MoneySaverSpain: Finding cheap textbooks and books in Spain
Need to cut down school textbook expenses or want to find cheap books? Here are a few tips from Maxine Raynor on where to find the cheapest books in Spain.
Buying school textbooks in Spain
School textbooks in Spain are big business, and until recently, every year would mean buying a set of brand new books for each child. The recession has led to an increase in websites for secondhand textbooks and also for schools reducing the number of books required every year.
Department stores, supermarkets and local bookshops compete for the lucrative textbook market, which is not surprising if we take into account that nearly one third of publishing companies' revenue comes from the sale of school textbooks in Spain. Prices are fixed by law so discounts can't be offered, but it still makes sense to shop around as sometimes there are other ways to save.
Regional Authority Grants
Many regions in Spain offer grants for textbooks, but each region has its own rules based on your income and number of children. Some regions also include grants for the purchase of school materials, although these have been reduced considerably over the last couple of years. You'll need to contact the Education Department at your regional level to see the criteria and how to apply.
For orders before 1 August 2013, Carrefour guarantees the lowest price in textbooks or they'll give you back 10 times the difference (in other words, prices are simply the official prices as no store can sell them cheaper!). More interesting is the opportunity to finance your textbooks purchases in three months, interest-free. Conditions for this financing are a minimum spend of EUR90 to a maximum of EUR2000, and you'll need a Carrefour Visa Pass card. You can either download a reservation form or order online and collect in store.
Alcampo offers exactly the same as Carrefour, although at least they include the words 'the lowest price allowed by law'. They also have an interest-free option payable in three months and you'll have to present your Alcampo card to be eligible.
El Corte Ingles / Hipercor
At first glance it looks like El Corte Ingles or Hipercor are offering a 5 percent discount, however it is actually a voucher for 5 percent of the cost of the textbooks and this voucher can only be used for school materials. You'll need to fill in a reservation form and once they have all your books ready you'll receive an SMS message. Additionally they offer the chance to buy now and pay on 30 November and also include a one-year kid's dental policy with free check-ups and discounted treatment.
At Amazon Spain they offer between a 5 and 25 percent discount on school textbooks (however the small print says 'on retailers recommended price' so this is simply the same as all other sellers). Delivery is free on orders over EUR19.
Conclusions & tips
A study of school textbooks sales prices for the school year 2012–2013 showed Alcampo and Carrefour to have the lowest prices, with Hipercor / El Corte Inglés 9 percent higher, online bookshops 14 percent higher and traditional bookshops 24 percent higher.
Remember that most stores will accept exchanges when the school year starts (there are sometimes mistakes in the list that goes out in June). However, the books must be in perfect condition and in some cases the plastic cover must not have been removed. As children often like to look at their new books it's probably a good idea to put the books away until the school confirms that they are the correct ones.
Book swap in Spain
With the high cost of books in Spain, the space needed to store them, and the little chance of reading some of them again, why not take a look at book sharing? Many websites offer this service for a small fee and accept books in both English and Spanish as well as other languages.
If you take a look at Libros Compartidos and how it works, you can see that it's really easy (and cheap):
- Sign up online to become a member – upon doing this you'll be given 1 credit (1 book = 1 credit).
- Put information about the books you've already read (or are never going to get to read!) and no longer want so that other users can see what's available.
- Search for books you're interested in by type or location. If you want to look for books in a language other than Spanish put 'inglés' or 'English' in the search box. To request a book, just click on the request (solicitar) button for the specific book and follow the instructions. The cost is EUR5,17 for transportation (courier) which you'll have to pay when you receive the book.
- When you receive the book, enter into your account and confirm receipt.
- If one of your books is requested, you'll be notified by e-mail. You can then confirm the day you want your book to be picked up by courier (free service).
- For every book that you give away, you'll receive 1 credit. For each credit you have you can request another book.
On your online account you can see all the info about who's requested your books and those books you've requested from others. Apparently you can also activate or deactivate your account according to when you're available (the site suggests taking into account your holidays).
As an alternative to paying for the courier service (if the book is being donated from someone located in the city where you live) once you've requested a book you'll be supplied with the current owner's e-mail address so, if you want, you can get in touch directly to meet up and exchange ownership.
Another interesting feature is that you can donate your credits to non-profit organisations that Libros Compartidos works with. So, if you give away a lot of books and haven't got time to read, why not put your credits to good use?
Reprinted with permission of Money Saver Spain.
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