Saving money on textbooks for an online fall semester

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

Amazon may be the most friendly option for students budgeting on textbooks this semester.

By Marcos Franco, Staff Writer

Backpack with Valley College logo filled with the books near the campus wall in Valley Glen. (Photo by Margarita Garushyan/The Valley Star)

While saving money on textbooks has always been crucial for college students, the economic strain of this year makes back-to-school budgeting more important than ever.

“Textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015,” according to NBC News, “a 1,041 percent increase.”

As Valley College students head into the fall distance learning semester, they must remain diligent in conserving money. This semester the campus offers over 270 online low or no cost textbook classes. Low-cost classes will require textbooks no more than $50 while no-cost classes will not require them at all. This is made possible by substituting costly textbooks with free online course materials such as modules, videos and faculty-created content. Since not all students are able to enroll in these classes, most are left in search of the most affordable option.

Although there are numerous options available for purchasing textbooks, the two most common and accessible options to Valley students are the campus Monarch Store and Amazon. While both offer free shipping, Amazon guarantees Prime members two-day delivery at no additional cost while the Monarch Store charges between $25 - $135 extra for expedited shipping, depending on the total order amount. If students do not decide to spend money on shipping costs, they face a 7-10 business day delivery that could interfere with time-sensitive class assignments.

Both retailers offer dependable services, however students do not have the option to search for a textbook by name on the Monarch Store’s website as they would on Amazon. In order to find a book, the class instructor would need to list the textbook on the website as a required course material. When this is done, students can then choose between purchasing that book as new, pre-owned or as a rental.

While textbooks are a fundamental component of student success in the classroom, it is not uncommon for them to go unused throughout the semester. Students who feel that they will not need their textbook any longer than the 16-week semester are more likely to consider renting rather than buying.

According to a 2020 Student Watch report, “average annual spending on course materials has decreased by 41 percent since 2007 — from $701 to $413. In 2020, 80 percent of students purchased course materials, 44 percent rented and 26 percent downloaded materials for free.”

Books offered by Amazon. (Photo by Margarita Garushyan/The Valley Star)

Both the Monarch Store and Amazon offer rental options, however, students ordering from the Monarch Store are at a disadvantage since the majority of the store’s textbook inventory requires purchasing books as new. With this being the case, Amazon’s claim to save students up to 90 percent on textbooks seems to hold some weight.

The Star reached out to Mary John, the Monarch Store manager, for a comment about book pricing but she did not respond at the time of writing.

With more affordable options and guaranteed two-day shipping, it is no wonder why Amazon holds the title of the world’s largest textbook retailer.

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