Barnes & Noble vs. Amazon Prime: Which is the Best Deal for Home-Schoolers?

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Teaching is a hard enough job as it is.

And although you’ve probably got more important things to worry about than books, their price is nothing to sneeze at.

Especially if you’re home-schooling — and supplying the students’ books as well as your own. You might quickly end up spending a lot more than you’d expected.

Even classroom teachers’ salaries don’t offer a whole lot of wiggle room — and you’re working the gig gratis. Lucky you.

What’s a home-schooler to do?

Barnes & Noble’s Educator Program Gives Teachers Discounted Books

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If you regularly shop at Barnes & Noble, you’ve probably been pitched its $25-a-year discount membership.

But you might not know about its totally free Educator Program.

The program’s set up for pre-K and K-12 educators working in public, private or parochial schools — but home-schooling parents are eligible, too.

You’ll need to go into a physical store to enroll with a photo ID and a letter with the following details: “family name and address; name of homeschooling parent(s); grade level of each child being homeschooled.”

Once you’re approved, your two-year membership gets you “20% off the list price of most hardcover and paperback books, toys, and games, for use in the classroom, unless otherwise noted,” as well as “periodic special promotions.”

Plus, you can use the discount both in-store and online.

Barnes & Noble Educator Program or Amazon Prime?

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A 20% discount is all well and good, but in our internet age, you may have trouble remembering the last time you set foot in a brick-and-mortar book store.

And you may wonder, specifically, how Barnes & Noble’s discount compares with Amazon Prime.

While Barnes & Noble’s deal is free to join, Amazon Prime doesn’t yet offer a specific educator-directed program — so you’d have to pony up the full $99 annual fee (after taking advantage of the 30-day free trial, of course).

That said, Amazon Prime obviously has a lot more available items than just books and games, and many of them are at steeply discounted prices.

Barnes & Noble’s program terms feature a long list of exclusions, including DVDs, Blu-ray discs, periodicals and, most problematic for educators, textbooks.

The program also doesn’t include free shipping, although Barnes & Noble offers free standard shipping automatically if you buy $25 or more worth of eligible items.

But if you only need a book or two, you’ll still have to pay — and pretty dearly, if you want see them show up at your door quickly.

When I put a book into my Barnes & Noble cart shortly after noon on a Wednesday, there was no option to have it delivered by Friday — and if I wanted it Monday, I’d pay more than the price of the book itself in shipping fees.

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To compare the two services as fairly as possible, I did a case study with “Uglies,” a book featured on many summer reading lists this year — and that’s all I know about it.

Its price at Barnes & Noble actually corresponds with Amazon’s: Both vendors sell the hardcover version for $13.65, discounted from its $19.99 list price.

The additional 20% discount brings the price down to $10.92 at B&N — but if it’s the only book you buy, you’ll still pay $3.99 for standard, lethargic shipping.

At Amazon, it’s not going much lower than $13.65… unless you buy used, which you can also do in Barnes & Noble’s online store.

But if you’ve already dished out for Prime, you can have it in your hands in two days without paying a dime, even if it’s the only book you’re buying.

So while the book itself is technically cheaper at Barnes & Noble, your mileage will vary based on how many books you need at once and how soon you need them — and whether or not you order online often enough to make Prime’s $99 membership pay for itself.

The bottom line?

The Barnes & Noble program is free and easy to join, and a discount is a discount.

The way we see it, why not join? Then, if you ever find yourself wandering around a physical store — or if you discover you need a book RIGHT NOW — you can easily get 20% off.

Plus, it’s conceivable you might find a book priced more cheaply at Barnes & Noble — some really good books sometimes end up on the store’s bargain shelves!

But we still stand behind Prime as a great deal for pretty much everyone, home-schooling teachers included. And if you use it to order always-needed home goods like paper towels or toilet paper, it’s pretty easy to get your money’s worth in free shipping.

No matter what you do, you can find ways to save even more on school necessities all year long.

First of all, make sure to stack deals to get the very best price every single time you shop — no matter what you’re shopping for. Here’s how to do it.

As you know, there’s more to school supplies than books. Here’s how one mom outfitted both of her kids with everything they needed for the academic year… for just $19.05.

And don’t forget about the clothes your kids are constantly outgrowing. Here are seven smart  ways to save on back-to-school duds.

After all, you’re just going to have to do it all again next year!

Your Turn: Do you home-school your kids? Have you found any other great savings programs? Let us know in the comments so we can help more Penny Hoarders!

Disclosure: We don’t hesitate to pick pennies off the sidewalk when we spot them. But the affiliate links in this post help our earnings grow even quicker. Plus, it’s a lot cleaner than sidewalk money.

Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her writing has also been featured at The Write Life, Word Riot, Nashville Review and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.