WANT CHEAP COLLEGE TEXTBOOKS? THEN WHY NOT BUY EBOOKS?

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box of medical textbooks

Box full of textbooks or recycle bin full of textbooks? Either way, you’re not getting a lot of use out of them.

Every day, the SALT Blog throws a lot of fun, money-related links your way in Daily Interest. However, “a lot of links” means a lot of clicks. Let’s simplify things for you. Every Monday, we’re going to take a step back, exhale, and highlight a single story from the previous week that we think you should check out. We call this “The Money Clip.” This week, The Money Clip comes to us from NBC News.

We currently have a few different conversations taking place with college students.

In one of these, we asked what students would do if they found $200. One response consistently rose above the others: put it toward my textbooks.

But wouldn’t it be nice if $200 could cover your books and something else? According to a new survey, students are OK without that option.

***

The Money Clip this week looks at an article from NBC News detailing students’ preferences for hardcover textbooks—as opposed to eBooks that could cost up to 70% less.

The article relies on a new survey from the National Association of College Stores that says 74% of students want printed books over their electronic counterpart. And here’s the article’s theory for why this is the case:

“People don’t want to just see a PDF on a screen. They’re asking: ‘Where’s my interactive video? Where are my widgets?’” said Vineet Madan, senior VP of new ventures at McGraw-Hill Education.

Students today seem to have many more options for finding cheap college textbooks (or are at least more aware of these options than I was). Companies like Textbooks.com, Bookrenter, and Chegg provide options for swapping, renting, or buying used textbooks. Amazon also recently entered this fray as well, with a new textbook rental service.

Do students prefer printed textbooks because they have all of these options for finding them? I don’t know. However, thinking that students don’t want eBooks because they lack interactive features  feels strange to me. (After all, in most printed textbooks, you’re lucky if there are even pictures.)

At this point, I’m a few years removed from college, but the emotions of hunting for textbooks in the bookstore remain with me. I recall feeling dejected when there were no more “used copies” on the shelf. I remember feeling cheated when I’d sell a new book back for $2 and see used versions of that text re-sold at $40.

For me, the money was always the bottom line with textbook buying, so let’s bring it back to that. If the content of the printed book and eBook is the same, then go for the one that costs 70% less. If you want a hard copy because it relates to your future profession, then buy it—just know that realistically you’ll probably never look at it again.

I’ve got a shelf full of dusty books to prove it.

Have tips for getting the most out of your college textbook-buying experience? Share them in the comments.

(Photo: Flickr/pmccomi)

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