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Q: What can I do to combat the rising costs of college textbooks?
A: Try the Internet, suggests Gary Galati, spokesperson for eMarketer, a New York-based consulting firm that tracks e-commerce. According to some estimates, about 10% of sales in the $4 billion college textbook industry have been generated online. Over the last year, several sites have popped up that enable students to save 15% to 40% off new and used textbooks.
Besides deep discounts on books, some sites have additional savings opportunities. For example, textbooks.com, a Barnes & Noble-affiliated company, ships anything for a flat fee of $4.95. Another site, Bigwords.com, ships orders over $35 for free and enables students to rent books for up to 60% off retail. In addition, students can trade or sell books to each other on textswap.com, campus.com and textfinder.com. And studentmarket.com features dorm-room accessories and student loan information along with textbooks.
While all of these sites offer savings of typically $9 to $12 per class, there are drawbacks. Purchases must be made with a credit card. Plus, any expenses students incur for returns could eat up initial savings. So, students should take a few precautions-compare sites; read the firm’s return policy; confirm the customer-service telephone number works; and ensure the site is secure-before they purchase. Also, “buy early when the stock of used books is high; factor shipping into the bottom line cost; and have the correct titles and ISBN numbers. That will make shopping faster and easier,” says Doug Alexander, vice president of strategic planning and development at ecampus, which offers 15% off new textbooks and 30% off used textbooks.