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Alternate textbook options for the thrifty student

UMass Lowell students are always looking for cheaper textbook options. (Photo courtesy of UMass Lowell)

Deanna Darah
Connector Contributor

With the prices of textbooks reaching new highs every year, many students at UMass Lowell are opting to buy their textbooks through Amazon rather than through the university’s bookstore in order to save money – if they decide to buy their textbooks at all.

Textbooks are some of the most expensive things college students have to buy. There are many different ways to obtain a textbook, such as by purchasing a cheaper digital version of a book, borrowing it from a library, or renting a textbook instead of buying it. Since renting a textbook can be just as expensive as purchasing it, students try to find ways to save money on their books.

Mónica Alvarado, a nursing student in her junior year, said she wishes that college textbooks were cheaper. “I literally had to pay – for one book – $250 this semester,” she said. Most semesters she spends around $600 on her books. “Maybe more, maybe less, depending on how many classes I have,” said Alvarado.

Although she buys the majority of her books from UMass Lowell’s River Hawk Shop, Alvarado said the prices at the bookstore are too expensive. “I work on the weekends, but I don’t make enough money to pay for my books,” said Alvarado. “I know you can price match at the bookstore, but it’s not that much off.”

In fact, there had been an instance where she had to forego buying a book for one of her classes because it was just too costly. “I was crunched on money, so I couldn’t really afford it,” she said.

Tanishka Urena and Veronika Fortin, two sophomore students who are currently undeclared, had similar sentiments as Alvarado. They have also chosen not to buy a book because of its high price. In order to save money on textbooks for their classes, all three students said they try to find alternative solutions.

Alvarado said she prefers buying her books online from Amazon, because they are usually cheaper. “It saves me money which is all I really want to do,” she said.

Urena said she buys the majority of her books from Amazon. “They’re usually cheaper and it’s more convenient because I don’t have to go anywhere,” she said.

The only books that she gets from the River Hawk Shop are books that require access codes.

However, students said sometimes buying textbooks on Amazon is not possible. Alvarado said that it is sometimes hard for her to buy textbooks online because a lot of the books for her classes are UMass Lowell-specific and can only be found at the River Hawk Shop.

Urena said that if a textbook for one of her classes is too expensive at the River Hawk Shop and cannot be found elsewhere, she tries to find other ways to complete her work for her classes, such as by asking for pictures of a textbook’s pages from her friends who purchased the book.

Sharing information with friends is common amongst UMass Lowell students. Fortin said that she asks her friends if the professor for her class use the textbook often. “I’ve only ever not gotten a textbook if the professor doesn’t really use it, and I check with people who’ve had them before,” said Fortin.

She also said that she and her friends sometimes chip in to split the cost of a textbook for them to all share.

Even if she does not have access to a textbook, Fortin said she is still able to receive the necessary information from her professors. “I’m usually okay with just PowerPoints and what they have on Blackboard,” she said.

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