3 ways to save on college textbooks, opt out of inclusive access

HOUSTON – If you've got a college student in your family, you know you'll be spending a lot on textbooks. They cost the average student more than $1,200 a year. 

Before you plunk down that payment at the overpriced campus bookstore, check these three options that can save you hundreds of dollars:

1) Subscription service for textbooks

There are subscription services for everything from meal kits to beauty boxes. Now you can add textbooks to that list. Cengage started its textbook subscription service last year. For $119.99, you can check out as many books, e-books and study guides as you want for a semester. It's $179.99 for a whole year. 

You can also search Cengage.com to make sure it has the books you need before you sign up. 

2) Textbooks online

On websites like DirectTextbook.com, you can buy new and used textbooks, rent them and sell them back. 

3) Check Amazon

Don't forget to check Amazon Textbooks, where you can purchase or rent textbooks, saving up to 85% off the list price. While you're there, your student can sign up for Prime Student and get the first six-month trial for free. 

Some universities are now charging students for their textbooks and study materials as part of tuition. That doesn't give you a chance to comparison shop. Other schools make student sign up for online quizzes and tests that cost a fee. They call it inclusive access. The U.S. Department of Education says you have the right to opt out. Sometimes all that takes is an email. 

The website DirectTextbook posted more about this issue on the website.

They also say you can use this script in person or by email to start a conversation with your professors about the unfair costs of inclusive access: 


I received my syllabus today and saw our required material includes [NAME OF INCLUSIVE ACCESS PLATFORM]. I'm anxious to dig in and begin learning, but I'm concerned that digital access is not a good fit for my learning style. Paying for it would also cause financial hardship as I am unable to afford the fees.

I'm really looking forward to taking your class, so I'm wondering if it would be possible for me to buy the material from my own sources and if there is a free alternative I can use to complete my homework and assessments without jeopardizing my grade. I realize I'm asking you to grade my work outside of [PLATFORM], but it would go a long way toward helping me learn and maintain my budget.

I'm grateful for your consideration.