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August 19, 2014 10:10 PM

Saving On College Textbooks

Sioux Falls, SD

The soaring price of college textbooks has students in sticker shock when they prepare to head back to class.

The prices of textbooks have risen 82 percent in the last decade with the average student spending $1,200 a year on books and supplies.

Incoming freshman and business major Brett Kramer is here to pick up a textbook he ordered through the Augustana College bookstore.  The accounting book alone is costing him $320. 

"Books are very expensive. It's a very costly part of college and I just accepted the fact that it was going to be pricey," Kramer said.

For this class, he needed a new book because it has a one-time, online access code.  But he tried to save where he could.

"And then I shopped around on websites like Chegg and Amazon to find which ones I needed. I decided to buy this year, instead of renting," Kramer said.

Renting is one way to save money on textbooks.  Augustana's bookstore rented more than 7,000 textbooks last year, saving students $234,000 in costs. 

The Public Interest Research Group wants more universities to use open textbooks, those that are online and can be downloaded for free and customized by professors.  That would save students an estimated $100 per class each semester. 

Only 30 percent of textbook titles are digital and that may be because students aren't demanding e-textbooks.

"Students haven't really taken grasp of our digital books at all.  More students still buy the physical textbook and that's what they prefer to use because that's what they know to use," Augustana Bookstore Manager Janine Haslach said.

"I actually like the hardcover books because I feel like it's in my hands, I can make notes in the book, and I always have it there," Kramer said.

In the meantime, college bookstores are well aware of their online competition and are looking for ways to keep prices down.

"It's really important to us to help students save money in any way we can," Haslach said.

You can also use an online search engine that will show you the price of the book across many online sellers.

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This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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