Disclaimer: This post references several bookselling businesses. It does not constitute an endorsement, but is offered only as a public service to our patrons who want to purchase low-cost textbooks.
A recent frontpage story in the New Hampshire Sunday News and a phone call from a parent hoping to save some money by having her son borrow books from the library for the semester prompts this post on the cost of college textbooks and how to ease at least some of the pain.
As the Sunday News article points out, UNH now has a textbook rental program offering significant savings over purchase cost. The downside is that you won't get to keep volumes that might come in handy for future employment. From personal experience, some of my textbooks, especially from grad school, were helpful refernences in my early career, though they are long since discarded. If your student attends a school with a rental program, you might want to consider this for some of the required textbooks.
The three major online booksellers--Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders--are now buying and selling used textbooks. Another site to consider is CampusBooks, which buys, sells, and rents. And don't rule out the many fine used bookstores right in your backyard. A list can be found at the New Hampshire Antiquarian Booksellers Association site. Don't be put off by the word "antiquarian." In addition to rare and valuable titles, many of these stores offer general stock and are good suppliers for those fiction paperbacks that are required reading in college English courses.
As for using the library to supply college texts, it's of limited value. We don't, as a rule, buy textbooks, as they fall outside of our mission. Since we're serving the whole community on a limited budget in a space-challenged building, it's impractical for us to attempt to stock college textbooks. And while we do have much of the "classic" fiction and nonfiction, there's a borrowing limit of 6 weeks--initial borrowing of 2 weeks, with 2 renewals. If you or your child are attending college close to Merrimack, this is a possibility for short-term use, but we are unable to lend anything for a whole semester. This also applies to anything borrowed for you on interlibrary loan from another library.
There's no argument that the cost of new textbooks is shockingly high. I hope these suggestions will help you manage this problem more economically. I welcome your comments and additions to my suggestions.