Regulations that went into place July 1 require publishers to sell elements like workbooks and CDs separately as well as bundled with the book. That lets students buy only what they need. Colleges must also give students the list of required textbooks when they register, instead of weeks before classes start. They now have more time to hunt down low-cost solutions.
Ditch the heavy hardcover for an electronic book, and save as much as 50%. Sites like CourseSmart.com offer versions you can access online from any computer, as well as those you can download to a computer or e-book reader. Some colleges also offer e-book downloads. But there are some downsides, including limited printability and portability if you don't have a laptop or e-reader.
Used books can be as much as 90% cheaper, but prices vary widely by site. Check textbook-specific price comparison search engines, such as BigWords.com, CheapestTextbooks.com and Booksprice.com. Check site descriptions about quality before buying; expect some highlighting and notes in the margins.
Consider renting books. College bookstores and sites like Chegg.com and Rent-a-Text.com charge as little as a third of the book's purchase price to rent it for the semester. Most students don't keep their books anyway, so this is a neat way to get around the difficulties of buying a book at full price and trying to sell it back for cash after finals.
If you're looking to pay nothing, it's possible to legally download textbooks for free thanks to a handful of subsidized and open-source sites. Curriki.com, FlatWorldKnowledge.com and TextbookMedia.com offer free resources, while Project Gutenberg offers more than 33,000 free older, out-of-copyright books, including literary classics like "Jane Eyre" and "The Iliad."
For more information on buying college textbooks and other consumer tips click here.
Kelli Grant & Erika Wortham