How to save money on your school books
Savvy parents can pick up textbooks at a fraction of the cover price. Kim Bielenberg reports
Parents hoping for the best deal on school books are advised to buy now after the end of the Junior and Leaving Cert exams.
A deluge of second hand copies has come on the market in recent days as students trade in their textbooks.
The cost of school books is one of the major causes of complaint among parents as they face annual bills of up to €500 per pupil.
A recent report on textbooks by the Department of Education said it was a "heavy burden for many families".
If parents are lucky their child's school has a book-rental scheme. This can save up to 80pc of the cost.
Already, 76pc of primary schools operate rental schemes, but there are much fewer schemes operating at second-level, the recent Department of Education report found.
For schools without a book rental scheme, the best option is to buy second hand.
Parents can expect a 50pc saving on the cost of the book, but savvy buyers can sometimes pick them up for a lot cheaper.
Books can even be offloaded for nothing by parents eager to rid their homes of clutter.
Ciaran Murphy of the Book Haven shop chain said: "A few years ago some people turned up their noses up if you offered them a second hand school book but now they have grown enormously in popularity."
It is crucial that parents ensure they have the book that will be used in the class.
Ciaran Murphy says said: "It is important to have the right edition of the book.
"You can do this by checking that the ISBN number on the second hand copy is the same as a new book. The ISBN number is above the bar code."
The next few weeks may be the best time to buy second hand. Second-level books are already coming on the market in large numbers with the end of the Junior and Leaving Cert.
Supplies of primary-school books will also increase in the next couple of days as the term ends.
Ciaran Murphy said: "It may not be possible to get every book second hand, particularly at second level. If the book only came out recently because of a syllabus change, the students who are using it may not have reached the end or their cycle.
So there will be very few second hand copies."
For many parents it may be a matter of mixing second-hand books with new copies.
At some second-hand bookshops, parents can leave a book list, and the shop will fill up the order as they become available through the summer months.
While buying in a second-hand bookshop can halve the price of a book there are even bigger savings to be had at the website schooldays.ie, which acts as a bulletin board for parents.
Text books that sell new for €35 new can be picked up at schooldays.ie for as little as €6.
Anne-Marie Wade who manages the website said: "There are many titles available now and in July. You have parents who might sell a whole set of books."
Parents are advised to check if there are any CDs or workbooks that are missing when they are buying second hand.
In some counties, local recycling centres run school-book shops and these are among the best places to pick up bargains.
Many bargain hunters go to the book shops in recycling centres in Co Wicklow, where the maximum price for school books is €4.
These shops in Bray, Wicklow town and Arklow attract savvy parents from neighbouring counties.
Moira Byrne, Environmental Awareness Officer at Wicklow County Council, said: "One of the good things about the shops is that the money raised goes to charities.
"We will take in book lists and phone people when the books become available."
According to a recent Department of Education report the annual cost of school books varies depending on what stage a child is at, running from about €60 for an infant class pupil up to €150 in sixth class.
At second-level, the costs are much higher and usually most expensive for first year at €350, and fifth year at about €500.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn wants more schools to introduce rental schemes and recently issued guidelines to help them.
The moves to curb the cost of schoolbooks have also seen the Irish Educational Publishers Association (IEPA) commit to limiting the publication of new editions and to maintain editions of books in print unchanged for at least six years.
The publishers have also given assurances that they would sell books for rental schemes to schools at substantial discounts.
There is still potential for savings from the replacement of printed books by eBooks and other digital resources. The Irish Computer Society has recently developed a system known as the Grid.
The scheme which has been piloted in 30 schools provides teachers in second-level schools with digital course materials that can be used as an alternative to school books. It costs as little as €5 per pupil.
Mary Cleary of the Irish Computer Society said: "Working with teachers, we have developed coursework materials for the Junior and Leaving Cert.
"This material can be accessed on any device – through a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone."