The first day of school is quickly approaching and it’s time to pull out the class syllabus, when suddenly you see it: a mile-long list of books you have to buy, books with specified editions, books written by the professor, books that you know are going to be very expensive. One look at the price in the school bookstore and your wallet hops out of your pocket and starts running for the hills. But don’t lose hope! Go catch your wallet before he goes too far and take a few deep breaths, because we have some tips to save you money when it comes time to buy textbooks for class!
Tip #1: Talk to your professor.
- Before you talk to your professor, look over the syllabus for the course. Note the frequency of assignments, especially ones due before class starts, and homework given out of the textbook. Looking over the syllabus, you can gauge the difficulty of the class and gather information about textbook usage before you start asking questions.
- It’s a good idea to ask exactly how much the book is going to be used in the course. Even if s/he says you will use it, it might be a good idea to wait through the add/drop period — just in case you decide to switch classes — and even a little bit into the course to see if the book really is used enough to justify a purchase.
- While you’re talking textbooks with the professor, maybe ask about the importance of edition. Some professors have strict requirements about which edition of the books you can use, but you may be able to get by with a slightly (or much) older edition. International editions are often a cheaper option as well, sometimes in paperback and black and white.
- Some professors opt to put a copy of the book “on reserve” at the library, meaning you can check it out for a few hours at a time.
Tip #2: Network.
- Students who finished the class you are going to take will have the texts you need and will be eager to sell them to you for a lower price than you’ll find online. Plus you might make a new friend or two, maybe even a study buddy. Facebook groups, Craigslist, and even student clubs (think French club, political science clubs, etc.) are good places to check for people trying to get books off their hands.
- A second way to network is to get to know your classmate and share a textbook for the semester, splitting the cost. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” (African proverb)
Tip #3: Know your options.
- If you couldn’t reach any classmates looking to sell books, you have some options: new or used books, purchased or rental books, paper or electronic books, and any combination of those six.
- As a rule of thumb, used is cheaper than new, and renting is cheaper than buying. Electronic books can be cheaper and often offer electronic book rentals. Older books can even legally be found for free online. Check these two links out for resources.
- Whether you are renting or buying or any combination of these factors, take advantage of a price comparison tools to help you find the cheapest option!
Here is a list of sources and price comparison tools to get you started! Best of luck with your search and with your classes!
Your buying/rental options: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chegg, ValoreBooks, AbeBooks, Textbooks.com, eBay, CampusBookRentals, TextbookRush, Alibris, eCampus, Better World Books, Knetbooks
Price comparison tools:StudentRate Textbooks, BigWords, SlugBooks, Dealoz
By Annemarie Arnold