Getting around expensive textbooks – Recent surveys by the National Association of College Stores suggest annual student spending on course materials is decreasing with the emergence of alternatives to retail, from textbook sharing and rentals to e-books and online resources. Click through the gallery to find find out how students are getting around paying top dollar for course materials.
Textbook rentals – Students can generally rent a textbook for between 33% and 55% of the cost of a new printed text, according to the NACS. Most college bookstores offer a service through which students can rent course materials and return them at the end of the year. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a handful of online platforms also offer the service.
Used textbooks – Used textbooks typically cost about 75% less than retail, according to NACS. They made up about 30% of all textbook sales in college stores in the 2011-12 school year, totaling about $1.51 billion in sales, according to NACS's 2013 Industry Financial Report. Given student demand for used books, many stores believe these percentages would be higher if more were available.
eTextbooks – The emergence of e-readers and tablets opened up the eTextbook market. Depending on the retailer, eTexbooks can save students up to 60% but they're not always cheaper. They offer additional benefits like the ability to search, highlight or take notes within texts on tablets or smartphones.
Open education resources – The open-source movement has led to the development of educational materials created by teachers and made available for free online for anyone to use or modify through a Creative Commons license. Over the years, students and educators have used this content to supplement or sometimes replace course materials. Some teachers use it to make their own course materials from scratch; others use textbooks from an emerging market for open textbook publishers.