Textbook costs are eating away at students’ bank accounts. Some required textbooks have a sticker price upwards of $500.

The campus bookstore is just one choice for buying or renting required materials. Most students recommend browsing retail websites Chegg, Barnes & Noble and Amazon before finalizing any purchases.

To test students’ recommendations, twelve required textbooks were chosen at random and priced on the three retail websites and campus bookstore. The campus bookstore either sold or rented five of the twelve books at a cheaper price. In some cases, the bookstore rented a book for cheaper, but a different retail site sold the book – be it new or used – at a cheaper rate.

The retail sites either rented or sold the other seven books at lower costs. Chegg and Barnes & Noble had the best pricing for most textbooks. The study showed that renting through a retail site could potentially save students nearly $200 per book.

Communications major Caitlin Waldron spent about $80 on her books for this semester. The freshman had a far more expensive Fall 2017 – she recalls a core history course requiring a $280 textbook. She uses Chegg for her textbook needs.

As a commuter Castedra Sailsman prefers eBooks to physical copies. The communications major states, “I kind of use campus as a last resort [for purchasing textbooks].”

She says Chegg’s software best supports eBooks, as where other sites send her through a maze to reach the digital copies. Sailsman’s textbook bill is $250 for the spring semester.

St. John’s graduate Kate Quintin remembers spending between $400 and $500 on materials required for a chemistry course.

The biology and chemistry major said the materials were worth the price because “[it] included all of the online classes… the textbook assignments and the hardcopy, and all of [the professor’s] class lessons.”

She purchased this bundle at the St. John’s bookstore. According to her, other retail sites charged more because the items were sold individually.

Richardson Franklin, a marketing major, says he uses Amazon because it’s the easiest option. The junior acknowledges the campus bookstore’s effort to price match, but suggests a discount would be of greater value: “The price match is a price match.” Franklin’s Spring 2018 Amazon order was $200.

The bookstore will only match prices found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or local campus competitors. Chegg is not available for price matching despite being a popular option for students. Price matching excludes student marketplace pricing and digital textbooks.

The bookstore’s price match offer does not provide students with additional discounts. The benefit of price matching is purchasing all required materials in a single transaction. A small discount for taking advantage of the price match offer could potentially strengthen student-bookstore relations.

Barnes & Noble offers students $10 off every $100 spent on textbooks. Chegg provides free standard shipping within the U.S. on all orders above $50.

The St. John’s Campus Bookstore was unable to answer questions without prior permission from Follett Higher Education, its managing company.