Between 1986 and 2004, textbook prices rose 186 percent in the United States, or slightly more than six percent per year. Using that 6 percent rise, students spent an average of $1,009 in the 2006-2007 year. This means that if you are buying traditional textbooks, they are most likely costing you 6.1 percent of your total annual education expenses at a four-year public university. That’s a lot of money. Luckily, many bright entrepreneurs have found ways to help you cut down on your costs.
Flat World Knowledge: Open Source Textbooks
Open Source Textbooks are probably the most interesting new player in the textbook field. Flat World Knowledge founder Eric Frank explains, “Open source textbooks are defined by their copyright license. They are still copyrighted works, but they are distributed under an ‘open’ license that gives users far more rights than a typical ‘all rights reserved’ textbook.” This allows educators to use the books as-is, or gives them the freedom to edit or reorganize the books to suit their individual needs.
According to Frank, “Students can access the books for free online, or purchase alternatives from print-on-demand versions of the books, to audio versions, to downloadable/printable versions and more at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks (by the book or by the chapter). Students can also purchase from a range of digital study aids that we create to support each book. These include audio study guides, online interactive quizzes, and digital flashcards of key terms and concepts. Flat World Knowledge backs our textbooks with an online social learning platform that allows students to take notes and share them, and coming soon, chat with one another, set up study groups, and more.”
If students prefer holding actual books, they can buy a black and white soft cover book, a digital book, plus a digital study-aid package for $39.95. This is, on average, $100 less than a new textbook. Frank estimates that each time a student uses a Flat World book he or she saves approximately $82. Every Flat World textbook can also be read on the Stanza iPhone application.
The Price is Right
More and more websites and iPhone applications are searching the Internet to find you the very best prices on new and used textbooks. Most compare textbook prices, including tax, shipping, coupons and promotions from dozens of bookstores. Some of these sites also let you sell your used textbooks.
College students and their families can get up to $2500 in tax credits
Textbook purchases now qualify as expenses under the Hope & Lifetime Learning Credits program, but you must save your receipts. Other expenses include any supplies or equipment needed for a course. Visit TexbookAid.org for more information.