I meant to write about this a few weeks ago when my son returned for second semester. I had spent the latter half of the holiday break going over his classes and ordering books. I went to the bookstore, got the list of books and their corresponding code and searching the web for these books.
At first accounting, the books cost over $500 and that did not include art supplies. His biology book set alone cost $200 and English was $120 and psychology was over $100. I was pretty annoyed because finances were spare at the moment and I didn't know how I was doing to fund this semesters' books.
I tackled the most expensive first finding the individual books of the set online for very little. I was able to purchase the lab book and online study guide access code for about $49, and we asked around and got a friend to lone him the textbook.
Next, we realized that he already owned the books for one of his art classes as they were the same books from the previous semester. (We were told to expect this within a students major- that one book would be used for a series of classes. We picked up a few of the cheaper books on his list from Amazon, leaving him to buy English and psychology from the school's bookstore. He called me after going to buy his books informing me that he already had the books for English 102 as they were also used for English 101! I see a wonderful pattern emerging. Then he rented the psychology book, leaving him plenty of money to buy the art supplies.
So while the book estimate for the school is $500 a semester, we may have spent $600 for the whole year. That makes me very happy.
All that, and he likes it too. He said there's only one class this semester where he hasn't at least been introduced to the material, and that's psychology. So, I'm expecting great things.
I don't know that any other college does this with textbooks, so if anyone knows of colleges that do, please leave a comment. I'd love to compile a list.