Buying Books for Online ClassesOne of the biggest challenges with distance learning is getting your hands on textbooks. Usually you do not have a "campus bookstore" right there to go visit. Make sure you plan for your books IN ADVANCE. It can easily save you hundreds of dollars a semester in fees. How can this be? Because buying a book new from a local store can easily cost $150 - PER BOOK. College textbooks come with outrageous price tags. If you can buy the same book used, through Amazon, you could get it for $30. The downside is that it can take up to 3 weeks to get to you. This is why advanced planning is KEY to maintaining a healthy budget.
For example, I am going to Northeastern with their online program. I have been comparing textbooks at Northeastern's bookstore vs Amazon. Here are some examples.
Organizational Behavior, by Kreitner
Northeastern Bookstore: $191 new (for one book!!)
Northeastern Bookstore: $143 used (what a bargain?)
Amazon.com new: $140, free 2 day shipping (I have prime)
Amazon.com used: $117, media mail shipping (could be 3 weeks)
So you can see what kinds of HUGE savings you can get based on the lead time you have. You need to sign up for classes EARLY. If you're worried about a class canceling, don't open the box when the book arrives until you are sure you're going through with that class. That way you can return it "unopened" if you really have to. Most bookstores have a return policy that requires the book to be unopened. Otherwise what would stop you from getting a book, reading it, then sending it back for a full refund?
It is critical, if you go with one of the used dealers, that you know ABSOLUTELY when the book will get to you. I know a student who tried buying a book through Amazon's used market for a class that began in less than a week. He was literally halfway through the class before his book arrived, which caused no end of trauma. You need to know those shipping dates and plan for it.
Yes, college textbooks are expensive. If you plan ahead, you can at least make them as cheap as possible. Still, even if you manage to get down from $191 for the book to "only" $117 for the book, that is still a lot of money for each book. Make sure you include those costs in your yearly college budget and plan for them.
Finally, do NOT mark in your book at all. When you are done with the course, turn around and sell the book either on Amazon or on another market that works well for you. You can easily get at least half the price of the book back again, since other students now also want to save money and want to buy your "cheaper than new" book. Just be sure to do this relatively quickly. Textbooks often come out with new versions every year, so if you wait a few months before you try to sell, your book may now be the "old edition" and no longer in demand.
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