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If You’re Buying Textbooks This Week, Get Educated, Not Schooled

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When a semester’s worth of textbooks can add up to a couple (or three or four) hundred dollars, hitting the checkout line at the campus bookstore is a distressing experience for many students, to say the least.

Analog solutions to this problem include: borrowing from the library, borrowing from friends who’ve already taken the class, and photocopying from those foolish enough to buy the book in exchange for beer.

Or, you know, you could turn to the plethora of digital resources out there for help.

If you really don’t want to spend money on books, Boundless is a free service that aligns its e-textbooks with other popular texts by chapter across 20 subjects. In classes like Accounting and Psych 101 where many textbooks provide the same information, this can be a big money saver. Boundless is also launching a premium option, which includes study help in the form of active recall quizzes at the price of $19.99 per book. Like flossing your teeth, it’s one of those things that most of us probably are not going to do, but that would probably pay off big time later in life.

Textbook giant Chegg, which filed for a $150 million IPO last month, gives students a lot of options. You can buy new or used, rent a hard copy, or rent an e-text from 60 days up to a year. There’s a certain advantage to that last option, which is that you’re never going to forget to turn your rental back in and get charged the full amount. Just saying. You can also sell textbooks through the site.

Just in time for this school year, Google has also gotten in on the textbook game with e-text rentals available in the Google Play store.

They’ve partnered with major publishing houses like Pearson, Miley, Macmillian Higher Education, McGraw-Hill, and Cengage Learning, meaning you’re likely to find your bio textbook in the mix. The savings range from only $14 on a $106 Biology book to a 50% markdown on a $189 Precalculus text, which is pretty good.

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For students at schools that use edtech company Rafter, shopping at the campus store may actually be to their advantage. Formerly a Chegg competitor known as BookRenter, Rafter is trying to disrupt the entire textbook ecosystem by helping school administrators lower prices for their students, who would otherwise turn to off-campus solutions like those suggested in this article. Rafter is currently used by schools like the University of Arizona, NC State, Purdue, and Seattle University.

Last but certainly not least: Google “full text.” MIT of all institutions has got you covered on the Shakespeare front, although the lines aren’t numbered, and Dartmouth has Paradise Lost. As an English major, discovering that too-obvious-to-be-true education hack saved me in college. And by that I mean my bank account. Lots of money.

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