then a radical increase. Buy when the price is low, but you still have at least 2 weeks for shipping before school. If you want to sell, try selling the first week of school, or the week before when everyone is running around like madmen






2 comments:

Brandon Checketts said...

For price comparisons, I like CampusBooks.com better which is less in-your-face than bigwords.

For selling your books back at the end of the semester, use BookScouter.com to find who is paying the most for your used books.

If done correctly, you can buy a used book for the lowest possible price at the beginning of the semester, and sell it back for the highest price at the end of the semester, and won't pay much at all.

Sean Johnson said...

i prefer to use www.eCampus.com they have great prices on textbook rentals and ive never had any issues with their service.

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