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Back to School – Textbook Tips!

Pricey textbooks require SMART College Textbook Selection


by Kristine Worthington - August 15, 2016

Is there a college bound person in your family? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the cost of new college textbooks has been rising for decades. The bright side of the story is that educating yourself about textbook options can save you a bundle.
If you already have a year or two of college completed, you know that making uninformed textbook decisions can be expensive and frustrating. Some common textbook challenges include:

• Buying the wrong book
• Buying textbooks that are listed as required but not used by the professor
• Waiting too long before ordering and missing out on the less expensive used books
• Buying used books without access codes
• Failing to return rented books in a timely manner
• Ordering both the printed text and the e-book when only one is needed
• Not budgeting enough money for textbook purchases

Making the best decisions about which textbook option to select can be challenging. Whether you’re looking at a computer screen or standing in the University bookstore, asking the right questions can save you from spending more money than necessary. Connie Brant, the Textbook Manager at Mansfield University bookstore, was willing to share her insider knowledge about choosing the best textbooks for your individual needs.

To make the correct text book purchase, you need your class schedule. Connie encourages students to have their schedule in hand when they go to the bookstore to select their books. The class schedule is used to determine what textbooks professors are requiring, or suggesting as optional, for each class. The specific books and ISBN numbers can be found by going to your college bookstore or visiting your college bookstore online. Many students have found that talking to the professor directly or to a knowledgeable bookstore employee allows them to clarify if a listed book is actually needed to be successful in the class. Another quality source of information is reliable upper classmen. Experienced students in your major know first-hand whether the textbook impacts directly on your ability to achieve top grades in the class. Remember each student must take ownership of their success or failure in a class. If the book is needed, you may even want to get the book early and do some pre-reading.

Another advantage of shopping early for books is the increased likelihood of finding quality used books at lower prices than the new book price. Connie suggested coming into the book store to look through the used books and select the best one. The used books that Connie Brant showed us were in excellent condition. Keep in mind that if access codes are required with a text, you need to check that the access code in a used book has not been forfeited by the previous book owner. An access code that has already been used cannot be use again. Without the access code you could get caught having to purchase the code separately. According to Connie, buying the access code can be as expensive as buying the original textbook. In this case buying a new book with the needed access code may be your best choice.

There are other reasons for choosing to buy new textbooks. Students may want to buy new books if the text is in their major and will be an important resource for several years. Adding your own notes and highlighting might make a new book worth the money. Also, some technical books in your major of study may act as reference material in your future career.

If you feel the text books for a class are not something you will want to keep, then you can save money by renting the textbook. Rental books are available both online and through the bookstore. You have the option of renting new or renting used books. With rental books you must be sure that you return them on time to avoid expensive late fees. This is another area where Connie Brant helps her student buyers. Connie stated in our interview, “If they rent from us they get an email reminding them that the books have to be returned by a certain date.” There is another important consideration with rented book or books you want to sell back. You are allowed to highlight and write in the book but it should not be excessive. For example, do not highlight entire pages, or add notes that go over the printed text.

One more money saving options to consider is e-books. There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing e-books. Having an e-book downloaded into your laptop means that the resource is at your fingertips when you need it, but remember there is no resale value for your e-book. Student preference is also an important consideration. Connie reported that currently the majority of students are choosing printed textbooks over e-books.

Students can save money and make quality textbook buying decisions, but they need to be prepared to do some research. Yes, HOMEWORK before you even go off to college! This includes both online research and asking professors important questions like: Will the textbooks listed for your class be needed to get the best possible grade? Can I purchase an older edition of the textbook you are requiring and still have the same needed information? Remember, that college bookstore staff like Connie Brant at Mansfield University are highly knowledgeable and eager to support students through the process. She even has strategies for students who do not have the cash needed to buy books at the start of the semester.

The take away message to remember is be SMART about your textbook selections.
S – Shop around
M – Make informed choices – there are several textbook options to choose from
A – Act in a timely manner to get the less expensive used books
R – Research online tips for making wise textbook purchases
T – Take time to seek advice from professors, College bookstore professionals, and successful upper classmen in your major

All the best to our college bound Tioga County students! Work hard, make good decisions, and know the community is here cheering you to success.


Idea/Concept: Kristine Worthington

Videography: Andrew Moore, Cody Getz

Video Editing: Andrew Moore

Writing: Kristine Worthington

Anchor: Sam Moss

Correspondent: Kristine Worthington


Produced by Vogt Media

Funded by Mansfield University

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