Anyone who goes back to school for vocational training usually has some form of sticker shock when they see how many textbooks they need to buy and how much they cost. Medical coding textbooks are no exception.
Bite the bullet
Many of the books you will need to buy won’t be on sale. Rarely, used books may available at a fraction of the price, but because professors are always choosing the newest versions, what’s used from one year may not be current enough for use the next year. Coding books are a perfect example. Tests, diagnoses, and even procedures change frequently, so having up-to-date texts requires frequent updates. Workbooks are another example–while you will value the drills and practice, you can’t use a book someone else has written in, so once you buy it, its yours forever.
If someone is staying in the field, why would they give up their coding books? Reference materials are treasured–and rarely returned. Expect to pay through the nose for new copies (although you can find some online discounts). On average, a semester of texts for a general studies student can exceed $500 or more each semester.
Your school may be a source of information for buying used books, so start there. Some school bookstores will buy back books and resell them, though not at a significant discount. Still, you may be able to get 20% off.
Remember though, when you buy used textbooks, make sure you know exactly what comes with the book and what edition you need. Because the industry changes rapidly, many medical coding textbooks change every other year or so. If you need a 4th edition textbook, and you can find a 3rd edition book for a significantly lower price, but the information may be outdated or insufficient for classroom study.
Plus, more than one unhappy student has bought a used book online, not realizing that it originally came with an accompanying CD. Not able to return the book, or buy the CD separately, students have had to buy the book again. Don’t let that happen to you.
Used textbooks can be purchased at a number of online bookstores, including:
In some cases, it may be possible to borrow some textbooks. One of the very best things you can do is become acquainted with someone who has recently graduated or is somewhat further along in their studies than you are. If you promise to treat the books as you would as your favorite children, and swear on your life to replace them if they get damaged, you may be able to borrow a book or two.
Remember in elementary school, when our parents had to pay to rent our textbooks for the year? You can still do that. It’s a pretty nifty thing to do if you absolutely must get the lowest possible price and it’s a newer edition book. I would rent only if I couldn’t find it used, but since 2010 books are tough to find on the secondary market, so it may be a good option. Plus, it should be a book you don’t think you’ll ever want to use again – like to study for your coding exam.
What’s the best deal?
Here’s an example:
You need the Step-by-Step Medical Coding 2010 Edition
You can buy it new for $72.95 at major bookstores.
You can rent it for a quarter for $48.34 (plus free shipping) at Bookrenter.com
You can purchase it new at Amazon for $59.09 (plus shipping)
You can purchase it used at Amazon for $49.49 (plus shipping)
With so many options, shopping around may be to your benefit. Paying the price for books is a small pill to swallow on the whole scheme of things. Even though it hurts your wallet, its worth it in the end.
Rachel Ballard, RNC, BSN is a registered nurse with almost a decade of clinical experience in both acute care and public health settings.