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Chasing Cheaper Textbooks

If you have kids or grandkids in college, or even if you’re in college yourself, you know about the high cost of higher education. But for real sticker stock, visit the campus bookstore.

Overall, the cost of college textbooks has tripled since 1986, reports the federal Government Accountability Office, to about $900 a year per student. To save money, consider these options:

• Buy online. Compared to the on-campus bookstore, you can sometimes save at online bookstores such as www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. Also, comparison-shop at textbook-specific search engines such as www.cheapesttextbooks.com, www.booksprice.com, www.campusbooks.com and www.bigwords.com. You can search at those sites by the book’s title, author or ISBN number.

• Rent. Many students use their books for only one or two semesters, a fact that has prompted a growth in rental services such as www.chegg.com, www.bookrenter.com and www.campusbookrentals.com. Expect savings of 33 to 80 percent compared with buying the books new.

• Go electronic. Students who want to carry a light load—physically and economically—should check out websites such as www.coursesmart.com and www.cafescribe.com, which offer downloadable electronic versions of popular titles.

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