Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
I got a rude introduction to the high-price world of college textbooks when my eldest daughter was a freshman several years ago. At the time, I had to pay $135 for one book for one class!
Unfortunately, the cost of college textbooks is up 22 percent over the last four years, according to the Student Public Interest Research Groups. That’s four times the rate of inflation in the U.S. economy over the same period.
The College Board reports that the average student spends $1,137 on books for about 12 to 15 weeks before they become yesterday’s news at the end of the semester.
Thankfully, the Internet has come to the rescue by offering a number of websites like Chegg.com and Course Smart.com that rent college textbooks. (The latter even gives you digital access to textbooks on an iPhone, iPad or Android device.) Other popular textbook rental sites include BookRenter.com and eCampus.com.
I read a recent New York Times report that mentioned some other sites that were new to me, including Affordabook.com and SwoopThat.com. They’re both screen-scraper sites that search far and wide across the web to find you the best deals.
Amazon is even getting into the game now. Their Kindle Textbook Rental program supposedly offers big discounts up to 80 percent off the regular list price of physical textbooks. You can pay to access textbooks on a variety of digital devices — not just the Kindle — for anywhere from a month to about a year.
Then there’s always the low-tech method of saving money on books: You could try teaming up with a friend in the same class and sharing a book instead of shouldering the financial responsibility all by yourself. I did that in at least one class when I was in school back in the dinosaur age!
-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs
Find more answers to your consumer questions, plus Clark’s new book “Living Large in Lean Times,” at ClarkHoward.com. Listen to his radio show live 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.