Where to Buy School Textbooks in Spain
School textbooks are big business, until recently every year would mean buying a set of brand new books for each child. The recession 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. It’s not surprising if we take into account that nearly one third of publishing companies’ turnover comes from the sale of school textbooks in Spain. Depending on the school course, textbooks prices may be fixed by the publisher. Officially discounts can’t be given, but promos are offered by stores so it makes sense to shop around.
Where Should You Buy School Textbooks?
One of the main problems when you reserve textbooks in a store is that you won’t know the price beforehand. Buying online solves this, but you’ll be responsable for reserving the correct books so check if returns can be made.
According to comparisons by consumer organisations in Spain, the cheapest stores are large supermarkets such as Alcampo and Carrefour, followed by Hipercor, El Corte Ingles and the most expensive is your local bookstore. A study from 2014 showed the difference in prices between Alcampo and a sample of local bookstores was around 24%.
Online orders at sites such as Amazon and dedicated online stores are increasing. When buying online make sure you purchase the latest edition and not second hand older editions which you may not be able to return.
Store card holders can order textbooks before 25 Sep and get a 10€ voucher for every 70€ spent. The voucher can be used from 16 Aug for a single purchase only on stationery, school bags and clothing and computers.
Carrefour offers the opportunity to finance your textbooks purchase in three months interest-free (and no admin charge) if you have a Carrefour Visa Pass card.
You can either download a reservation form, pick one up in store (see below) or order online. Many stores allow you to simply fill in your personal details and staple the list of textbooks supplied by the school, rather than having to fill out all the ISBN numbers and book titles. Alternatively you can order online and collect in store.
Alcampo says they offer the lowest priced textbooks, but at least they include the words “the lowest price allowed by law”. They also have an interest-free option payable in 3 months and you’ll have to present your Alcampo card to be eligible. Again you can reserve textbooks either at an Alcampo store or online.
El Corte Ingles / Hipercor
El Corte Ingles and Hipercor offer a voucher for 5% of the cost of the textbooks. Use the voucher for school materials purchased before Oct.
Fill in a reservation form in store and once they have all your books ready you’ll receive an SMS message. Alternatively you can order online with the ISBN numbers, delivery is free on orders over 19€ (note that the 5% discount normally applied to book purchases is not valid for school textbooks).
Store card holders can buy now and start to pay in three months in up to a total of 9 months interest-free (admin cost between 2€ and 9€, depending on the total price of books purchased).
El Corte Ingles also accepts vouchers for deferred payment authorised by local authorities across Spain. You will have to collect the books in store and show all the necessary documentation.
Amazon Spain offers a 10€ voucher when you spend over 90€ on textbooks ordered from 19 Jun to 7 Aug (one voucher per account). Delivery over 19€ is free. Use the voucher in Amazon’s “Back To School” section until the end of Oct.
Tus Libros De Texto has an English version of their website. You’ll have to pay shipping charges, the amount depends on the weight of the package and location in Spain. Although the website states that they have “the lowest prices” this refers to online-only sellers and the report referenced is from 2013.
Although more expensive, advantages of using your local bookshop include:
- Expertise in spotting mistakes: avoid ordering the wrong book (direct contact with local schools).
- Personal service.
- Due to competition, both on and offline, they may offer free gifts or other advantages.
Check what your local bookshops can offer.
Regional Authority Grants
Some regions in Spain offer grants for textbooks. Each region has its own rules based on income and number of children. Stores such as El Corte Ingles and Carrefour will accept vouchers issued by local authorities for textbooks.
Some regions also include grants for the purchase of school materials. Contact the Education Department at local or regional level to check the criteria and how to apply.
Remember that most stores will accept exchanges when the school year starts. To return textbooks these must be in perfect condition, so don’t let your kids remove the shrink-wrap cover!