One of the best things about doing college through independent study is the fact that you can choose your own learning materials. You no longer feel obligated to buy a certain textbook which can cost over $100 at the college bookstore, even if there's another, cheaper title that you think is better. Independent students can choose how long they're going to take to complete a course. If you think that you can prepare for a CLEP exam in U.S. History within 30 days, you don't need to sign up for an expensive course that lasts for three months. Therefore, independent students have numerous options when it comes to saving money on textbooks.
The cheapest textbooks are free. An earlier post on this blog lists numerous textbooks which are available for free online. Bookboon.com offers a wide variety of online textbooks which are supported by advertising, mostly in business, science, and mathematics. Another free source is the public library, if you can arrange things so that you're done with the book within the 3-6 weeks that you're allowed to have it out.
Buying used books is a well-known way of saving money on textbooks, but in some cases, the used book isn't that much cheaper than the used one would be. Along with the well-known Amazon and Ebay, Abebooks.com is a good source for used books. It's worth asking yourself if it's absolutely necessary to have the latest edition of the book, as an earlier edition can often be had for only a few dollars. Although the latest one might be necessary for computer-related subjects, where the content often needs to be changed, an older book might do well for something like history.
A newer option for saving money on books is renting textbooks. A text can often be rented for a fraction of what the new book would cost, and you can pick a rental period based on how long you need the book. One book rental company offers a French textbook with a retail value of $94 at rental rates of $17 for 30 days and $27 dollars for a 125 day semester. A world religion book at the same company which sells for $110 retail is rented our for $35 per semester.
Etextbooks are another money-saving option, which normally costs about as much as renting the textbook would. These can often be dowloaded onto a device like an iPhone or iPad, making them a convenient option for those who'd like to study while on a bus or train. For a student attending regular classes, this option creates a lighter backpack than carrying a load of heavy, traditional texts. Another form of etextbooks are paid for both by advertising, like free online textbooks, and a small fee. Textbookmedia.com offers a variety of textbooks in mostly business subjects starting at $4.95 with ads, and from about $6.95 for ad-free versions.
Homeschool Buzz offers an extensive listing of homeschool blogs which are worth seeing.