Don’t Break the Bank on Books, part one

I moved about 30 boxes of books into my new classroom this summer. When I told boyfriend, he said, “and they’re just gonna keep on coming.” He’s right; I have since ordered books for my classroom at least 5 times.

I’m not about to apologize for this, or rationalize it. The steady influx of books is a fact of my classroom life. But as you can imagine (and as many a teacher well knows) books can be an expensive habit. Here are some ways I keep the costs down.

Memberships and discounts: My Amazon Prime membership and my Barnes & Noble educator discount are put to good use. The yearly fee for Prime is made worth it very quickly with the shipping costs saved & Amazon pricing. B&N’s educator discount is free & gets me a 20% savings on titles for my classroom – 25% during the twice a year educator appreciation weeks.

Outlet shopping: While Amazon & BN are close to unbeatable in terms of selection, there are insane deals available on YA and Middle Grade titles elsewhere on the Internet. If you are working in a Title I eligible school, meaning ____, you qualify for a membership to FirstBook.org. The organization serves teachers & students in two ways: a deeply discounted marketplace for books, and opportunities to receive loads of free books several times throughout the year.

Another great discount retailer is BookOutlet.com. As with FirstBook, you probably won’t find newer titles on BO, but there are some notable titles, many that fall into the Popular For Years category, and quite a few readalike titles for students who have devoured the “cool” books & need new material. I bought 31 books for around $150 this August (& I only stopped at 31 because I needed to leave to catch a flight!). Even with $20 shipping in the US, that’s a steal at a $5/book average. I like that BO carries what they call “Scratch and Dent” copies, used books that they warn will show signs of having been read. I love a broken in book to begin with, and if it saves me money, so much the better.

I’ve also recently come across ThriftBooks.com, which is similar to BO but with free shipping for orders over $20. TB also carries more new-ish titles, still at impressive discounts. I only grabbed 6 books on my first order, which cost me $26. TB also carries many used books, and the product descriptions will indicate if the copy you’re adding to your cart is excellent, very good, good, or acceptable. The shopping cart lets you know if a “greener” option is available for one of your choices, offering you a slightly lower price for taking a used copy instead of a new copy. I love the ease & convenience of used book shopping this way – I don’t have to scour shelves & lug my purchases home (as much as I love an afternoon of browsing used books, the tediousness of shopping for my classroom this way takes most of the enjoyment out), & I don’t have to spend hours hunched at my computer reading through product descriptions to determine which copy of a book I should purchase.  TB also offers a rewards program for registered members; points for every $50 spent. Most of the books I received from TB were formerly in libraries, so they were sturdy hardcovers with protective plastic casing – great durability for teenage readers.

This is only Part One of money-saving strategies for book shopping! What do you do to cut back on costs in your classroom? Share in the comments and help me build up Part Two! 

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