Anyone who has dealt with the American higher education system will agree that when you’re in college, you tend to get nickel and dimed at every turn. There are fees to take tests, fees to fill out applications, fees charged by the school you attend, and of course, the cost of course materials, especially textbooks. According to USA Today, the average yearly cost of textbooks per student is around $1,200, at a price of up to $200 per book, and in a 2013 survey conducted by PIRG, about half of college students reported that textbook prices influenced their choices about which courses to take. In addition, about two thirds did not purchase the required texts for courses in which they were enrolled for financial reasons, even though they worried their grades would suffer as a result.
Rather than force their students to break the bank, some college professors are increasingly offering required readings online where possible, often using websites such as Blackboard, Moodle, or WikiSpaces. Presenting course materials digitally is by no means a new concept, however. University of Massachusetts philosophy professor Gary Zabel writes on his website that “For the past 17 years, I have been developing my courses digitally, first on CDs, and then on the Internet. Nearly everything I’ve taught over that period, or am currently teaching, is [online] now.”
When buying textbooks is unavoidable, another way to save money is by renting textbooks. Most university bookstores now offer this as an option, as well as many websites and commercial retailers, including Amazon. Buying used books is another option, and you can also ask your professor if you need the newest edition, since older editions are often much cheaper and can contain much of the same material. It’s best to shop around and see what the best deal is. There are lots of options out there, so don’t let the high prices of textbooks discourage you from enrolling in the courses you want to take.